Category Archives: book reviews

“The Sign of the Eagle” by Jess Steven Hughes is Roman historical fiction at its finest

The Pursuit of Justice in a Violent Age

August 25, 2014 by Gregg Zimmerman

sote_pubImperial Rome, starting with the first emperor Augustus, spanned about 500 years, and was ruled by approximately 65 emperors (depending how you count usurpers, upstarts, and self-proclaimed tyrants). So the average tenure of a Roman emperor was a little less than 8 years, and few of them died of natural causes. The Sign of the Eagle is set in the early reign of Vespasian, who took the throne during the chaotic year of four emperors (69 A.D.). This was an era of barbarian invasions, sinister political plots, and military unrest when any given general stationed in the provinces could declare himself emperor and advance with his army upon Rome on any particular day. This is the backdrop of The Sign of the Eagle, a fast-paced and extremely enjoyable historical novel. Protagonist Macha, the daughter of a Celtic king, is married to Roman tribune Titus. She is told by an envoy that her husband has been arrested for treason, and is part of a conspiracy to overthrow Vespasian. Macha does not take this news sitting down, plunging into a suspenseful mission to discover the truth and exonerate her husband. The bodies of people who know too much are falling all around her, but this does not deter the dedicated and courageous Macha from her single minded pursuit ,that will free her husband and save the emperor. I am particularly impressed by the verisimilitude that the author achieves. It is clear that he has done his research and is very familiar not only with historical facts and places, but with the beliefs, habits and everyday life of citizens of every strata of Roman society. This was a very enjoyable and informative novel, and I look forward to upcoming works of historical fiction by Jess Steven Hughes.

An historical novel of betrayal and suspense in ancient Rome that will leave you breathless

August 31, 2014 by “lokhos”

Spend some time in Ancient Rome, solving mystery upon mystery as a British Celtic woman raised a Roman tries to clear the name of Titus, the Roman tribune who is her husband. Got that? The Sign of the Eagle is a crime thriller, a police procedural, and a correct historical with all the vocabulary and scholarship necessary, rolled into one delicious package. Threats and plots reach all the way up from the garden villa of our heroine, Macha, to the court of the Roman Emperor Vespasian.

Macha’s husband Titus is a professional cavalry soldier. When Titus is accused of treason, Macha’s adventure goes into high gear, with everything she loves at stake.

Rather than ruin the story for you, I’ll not dwell on the plot beyond saying it has turns and twists enough for any modern reader. This book also has the feel of its period: every detail is correct, from swords and cavalry tack to combs and pins for our Celtic heroine’s red hair.
Don’t mistake me: this novel is neither bodice ripper nor dissertation, but a full blown novel of ancient Rome that at times reminded me of Ecco’s “Name of the Rose.” Want to let that sink in? Yes, this is a real historical novel, not a romance in ancient clothing nor a gamer’s how-to book. Good novels are rare, good historical novels even rarer.

Buy this book and read it. Buy a couple to give your more literate friends for Christmas. I bought the trade paper and its production values are excellent; the print is easy to read, the prose crisp and as sharp and clear as you’d expect from an author such as Jess Hughes, who has been a police detective and Marine Corps veteran. Hughes knows war and intrigue and human failings firsthand. What Hughes has learned in life informs this novel with his expertise in treachery, in war, and in crime, lending this story great substance without ever being wordy or awkward. Men will be as diverted as women by this novel, part action-adventure, part suspenseful thriller, and part a ticket to another place and time.

The Sign of the Eagle is satisfyingly complete in itself, yet also forms the first half of Hughes’ duology set in the 1st century AD. The next book by Jess Steven Hughes, one hopes, is coming soon.

Winter of the Metal People reviewed at the Historical Novel Society

Winter of the Metal People

By   (from the review by John Kachuba http://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/winter-of-the-metal-people/)

Despite the fact that so many public buildings, parks, and monuments throughout what is today America’s Southwest bear the name “Coronado,” Francisco Vásquez de Coronado’s 1540 expedition into that area was anything but successful. Searching for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold as far east as modern-day Kansas, Coronado’s expedition of Spanish conquistadores and their Aztec allies ran into the Puebloan tribes. Although the Spanish government had policies demanding the humane treatment of Indians throughout New Spain, Coronado’s foundering expedition treated the Puebloans ruthlessly in order to obtain food, clothing, and shelter. As a result, Coronado’s men became embroiled in a two-year-long war that eventually ended with the Spanish withdrawal back into Mexico; it would be almost fifty years before they returned.

Herrick fully enters the minds of his historical Spanish and Puebloan characters, showing the cultural and religious differences between the two cultures that would inevitably lead to the first Indian war. There is a saying that history belongs to the victors, so while much of the Spanish story is based upon historical written documents, the author had to imagine the Puebloans’ story. But his research is well founded, and what results is a balanced novel that expresses the worldviews of both sides and relates it in an exciting and interesting manner. This novel is highly recommended for those interested in the history of the American southwest and its native peoples.

