Miscellany

Last updated XVIII NOVEMBRIS 2013
Margot Arnold + Albert A. Bell Jr. + Kenneth Benton + John Blackburn + Gillian Bradshaw + L. Sprague de Camp + Susanne Cho + Julius Cicatrix and Martin Rowson + Lindsey Davis + David Drake + Margaret Frazer + Jonathan Gash + Gisbert Haefs + Lyn Hamilton + Robert Harris + John Hersey + Tom Holland + Thomas Holt + Benita Kane Jaro + Patrick Larkin + Isabelle Lawrence + Helen Lovatt + Colleen McCullough + Andreas Möhn + Jean-Pierre Nèraudau + Ellis Peters + Mary Reed and Eric Mayer + Steven Saylor + S.P. Somtow + Marcus Tullius Cicero + Harry Turtledove + John and Esther Wagner + K.D. Wentworth + Leslie Turner White + Henry Winterfeld + David Wishart
Items Not Tied to Any Particular Author

Margot Arnold
  • The Catacomb Conspiracy
    (New York: Foul Play Press, 1993, paperback). Rome's Via Appia Antica – the Old Appian Way – is the setting for this mystery novel set amongst the stylish villas and ancient catacombs and burial chambers of modern Rome. [ORDER]

  • Villa on the Palatine
    (New York: Berkley Publishing Group, 1978). [ORDER]
Albert A. Bell Jr.
cover The Corpus Conundrum
(USA: Ingalls Publishing Group, forthcoming November 2011).
Pliny the Younger stumbles on a body while out on a hunt. The next day he discovers it has been stolen. He and Tacitus race to discover who is behind what becomes a string of murders. This is a mash-up of a Roman mystery with a vampire story. A complimentary copy was provided to this site. [not yet rated]
Kenneth Benton
  • Death on the Appian Way
    (London: Chatto and Windus, 1976). Novel in the form of memoirs by M. Caelius Rufus. Catullus and Clodia appear, among others. The narrative leads to the murder of Clodius and ends with a remarkable twist in the plot which adds to it an element of a detective story [ORDER]
John Blackburn
  • The Flame and the Wind
    (London: Jonathan Cape, 1967) features young Sextus Marcellus Ennius and his friend Eros Dion of the Vigiles who travel to Judea to discover the truth of the life of Jesus-bar-Joseph as part of a dying bequest. Set in 30 A.D. Pontius Pilate, St. Stephen, St. Paul, the daughter of Judas Iscariot and Caligula appear.
Gillian Bradshaw
  • Render Unto Caesar
    (Forge, 2003) is set in the Rome of 16 BC. Hermogenes is a Greek trader seeking justice in a commercial matter. A former female gladiator is part of the story. Seems to more a thriller than a true detective novel. [ORDER]
L. Sprague de Camp
  • Lest Darkness Fall,
    (New York: Baen Books, 1996) is a very amusing and engrossing time travel saga about one man's trip to the Ancient Rome of the Ostrogoths, his attempts to educate the "Romans" and right ancient wrongs. Fortunately newly-republished. [ORDER]
Susanne Cho
cover Im Bauch des Imperiums
(Switzerland: Skepsis, 2009)

This German-language thriller is set in AD 67, the time of
Nero. Ruma, a spice merchant from Petra, must stop a terrorist attack on the emperor and his religious sect. Some events also transpire in the province of Judea. [not yet rated]
[AMAZON.DE]
cover Arena der Ärzte
(Switzerland: Skepsis, 2011)

German-language tale of Rome in the second century AD. Charis, a doctor and granddaughter of the character in
Im Bauch des Imperiums, discovers she has a curse upon her, in the form of a curse tablet. Someone wants her dead. She flees Rome in panic, visiting Carthage, Tripoli, Pergamum, Ephesus and the Black Sea, the curse ever in pursuit. Said to straddle a divide between thriller and cultural critique. 384 pages. [not yet rated]
[AMAZON.DE]
Julius Cicatrix and Martin Rowson
  • Imperial Exits
    (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995) In the True Crime category, by Julius Cicatrix and Martin Rowson, a hilarious look at the demises of 21 different Roman emperors. [ORDER]
Lindsey Davis
  • "Abstain from Beans"
    is a short story set in Magna Graecia (Croton in southern Italy) in the sixth century BC which is based on the historical murder of Pythagoras (who as well as being a famous geometer ran a strange philosophical school, one of whose tenets was that one should not eat beans due to the slight resemblance of the shape of broad beans to the unborn fetus). The lead protagonist is the historical Milo of Croton. See the anthology Perfectly Criminal (US edition).

