If anyone happens to be coming to my reading of ‘What the horses heard’ with discussion on Historical Fiction at Exeter Library on Thurs 19th at 5-7 (date and time correct here) or at Worcester Literary Festival next Weds pm (June 26th) you might like to read this brilliant piece in advance… only then you will know everything and might not want to come…. hmmmm
“Your book reads like a novel,” is a comment that popular historians often hear. When said by a general reader, it is a compliment: an acknowledgement of the fluency of the writing and a compelling story. If a historian uses those same words, however, it is an insult. It means ‘you cannot be trusted on your facts’. Hence the title of this piece is bound to infuriate every reader of this journal, for it implies that historians should tell lies. After all, that is what novelists do, isn’t it? Make it all up if they don’t know the facts?
I ought to explain at the outset that I am a novelist (James Forrester) as well as a historian (Ian Mortimer), and I write history for the mass market as well as scholarly articles. As a novelist, I tell lies. Whoppers. All historical novelists do. In my…
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