My Favourite Authors of Historical Fiction: Bernard Cornwell

August 5, 2011

Hello everyone,

My e-book has moved from ‘In Review’ to ‘Publishing,’ so I expect my next post will be the announcement that it is available for purchase. In the meantime, I thought I’d continue with the second entry in a new 11-part series I described in my last post.

#2 – Bernard Cornwell

I could not in good conscious put this list together without mentioning Bernard Cornwell close to the top. As I’ve mentioned in a previous blog entry, that man inspires me. He’s prolific, he’s got his history to fiction ratio perfectly adjusted, and he’s having the time of his life doing exactly what he wants to do.

He writes smart, adventurous historical fiction in both stand-alone novels and long-running series, and he does so at a staggering rate: He has put out at least a book a year every year from 1981 up to the present; more often than not he’s written a couple, and in 1995, 2002 and 2003 he published three books inside of twelve months! Can you imagine if every author had this kind of work ethic? I can’t speak with great authority about Danielle Steel, but I suspect Cornwell has to be within an order of magnitude of her prodigious output, and that’s really saying something. It’s easy to get hooked on Bernard Cornwell, and it’s even easier to get your fix. Even if you can shoot through one of his novels in a single long day in an arm chair, his current book total stands at fifty-one. He also does a nice job of jumping between his several series and single passion projects. No matter what you’re reading of his, though, you can sense the author’s enthusiasm, intelligence, and general good humour. There are an awful lot of authors whose work I admire, but who I doubt very much I’d like as a person. I’d love to buy Bernard Cornwell whatever he’s drinking. It’s a standing invitation. One of my earliest tweets was regret that the man isn’t on Twitter yet.

I am the unusual Cornwell fan who didn’t discover him through the Sharpe series. My first Cornwell book was Stonehenge, and I doubt very much that we will see a better single work of historical fiction deal with that topic within our lifetime. At its core, it’s a family piece, and the stones rose and fell based on the power struggle between three brothers and the women they loved. What a perfect way to humanize something as ancient and incomprehensible as Stonehenge. I picked it up at Heathrow airport in the spring of 1999. I have rarely had as pleasant a read, despite the cramped airplane seat.

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