  • Age of Treason.
    A movie by this name based on the Marcus Didius Falco character created by Lindsey Davis was filmed in 1993. Bryan Brown stars as Falco along with costars Amanda Pays, Ian McNeice and Anthony Valentine The pilot is said to show up fairly regularly on the Sky Movie Network in the UK. It has also been shown on the Encore Mystery channel, available on Primestar and DSS satellite networks. See her official website to get the author's opinion of the program. By the way, here is a list of at least 67 Roman-themed films at the Internet Movie Database. See also The Ancient World in the Cinema: Revised and Expanded Edition by Jon Solomon.

  • The Course of Honour
    (London: Century, Random House UK Limited, 1996, hardcover, London: Arrow (Random House), 1998, paperback, paperboards; in German as Die Gefährtin des Kaisers) by Lindsey Davis chronicles the life of the Emperor Vespasian and his love affair with the slave girl Caenis. This book has appeared in German translation as Die Gefährtin des Kaisers (Frankfurt: Eichborn, 1998) and has been published in the USA as The Course of Honor in hardcover (New York: Mysterious Press, 1998), paperback (New York: Mysterious Press, 2003), and online for Adobe reader.

  • The descent to Avernus, with ticket office
    (Sherborne: Classical Association, 1998. 17 pages) is the text of Lindsey Davis' presidential address to the British Classical Association.

  • "A Funny Thing Happened on the Road to Benghazi"
    appeared in the Winter 1997-98 issue of the British magazine A Shot in the Dark (no. 14), recounting her research trip to Libya in connection with Two for the Lions. Note that the editor of this magazine, now called Shots, has a web page.
David Drake
  • Vettius and His Friends
    (New York: Baen Books, 1989) by David Drake is a collection of twelve short stories set in the fourth century AD, most of which have an element of mystery, but also mix in science-fiction and fantasy. [ORDER]
Margaret Frazer
  • "That Same Pit", Shakespearean Detectives
    A wealthy friend of Shakespeare asks him to adapt his play Titus Andronicus in order to catch out a murderer. As this play is not very historical in the first place, it is probably not much of a loss that this story is not in any way set during the Roman time period.
Jonathan Gash Robert Graves Gisbert Haefs Lyn Hamilton Robert Harris John Hersey
  • The Conspiracy
    (New York: Knopf, 1972), while not a traditional mystery novel, depicts the efforts of Emperor Nero's secret service to track down dissenters. Seneca, Lucan and Tigellinus featured. [ORDER]
Tom Holland
  • Attis
    (London: Allison & Busby, 1995). Catullus (the poet) is confronted with mysterious events, including a headless corpse found floating in the water, when he meets Clodia and her circle. Her brother Clodius, Pompey and Julius Caesar also appear, but all the settings are either modern or nearly so. Wraparound cover features The Introduction of the Cult of Cybele at Rome by Andrea Mantegna.
Thomas Holt
  • A Song for Nero
    (London: Little Brown, 2004), is a farcical novel in which a lookalike dies in Nero's place while he goes incognito to pursue his first love, music, and gets into a lot of uncomfortable adventures as a result.
Benita Kane Jaro
  • Betray the Night
    (Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2009), is the story of Ovid's wife, here named Pinaria, who, reeling from the exile of her husband, investigates the reasons and discovers much more. This novel is discussed in Two thousand years of solitude: exile after Ovid, which includes a Helen Lovatt essay, "The Mystery of Ovid's Exile: Ovid and the Roman detectives". [ORDER]
Patrick Larkin
  • The Tribune
    (Signet, 2003, hardcover) seems to be more a thriller than a mystery in which a foot solder travels to Judea and meets both Germanicus and the Christ.
Isabelle Lawrence
  • The Theft of the Golden Ring / a Tale of Rome and Treasure
    (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1948) is an adventure story which contains some elements of mystery. Set in the time of Cicero's consulship, the heroes are the father, mother and uncle of the infant Octavian (Caesar Augustus). Julius Caesar, Pompeia, Julia, Catilina, Cicero, Lentulus and Manlius also appear. Juvenile. It is actually a sequel to the Lawrence book The Gift of the Golden Cup / a Tale of Rome and Pirates (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1946, hardcover) which is set three years earlier and features much the same cast of characters. [ORDER]
Helen Lovatt Colleen McCullough
    The author has a fine series detailing the fall of the Roman Republic and the rise of the Empire in the period from Marius and Sulla to that of Antony and Cleopatra. Here are the seven volumes in chronological order:

