Beard, Mary. SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome.

NY: Liveright, 2015.

Until recently, Beard wasn’t that well-known outside the world of academic classicists, her occasional appearances on BBC notwithstanding. Then this engaging and engrossing volume of her thoughts on the Roman republic and the early empire came out after (literally) fifty years in the making, and everyone’s reading it. She may have done more for popular interest in ancient Rome than any writer since Gibbon.

First, she makes it clear that this is not a complete history of the 1,500 years of Rome’s existence in various forms. She’s interested mostly in the city’s establishment and the slow, nearly mythical formation of the Republic from its period of what were essentially warlords and gangsters. And she ends with Caracalla’s extension of citizenship to all free people within the empire in 212 CE, because after that it was an entirely different game with different rules, and not really “Roman” any more.



Lovesey, Peter. Skeleton Hill.

NY: Soho Press, 2009.

The author lives (or used to) in the Roman-founded spa city of Bath, which is mostly why his Detective Superintendent Diamond series is set there, and it makes a nice change from London and Yorkshire.


Published in: on 22 September 2015 at 6:59 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cherryh, C. J. Peacemaker.

NY: DAW, 2013.

This is the fifteenth volume is what has become the masterwork of one of the best science fiction authors around. It’s also the close of the fifth trilogy, or story arc, within the series, so lots of loose ends are tied up. Ordinarily, when I review an entry in an ongoing series, I’ll say a word or two about the overarching theme, or setting, or continuing characters, or something.


Utley, Steven. Where or When.

Hornsea, UK: PS Publishing, 2006.

Steve Utley died less than two years ago at a relatively young age, and that was a particular shame. He was diagnosed with cancer and a month later, he was gone. I got to know Steve in the ’70s, when he was one of the founders of ArmadilloCon and the Turkey City Writers Conference, both in Austin, together with Howard Waldrop, Lisa Tuttle, and Bruce Sterling. (It was a great time to be a science fiction fan and/or budding writer in Texas.)


Whitman, S. E. The Troopers: An Informal History of the Plains Cavalry, 1865-1890.

NY: Hastings House, 1962.

Sidney Whitman was an army brat and though he was born about the turn of the 20th century, he grew up in the remaining cavalry posts of the West. He also served as an infantry private in World War I and as a middle-aged platoon sergeant in World War II, and then, in the ’50s, produced a number of adventure novels about the Plains cavalry. With this background, it’s not surprising he’s so knowledgeable about the mobile U.S. Army during the twenty-five years of the Indian Wars.


Published in: on 19 March 2012 at 4:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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