18 June 2011

Walls and Houses

The march of historical novelists continues. Back in March, I reported on a visit by Kevin Crossley-Holland, promoting his new children's novel, Bracelet of Bones. On the same occasion, one of the panellists had been Ian Mortimer (the time-traveller's guide), who has just reviewed the latest novel by another of our recent visitors, Shieldwall by Justin Hill, which is set in England at the time of Svein Forkbeard and King Knut. I have to confess I am not a huge fan of historical novels, but it is interesting to find out what draws novelists to the period I, in a rather different way, am interested in. It is, paradoxically, often the very same things. A review of Bracelet of Bones in the Guardian a few weeks ago noted that its author 'brought a poet's love of words to this Viking adventure'. Something of the same came across in Justin Hill's talk, and is also evident in Ian Mortimer's review, in which he picks out some historical inaccuracies, notes the relentless preoccupation with blood and gore, but praises the 'wonderful, poetic passages'. So it all comes down to poetry in the end. Hurrah. I look forward to reading it, and possibly the rest of the trilogy too.

Speaking of trilogies, I have just discovered the first volume of a projected Lewis Trilogy, The Blackhouse, by Peter May. Its only Viking connection is that it is set in Lewis (the author revelling in the Norse place-names, possibly unbeknown to himself), but readers will know of my addiction to 'Viking crime', which I define as any murder mystery set in a part of the world that us true Norse and Viking ramblers like to visit, whether or not it has a Viking theme. It's a very dark, psychological thriller, and I'm not sure what island reactions to it would be (the Stornoway Gazette has not reviewed it yet), but the descriptions of Lewis are well done, even if the plot is a bit lurid.