Andreas Möhn

  • Corpus Sacrum
    (Societäts-Verlag, 2006). During the reign of Antoninus Pius, the young slave Charis must move to Aquae Mattiacorum (modern Wiesbaden, Germany) at a time when there is growing unrest between the empire and the German tribes. In addition the cult of an oriental goddess is growing, bring terrorism and secret murder in its wake. Threatened both by barbarian temple agents and by a too ambitious Roman general, Charis and an aging priest must uncover a plot to seize the imperial throne before terror lays waste to their home. [AMAZON.DE]
Jean-Pierre Nèraudau
  • Les Louves du Palatin
    (Paris: Les belles lettres, 1988) by Jean-Pierre Nèraudau is a fictional memoir by the wife of Gaius Julius Caesar.
Ellis Peters
  • City of Gold and Shadows
    (London: Headline Books, 1973, hardcover; London: Headline Books, 1989, paperback; London: Headline Books, 1991, audio tape; New York: William Morrow & Co., 1974, paperback; New York: Ulverscroft Large Print Books, 1979, large text edition; by Ellis Peters (pseudonym of Edith Pargeter) is a modern-day mystery set at a fictional Roman site based on Roman Uriconium (Wroxeter).
Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

Mystery novels set in the Byzantine court and era.

  1. One For Sorrow
    (New York: Poisoned Pen Press, 1999, hardcover; New York: Poisoned Pen Press, 2000, paperback).
    John investigates the death of the keeper of the Imperial Plate amid a bounty of suspects including a stylite, a soothsayer, a British knight, an Egyptian brothel keeper and two ladies from Crete. First in the series. [not yet rated]

  2. Two For Joy
    (New York: Poisoned Pen Press, 2000, hardcover; New York: Poisoned Pen Press, 2001, paperback).
    Two years later, John investigates the spontaneous combustion of holy men sitting high atop pillars. Second in the series. [not yet rated]

  3. Three For a Letter
    (New York: Poisoned Pen Press, 2001, hardcover; New York: Poisoned Pen Press, 2003, paperback).
    An eight-year old hostage son of the last Ostrogoth king of Rome dies at the court of Justinian. John is ordered to investigate. Third in the series. [not yet rated]

  4. Four for a Boy
    (New York: Poisoned Pen Press, 2003, hardcover; New York: Poisoned Pen Press, 2004, trade paperback; Poisoned Pen Press, 2007, UK trade paperback).
    A prequel tale set in 525, during the reign of Justin. John investigates the death of a wealthy philanthropist in the Great Church and its implications for the empire's new ruler. Fourth in the series. [not yet rated]

  5. Five for Silver
    (New York: Poisoned Pen Press, 2004, hardcover; New York: Poisoned Pen Press, 2004, paperback).
    John investigates the death of his servant's friend during the plague year of 542. Fifth in the series. [not yet rated]

