So we'll make it an easy one today. What's the last "great" historical novel you read?
Mine is MISTRESS OF THE ART OF DEATH by Ariana Franklin.

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Comment by Dana King on February 27, 2009 at 8:46am
When I think of historical fiction, I like to think the history is right, or very close. The fictional aspects are, well, fiction. You can make up what your fictional characters do, and make up certain events in the context of the larger context. Real people can say things they may, or may not have said, and can encounter our fictional characters, so long as the real people are true to their actual characters. But Lee can't win at Gettysburg and the first atomic bomb can't be dropped on Nagasaki. T
hose are gross examples, but I think the point is made. You make unknowns come out your way, and you can tweak a fact if you have to (and acknowledge it), but if you re-write history, you've gone beyond historical fiction into fantasy. Nothing wrong with that, and lot of good "what if this had happened differently? books have been written, but saying a book is historical fiction implies a certain respect for the facts.
Comment by I. J. Parker on February 27, 2009 at 6:02am
And let me add that the authors I cited above did a considerable amount of research before hitting the keyboard. I have a fairly good background in both Restoration history and the Napoleonic wars.
The background of MUSIC AND SILENCE is Swedish history. I know a good deal less about it, but Rose Tremaine would not choose the setting without the preliminary work.
Comment by I. J. Parker on February 27, 2009 at 5:58am
Oh, good grief. An author has an obligation to do the research first. Then, if the story absolutely requires bending the facts (it doesn't all that often), an author's note can explain what was changed. I don't like the sort of laziness that implies that anyone can write a historical novel without doing much more than reading about the period in an encyclopedia.
The reason I said that a novel is fiction is that novels are measured differently from non-fiction, and because novels should not be used in history classes.
Comment by B.R.Stateham on February 27, 2009 at 3:53am
I.J.---didn't you say Fiction was Fiction? I've known a lot of good researches to get the facts wrong. why should a thin smear of scholarship ruin a possible good read?
Comment by Dana King on February 27, 2009 at 2:12am
Funny you should ask. I read Dennis Lehane's THE GIVEN DAY last month, and loved it.
Comment by I. J. Parker on February 27, 2009 at 1:17am
Umm, hard to pick. I'll give you two authors: Patrick O'Brian (most of his series), and Rose Tremaine (either RESTORATION or MUSIC AND SILENCE.) I'm not going to read Ariana Franklin after some of the comments about her lack of research.
Comment by John Dishon on February 26, 2009 at 11:13pm
Genghis: Lords of the Bow by Conn Iggulden

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