Details

Publisher

Published

Period

Century

Price
(US) $16.95

ISBN
(US) 9781620062371

Format
Paperback

Pages
252

Review

Appeared in

Reviewed by

Mark Mitten’s “Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave” nominated for a Peacemaker Award

Mechanicsburg, PA – Western Fictioneers (WF) is pleased to announce the NOMINEES for the third annual (2013) Peacemaker Awards. Mark Mitten’s “Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave” is a finalist in the Best Western First Novel category.

Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave

Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave

About Western Fictioneers:
Western Fictioneers is the only professional writers organization composed entirely of authors who have written Western fiction, the classic American genre.

Western Fictioneers is comprised of writers who love what they’re doing and who believe in the literature of the old west–devoted to keeping the traditional western alive.

Stories of the west have been entertaining readers since the days of James Fenimore Cooper, and Western Fictioneers believe that western fiction is just as compelling ever. They have already produced a fine anthology of western tales. There’s a lot more to come in 2012, so look for some exciting announcements in the months ahead.

Membership in Western Fictioneers is open to professional authors who have written Westerns, as well as fans of the genre who can join as patron members. If you’d like to join the group and be a part of the fun, you can find the requirements at the website below. They welcome everyone who shares their love of traditional western fiction.

About this year’s nominees:
Western Fictioneers (WF) is pleased to announce the NOMINEES for the third annual (2013) Peacemaker Awards

** Nominees are in no particular order.

The Lifetime Achievement Peacemaker will be presented to Robert Vaughan

2013 BEST WESTERN NOVEL:
City of Rocks (Five Star Publishing — Cengage) by Michael Zimmer
Unbroke Horses (Goldminds Publishing, LLC) by D.B. Jackson
Apache Lawman (AmazonEncore) by Phil Dunlap
Wide Open (Berkley Publishing Group) by Larry Bjornson

2013 BEST WESTERN SHORT STORY:
“Christmas Comes to Freedom Hill” (Christmas Campfire Companion — Port Yonder Press) by Troy Smith
“Christmas For Evangeline”  (Slay Bells and Six Guns — WF ) by C. Courtney Joyner
“Keepers of Camelot” (Slay Bells and Six Guns — WF) by Cheryl Pierson
“The Toys” (Slay Bells and Six Guns — WF) by James J. Griffin
“Adeline” (Protectors: Stories to Benefit PROTECT — Goombah Gumbo Press ) by Wayne Dundee

2013 BEST WESTERN FIRST NOVEL:
High Stakes (Musa Publishing) by Chad Strong
Wide Open (Berkley Publishing Group) by Larry Bjornson
Red Lands Outlaw, the Ballad of Henry Starr (AWOC.com Publishing) by Phil Truman
Last Stand At Bitter Creek (Western Trail Blazer) by Tom Rizzo
Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave (Sunbury Press) by Mark Mitten

Congratulations to all the nominees.  Winners will be announced on June 1, 2013 on the WF website (www.westernfictioneers.com)

Western Fictioneers (WF) was formed in 2010 by Robert J. Randisi, James Reasoner, Frank Roderus, and other professional Western writers, to preserve, honor, and promote traditional Western writing in the 21st century.  Entries were accepted in both print and electronic forms.  The Peacemaker Awards are given out annually.  Submissions for the Peacemaker Awards for books published in 2013 will be open in July, 2013. Submission guidelines will be posted on the WF web site.  For more information about Western Fictioneers (WF) please visit:  http://www.westernfictioneers.com/ or  http://westernfictioneers.blogspot.com/

About “Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave”
It is 1887. Snow is falling in the high country of Colorado. Bill Ewing led a bank heist in the small mountain town of Kinsey City — but just woke up tied to the back of a mule. “Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave” is an epic novel chronicling Bill Ewing’s gang of thieves and the posse that takes after them, the cowhands of the B-Cross-C, and the unexpected turns of life which bring them all together.

Following the Great Die-Up, the harshest winter to ever hit the West, LG Pendleton and Casey Pruitt lead a mixed herd of Polangus and Durham cattle down the stage road in Lefthand Canyon. Their way of life is fading with the changing times. Fences cross what once was open range, locomotives are eliminating the trail drive, and both Casey and LG must learn to change with it — or fade away themselves.

At once both personal and immutable, “Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave” is a sweeping tale of randomness and destiny, reminding us of the power of the human spirit in the face of adversity.

Sipping Whiskey in a Shallow Grave
Authored by Mark Mitten
List Price: $16.95
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on Cream paper
338 pages
Sunbury Press, Inc.
ISBN-13: 978-1620061466
ISBN-10: 1620061465
BISAC: Fiction / Westerns

Also available on Kindle and Nook

For more information, please see:
http://www.sunburypressstore.com/Sipping-Whiskey-in-a-Sha…