  6. Six for Gold
    (New York: Poisoned Pen Press, 2005, hardcover; New York: Poisoned Pen Press, 2005, large print paperback).
    Despite accusations that he murdered a senator in the Hippodrome, John's ventures to Egypt to discover why sheep are cutting their own throats. Meanwhile John's friend Anatolius is at work helping with the former problem. Sixth in the series. [not yet rated]

  7. Seven For a Secret
    (New York: Poisoned Pen Press, 2008, hardcover).
    John stays home in Constantinople only to become involved in dangerous intrigue. Seventh in the series. [not yet rated]
Steven Saylor
  • "The Eagle and the Rabbit" is a Roman-era short story in the anthology Warriors
    (USA: Tor Books, 2010). It does not include Gordianus, but is set much earlier, in 146 BC, the year of the final surrender of Carthage. Roman slave traders are looking for Punic survivors. The story is full of homoerotic overtones, but does not to have much point. Gordianus fans will probably not find it worth the journey.
    The same volume also includes "The Triumph" by Robin Hobb set during the first Punic war. It recounts the experiences of the captured Roman consul Marcus Atilius Regulus and his best friend, but also brings in fantasy elements such as a dragon. This story works better if one can swallow the fantasy portions.
  • In San Francisco, California, Steven Saylor gave a talk titled "Bringing the Late Republic to Life (and Putting It to Death)" at SFSU Humanities Auditorium (HUM 133), Thursday, March 29. San Francisco State University.
  • Mystery Readers Journal,
    Summer 1993, (volume 9 No. 2, History Mystery, Part I) "All Roads Led to Rome" by Steven Saylor explains how the noted author got into the field. An excerpt of the article is on-line.
  • "Murder Myth-Begotten" is a Steven Saylor modern take on ancient Greek mythologies in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, April 1996.
  • "A Murder, Now and Then..."
    is an introduction written by Steven Saylor for Classical Whodunnits (London: Robinson, 1996; edited by Mike Ashley).
  • "A Novel Approach"
    is an essay by Steven Saylor appearing in Prospects (the newsletter of the National Committee for Latin and Greek) Winter 1995.
  • "On Writing the Historical Mystery"
    is an essay by Steven Saylor appearing in The American Classical League Newsletter, Fall 1995 (volume 18, No. 1).
  • Roma, is a Michener-esque history of Rome's first thousand years written as a series of novellas,
  • The Silver Chariot Killer,
    (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996, hardcover) a mystery novel by Richard Lupoff, contains an introduction written by Steven Saylor. [ORDER]
  • "Some Ramblings About Roman-Set Fiction"
    is an essay by Steven Saylor appearing in Texas Classics in Action, Winter 1996 and reprinted in The Augur (newletter of the Illinois Classical Conference), May 1996.
Markus Schröder S.P. Somtow
  • "Hunting the Lion"
    appeared in the Spring 1992 issue of Weird Tales (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA). Detective Publius Viridianus, master of disguise, is assigned by the Emperor's eunuch to dig up dirt on one Quintus Drusianus Otho. The madcap case comes to involve Vestal Virgins, Christians, Lions and Somtow's own version of Night of the Living Dead. Nero and Caius Petronius Arbiter appear.
Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • Murder Trials
    (New York: Viking Press, 1975, 1990 (revisions), paperback. Translated by Michael Grant). The book contains a collection of the defenses by Cicero of various prominent figures of Rome who were accused of murder. These are the actual stories behind some of the novelized cases. [ORDER]
Harry Turtledove and Elaine O'Byrne
  • "Death in Vesunna"
    in Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine (January 1981) and in Departures (New York: Ballantine, 1993) by Harry Turtledove and Elaine O'Byrne. This story which mixes ancient Rome and high technology is set in Aquitania during the reign of Antoninus Pius. [ORDER]
John and Esther Wagner
  • The Gift of Rome
    (Boston, Toronto: Little, Brown & Co., 1961) by John and Esther Wagner is based on Cicero's speech Pro Cluentio "and has some of the elements of a mystery story, as the circumstances surrounding the death of the elder Oppianicus develop [...] an attractive young girl does some detective work for Cicero."
K.D. Wentworth Leslie Turner White
  • Scorpus the Moor
    (New York: Doubleday, 1962) is about the difficulties of an Arab accused of murder in Nero's Rome.
Henry Winterfeld David Wishart
  • Horse Coin
    (London: Hodder, 1999; hardcover; London: Flame, 2000, paperback).
    In the Britain of AD 59, Marcus Julius Severinus, is promoted to be a cavalry commander, but gets into hot water with Proconsul Paulinus, precipitating Queen Boadicea's revolt. [AMAZON UK]

