This is UK author Tim Walker’s monthly book blog. It can include any of the following: author news, book launches, guest author profiles, book reviews, flash fiction and poetry.
Are you an author or a poet? If so, then please contact me for a guest author or poet’s corner slot in a future newsletter: firstname.lastname@example.org
Author News – Year End Reflections
Apologies for the lateness of my monthly book blog/newsletter. It has slipped a few days from the 1st of the month to accommodate the review of Guardians at the Wall by busy book blogger, Juliet Butler, on her excellent Book Literati Book Reviews blog. Juliet is also a pillar of the top Facebook group for fiction readers and all things books, The Book Club (TBC). Guardians at the Wall was published in June 2021, after nine months of research, writing and editing.
Here’s her review: “When Tim Walker contacted me about a review for his new book Guardians at the Wall I agreed straight away as I live in the North East and have visited Vindolanda on many occasions. Tim has set this in both the present day where Noah, an archaeology student is working and hoping for inspiration for his final dissertation, and in 180CE when Centurion Gaius Atticianus is stationed at Vindolanda. Both timelines have their own thrills and drama as the world of Noah and Gaius cross 2000 years apart.
“I was completely enthralled by this book, and the alternate chapters had me compelled to continue reading. In the present Noah is studying for his Archaeology degree from Durham University and is using his time at Vindolanda to get inspiration for his final dissertation. It his translating of some of the tablets found that he first sees the name Gaius Atticianus that sends him on a journey to find out more about him and his time at the fort. I was quite envious of Noah’s work at Vindolanda as it was fascinating to think of finding objects that have been there for over two thousand years, touched and used by the inhabitants of the forts and those living there. Noah’s dedication to his work is only complicated by his love life and his love triangle with two academics that he has to try and keep secret, which is difficult in such a small community.
“In 1800 CE Gaius Atticianus is a Centurion at Vindolanda on a night when they are attacked by tribes from the North, setting off a chain of events that threaten more of the forts and surrounding dwellings. Through Gaius I felt the peril and danger of those living along Hadrian’s Wall, the constant threat of attack not just on the soldiers but on those who live their lives there, workers, bakers, and those who run the temples. I have always been in awe at how advanced the Romans were with their temples, bath houses, underfloor heating and little luxuries. Gaius’s story is one of bravery, fearlessness and danger, all set against him being a husband and father.
“Tim Walker has obviously done a lot of research for this book, both historical and for the present day in how the archaeological sites are run and funded. There is plenty of historical detail that I loved, so it’s not a book you can rush through, and I really appreciated all that detail as it added authenticity to the story. It is a pretty action packed read with romance, battles, buried treasure and subterfuge to keep your attention and make this such an immersive read.
“Guardians at the Wall is a riveting read, with a lot packed into its pages. Full of historical detail and with interesting characters who draw you in to their lives. I loved the split timeline, each feeding off each other that keeps me turning the pages wanting to know more about Noah and Gaius, who were both Guardians at the Wall in their own way. A brilliantly written and plotted read that I highly recommend.” Juliet Butler 03/12/2021 in Bookliteratibookblog
On the Origins of December
Articles abound about the origins of Christmas, but what is the origin of December? December got its name from the Latin word decem, meaning tenth, as it was the tenth month of the year in the old Roman calendar that dates from 750 BC. The Roman year began in March, and the winter days that followed December were not included as part of any month.
Saturnalia, held in mid-December, is an ancient Roman pagan festival honouring the agricultural god Saturn. Saturnalia celebrations are the source of many of the traditions we now associate with Christmas. Saturnalia, the most popular holiday on the ancient Roman calendar, derived from older farming-related rituals of midwinter and the winter solstice, especially the practice of offering gifts or sacrifices to the gods during the winter sowing season.
The pagan celebration of Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture and time, began as a single day, but by the late Republic (133-31 B.C.) it had expanded to a week-long festival beginning December 17. On the Julian calendar, which the Romans used at the time, the winter solstice fell on December 25. During Saturnalia, work and business came to a halt. Schools and courts of law closed, and the normal social patterns were suspended. Citizens made sacrifice to Saturn and other gods for the bounty of the harvest that would see them through winter, and give thanks for another year.
People decorated their homes with wreaths and other greenery, and shed their traditional togas in favour of colourful clothes known as synthesis. Even slaves did not have to work during Saturnalia, but were allowed to participate in the festivities; in some cases, they sat at the head of the table while their masters served them. (source: www.history.com)
The Saturnalia holiday week included the day of Saturn – the god of seeds and sowing – which was the Saturnalia itself. The holiday began as a farmers’ festival to mark the end of autumn planting and at first, it was held just after the last wheat crop of the year was sown.
This painting, by the Italian artist Roberto Bompiani (c. 1821 – 1908), strives to depict what it might have looked like to witness a luxurious feast thrown by a wealthy host at the height of ancient Roman prosperity. Bompiani relied on artifacts, archaeology and descriptions from Roman, Etruscan and Greek sources to create his convincing scene. One such vivid, lively and humorous description of an ancient Roman feast came from the preserved letters of Pliny the Younger (c. BC 61-113), a prolific pen pal with various Roman lawyers, statesmen, military men and intellectuals. In a message sent to a certain Septicius Clarus (who was a no-show at a banquet he had promised to attend), Pliny the Younger lavishly described everything that Septicius had missed out on at the feast. Pliny wrote:
“Who are you, to accept my invitation to dinner and never come? Here’s your sentence and you shall pay my costs in full, no small sum either. It was all laid out, one lettuce each, three snails, two eggs, barley-cake, and wine with honey chilled with snow (you will reckon this too please, and as an expensive item, seeing that it disappears in the dish), besides olives, beetroots, gherkins, onions, and any number of similar delicacies. You would have heard a comic play, a reader or singer, or all three if I felt generous” (Pliny the Younger, Letters, 1.15).
Roberto Bompiani’s artwork paints a similar scene as Pliny the Younger’s descriptive letter. In both, the host of the feast spared no expense to please and impress his guests. Roberto Bompiani, however, seemed to leave out Pliny’s suggestion of actors, orators or musicians. Nevertheless, a lyre can be seen lying on the floor for anyone brave enough to strike a tune. That aside, the crowd looks content with the food, drink and conversation.
Source: C. Keith Hansley
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Historical Times online magazine
The fifth issue of Historical Times online magazine came out on 1st December. This issue focusses on the Regency period in the 19th century and once again has attracted articles from many of the top historical fiction authors of that period.
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Wishing you all a very merry Christmas (hic!) and a happy and healthy new year!