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Wilbur Smith:

A whole host of books which make history come to life.  Not at all factual but including many details of the past.  Written with facts in mind, Wilbur Smith’s research produced a lot of description in these books; making gripping and well made fiction.

Recently he has stopped writing books himself, for he has been paid millions of pounds just to come up with ideas for books that will be written by other people.  A good retirement fund I think.

Monsoon’ is the best adventure novel I ever read and the best Wilbur Smith novel to boot.  Included in its many pages was the most memorable alliteration I have ever read: a sentence about pedantic pedagogues, and if I can remember that, then the rest of the book must be pretty good.  Some of his writing covers all bases such as the inclusion of descriptions like: ‘Vigorous urination,’ and ‘Tumultuous flatulation.’  Marvellous.

Once at Uni, I was asked what I was reading and I said ‘Monsoon’.  I made a mistake.  I was supposed to say what I was reading at university (what subject.)  It seemed like I was a complete idiot.  Easy mistake to make though.  They should probably make the distinction between the two synonyms.

Monsoon’ writes about a ship in the Indian Ocean and its privateering, legal or not.  Smith even made the beaching and subsequent repairing of the ship interesting, and when they venture deep into inland Africa, following spoor and generally being heroic, reading it was an exciting pleasure.

Aside from his Ship based novels, there are those written about South Africa during the gold rush and the Boer wars which never cease to amaze.

His Egypt novels are among his best though, recounting the adventures of a magical character called Taita.  From visiting these places for research he makes even magic seem real.  How much he could learn from looking at pyramids though I don’t know.

In the Courteney novels, the hunting of animals (mainly elephant) is glorified and the hunters are made to look heroic, which it probably was before machine guns were invented.  I don’t think it would encourage people to do it themselves, but it shows a window into the past of safari hunts and entrepreneurs in those days who killed elephant for their ivory.

Meanwhile they made and lost fortunes and women whilst drinking and fighting and generally having fun, which makes the reader have a lot of fun too.

Bernard Cornwell:

The past was terrible. There were many wars, and many sides capable of doing them.  During this, one side does something awful and then the other side does something worse.  They do it in the name of God or country but that doesn’t make it any better.  Killing and torture were meant to stop the other side with its horror but all it causes is revenge and in the end a lot of people end up dead.

Suffering and war went hand in hand and are a theme of all historical fiction, but luckily with Bernard Cornwell’s books there is heroism and enjoyment to go along with it.

The novel I read was called 'The Last Kingdom' and was written about the Danish invasion of England.  They were much better warriors for most of the book but at the end Alfred the Great, who apparently suffered from Crohns Disease, which made him a much worthier man, was victorious and saved England from becoming horned Vikings.

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