Items Not Tied to Any Particular Author
  • Roman Mysteries By the Numbers (5/27/08)
  • Die Antike außerhalb des Hörsaals
    (Münster: Lit, 2003, paperback). Edited by Kai Brodersen, this is a collection of papers about mysteries from a conference at Mannheim. An article by Rosmarie Günther, "Römische Ermittlungen" compares the works of Saylor, Roberts, Davis and Stöver.
  • Bouchercon: Authors John Maddox Roberts, Steven Saylor and Lindsey Davis all appeared together for the first time at Bouchercon, the World Mystery Convention in San Francisco, October 14-17, 2010.
  • Crimina. Die Antike im modernen Kriminalroman
    (Frankfurt am Main: Verlag Antike, 2004, hardcover).
    Edited by Kai Brodersen, this is a collection of papers about mysteries set in the ancient world. Contributors include Markus Schröder, Stefan Cramme and several historians as well as the authors Hans Dieter Stöver and Malachy Hyde. All were gathered for a small colloquium at Mannheim University, where Brodersen is professor of ancient history. A list of contents and a chance to order are also available.
  • Mystery Readers Journal, Summer 1993, (volume 9 No. 2, History Mystery, Part I)
    • "O Tempora! O Mores!" by Elizabeth Watson is a survey of the more popular Roman Mystery novels.
    • "B.C. ★(Before Cadfael)" by Sue Feder is a comprehensive survey of mystery novels set prior to the Middle Ages including Roman Mystery novels.
    • "Mystery in Retrospect: Reviews" by Carol Harper and Dean James provides capsule reviews of several of the more popular Roman Mystery novels.
  • The magazine, The Mystery Review, in its Summer 1999 issue (volume 7, no. 4) features in a lead article "The Ancient World of Crime" (Part I). By retired Classics professor Barry Baldwin, the piece is a rundown of courts, criminal situations and actual crimes in Ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt. Also included is a crossword puzzle with many clues pertaining to Roman mysteries and a review, also by Baldwin, of Marilyn Todd's Wolf Whistle.
  • The Winter 2000 issue of The Mystery Review issue (volume 8, no. 2) features Part III of its series on Ancient Crime, discussing various historical events in the Roman world that might make good topics for a Steven Saylor-style novel (say that three times fast?). Included: the mysterious death of the Third Punic War consul Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus (a biography of him exists by the way, by Alan Astin); the death of Agrippa Postumus during the reign of Tiberius (detailed by Graves, of course); that of Germanicus during the same reign (which has been treated previously in Graves' I, Claudius and Wishart's Germanicus); the murder of Emperor Claudius (treated in Yaffe's "The Problem of the Emperor's Mushrooms"); the murder of the last pagan emperor Julian in AD 363 (treated in Gore Vidal's Julian); and the crime of passion story of Octavius and Pontia during the reign of Nero as told by Tacitus. Also included are reviews of two "One" novels: One For Sorrow and One Virgin Too Many.
  • "Rinse the Blood Off My Toga" with Flavius Maximus, Private Roman Eye was an amusing sendup on television's Ed Sullivan Show of the detective genre set during an investigation of the assassination of Julius Caesar. Source of the phrase "Julie, don't go!" By Johnny Wayne and Frank Schuster. A sample script.
  • "What Caesar Saw" appears in the volume 5, Number 11, November 1995 issue of Firsts, a magazine devoted to collecting first editions of modern books. The 12-page article by Robin H. Smiley surveys the more popular selections in the genre providing information about the current market values of the various first editions, photos of most of the covers and short plot descriptions. Works by Irwin, Davis, Roberts, Burns and Saylor are mentioned. A photo of Lindsey Davis is included as part of an article on Ellis Peters. Back issues are available by writing FIRSTS at P.O. Box 65166, Tucson, AZ, 85728, USA.
  • Roman mystery authors Keith Heller, Edward Hoch, John Maddox Roberts, Steven Saylor and Donald Westlake appeared at Bouchercon '97, the worldwide convention of mystery in Monterey, California, October 30-November 2, 1997. The Ancient Mysteries panel was recorded on audiotape and is available for purchase – contact On Site Taping, CONFTAPE1@AOL.COM.
  • In San Francisco, California, "Rome in the Year One" was presented on February 23-24, 2001 by Humanities West. Speakers included Erich Gruen and Trevor Hodge. Also, a dramatic enactment of a Roman banquet. On May 4-5, a similar program will be presented on the Silk Road, sponsored by the Silk Road Foundation. (3/11/01)
  • Reviews of this site:
Sue Feder
Prominent mystery reviewer and publisher Sue Feder died September 9, 2005 after a long illness. Historical mysteries have lost a strong champion and especially Roman-era mysteries.

