Different terms of reference

At the Chalke Valley History Festival today, an extremely thoughtful question was asked by a member of the audience at the end of the talk on historical fact and fiction.

The question was, in essence, how the historical novelist copes with the fact that their characters had different terms of reference, different mores, from their modern-day readers.

It’s a tough question, and whilst the authors on stage answered it up to a point, it deserves fuller consideration.

Here’s a recent post from our own M.M. Bennetts, paying tribute to the late, great Dorothy Dunnett.

“She faced up to the horrors of life in the Renaissance [says Bennetts] and whilst I would never say she wallowed in it, she never made excuses nor did she pass judgment, because their ways of doing things, their sense of right and wrong or justice, were very different from ours.  And that takes a great degree of courage.”

This clear-sighted honesty about the past is yet another thing that good historical fiction can convey perhaps more effectively than any other medium.  Certainly better than film, since one has the whole of a book to explore these things, rather than 90 minutes of action.  Better even, perhaps, than historical textbooks, since the novelist can explore cause and consequence, and can allow his or her contextual understanding to explore the gaps between the recorded facts.

OK, time to shut up and let you read Bennetts’s post now.  Here it is.  Dazzled by Dunnett.  And here’s today’s post, extrapolating the same theme still further:  Getting it right.

A book and a chat with M.M. Bennetts – tomorrow at 6.30 pm EST/11.30 pm GMT

M.M. Bennetts will be a guest of online radio show A Book and a Chat tomorrow at 6.30 pm EST (11.30 pm GMT).  Follow the link to listen online.

You can call in to the show with a question for Bennetts on Of Honest Fame, May 1812, writing, historical trivia, the power of language or whatever (within reason!) on +1 (347) 237-5398.

Join us if you can!

Give an #e-book for Christmas – now from only $2.99

So the UK has once more been brought to a halt by snow.  But don’t despair – you can still order all our titles from Amazon as e-books, and download them to read by the fire.  If you’re buying from amazon.com, you can also give Kindle books as gifts.  So why not give someone a great winter read this Christmas?

All Diiarts titles are now available as e-books from as little as US$2.99.  (Local prices may vary, but are outside our control). Continue reading

Speak the Speech, I Pray You… « Terry Kroenung’s Authorial Bloviations

Noted historical novelist of all things Napoleonic, M.M. Bennetts has kindly consented to take time out from riding horses across the Hampshire downs to discuss the problem of recreating how people might have spoken long before electronic recording


I’m a perfectionist.  I know, I know, the fastest way to drive yourself crazy.

I’m also a stickler for detail.  Yes, that’s right, the second most direct route to madness.  Particularly if you’re a historian writing historical fiction.

Together these two probably constitute the fastest way to send yourself round the twist, or perhaps the quickest route to total eccentricity.

via Speak the Speech, I Pray You… « Terry Kroenung’s Authorial Bloviations.

M.M. Bennetts – this week’s guest author at Authors On Show

M.M. Bennetts is taking the plunge into the blogosphere this week with a guest appearance on the excellent AUTHORS ON SHOW website.

Visit www.authorsonshow.com to read M.M.’s guest post and to see some of the other information and resources the site has to offer.

Look out, too, for M.M.’s virtual book tour, running until 17th December at PUMP UP YOUR BOOK.

International Napoleonic Weekend – 25th September

Saturday 25th September will find M.M. Bennetts–exhausted but triumphant from the completion of Of Honest Fame (published on 8th October)–at the 17th International Napoleonic Fair at Kingston Maurward House, near Dorchester.  (DT2 8PY, for those whose travel arrangements are managed by satellite.)  The event runs from 10.00 – 5.00.

Yes, there will be signed copies of May 1812.  Yes, you can pre-order a signed copy of Of Honest Fame.  And alongside Bennetts will be Jonathan Hopkins, cavalry supremo and author of Walls of Jericho–a new novel based on the much-neglected story of British cavalrymen who fought against Napoleon.

Rumour has it that there will be a strong smell of black powder hanging over the proceedings, and quite a bit of derring-do on display.  We’ll hope to see you there.