I first met Sue at Bouchercon in 1997 when it was held in Monterey, California. She was a member of a fascinating panel discussing the world of mystery reviewing, which at that point she had already been doing for a decade. Another panelist had just given a quite funny introduction and Sue was next. In her dry, matter of fact, New York way, she stated "I can't follow that." This brought down the house. She then did proceed to follow it, and then some. As a matter of fact I bought the tape from that seminar and still listen to it from time to time. (You can listen to her as well.)

Sue was a great fan of Roman-era mysteries and evidently many other historical subjects. Once she told me about how fascinated she was with with the Beatles, another with everything Titanic. I don't know what came of that, but after I found out about her historical mysteries zine, I went to considerable trouble to look up the Murder: Past Tense issue on Roman mysteries and learned a lot there, not just about books I hadn't heard about, but also about what makes a good one. Sue liked to use the expression "overusing the oil lamp" to gently chide those mystery writers who are too intent on putting all of their research on the page, to the extent that it gets in the way of story, characters and finally, verisimilitude. The fact that Sue had revived this expression from the same one that was used in ancient times was just sublime.

Sue was also the only person I ever met who had managed to track down a copy of Charles Connell's Most Delicious Poison. I tried and could only find it at the British Library who refused to let it out.

But if she was a true critic who could not be bought, she was also a champion of writers and the genre itself. At Bouchercon a lot of people talked about it, but she was the one who, in 1998, actually did finally create an award specifically for historical mysteries, the Herodotus award. She used it to bring attention to writers that she thought profoundly deserving, among them Lindsey Davis, for the Lifetime Achievement Award and Steven Saylor for his Rubicon.

Fortunately her writing still lives on at the Historical Mystery Appreciation Society, at least for now?, but in the Historical Mysteries world, Sue Feder is one extra special fan and good person who will sorely be missed.

Donald Westlake
Noted mystery author Donald Westlake died December 31, 2008. The relevance to the world of Roman mysteries is that this author was a proponent of bringing Steven Saylor's 1992 novel, Arms of Nemesis to the big screen. When this site spoke with him in 1997, he reported that he had already completed eleven drafts on the script. (Maybe if Hollywood spent less time re-writing perfectly good novels and more time filming there would be something to see by now.) He also reported that in writing his own novels he never used outlines. "If I've written an outline," he said, "then the book is already done". Besides all of his great stories over the years, including work on the great film The Grifters, he also made an outstanding special contribution in Murderous Schemes, which offers a complete taxonomy of all of the different forms of mystery stories and then impressively offers a story of each type. (1/2)


Copyright © 1994-2008 by Richard M. Heli.
Permission granted to reprint so long as this notice is preserved in its entirety and I am informed prior to the re-use. Published since June 1994.
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