Today, I’m excited to have author, Mark Knowles with us to guest post. I’ve always loved novels based on real events and that may be one of many reasons why I’ve enjoyed The Consul’s Daughter so much.
I asked Mark what kind of research he did for for his book and how long he spent researching before he started to write his book. Hi answer is below:
I spent a lot of happy hours (not all of them reading, it must be said!) in The British Library in London researching the vigiles, the night watch of Ancient Rome, in books long since out of print. That led me towards the work of a modern scholar, the Frenchman Robert Sablayrolles, who wrote a book thicker than a breeze block about them. I’m glad I listened in French lessons (and for Google Translate) because the book was invaluable. Sablayrolles had painstakingly noted the name of every night watchman in every cohort for which inscriptions survive. It meant I could add an extra layer of authenticity when cherry-picking the names of characters from about the right period in time. Working through that book alone took about a month and the whole novel took perhaps 2.5 years to write, though I played about with it right up to the publication deadline.
Thanks, Mark! 🙂
Rome, AD 205: Tribune Ambrosius Milo is the only man in his cohort who enjoys the night watch. Somewhere in the darkness is the man who murdered his wife, and one day he will catch him. But one cold February morning, the fog lifts to reveal the dead body of a young girl on the banks of the Tiber. Led by the quick-tempered Ambrosius, the watchmen track a grim murder scene and locate several seemingly vital clues. But there is trouble afoot, for this was no ordinary young girl. She is a consul’s daughter and, when her distraught parents come to claim her body, it has mysteriously vanished from the Watch House crypt … From the intrigues within the Imperial household to the mean streets of Ancient Rome, The Consul’s Daughter is a red-blooded crime novel based on true events and documented characters.
Bulla, Titus and Ludo followed Ambrosius inside with a pair of torches that crackled in the dusty, heavy air. As their eyes adjusted to the gloom, they made out stacks of crates, an old desk covered in a dustsheet, upturned amphorae and grain sacks strewn about the floor. At the far side of the room there was another door. Ambrosius pointed to it and the others nodded. He replaced the mattock in his belt and withdrew his baton. They approached the door, more cautiously now. Ambrosius kicked hard at the door and it burst open. In front of him was a small entrance room at the back of which was another door. A weak stripe of light at the bottom suggested that it lead onto a street heading away from the docks, back towards the city. Ambrosius waited for the torch before moving into the chamber. Apart from a narrow passageway to his left that led to a flight of stairs, the room was empty. Or at least it appeared so. As they made for the stairs, Titus noticed something on the floor as the light from his torch brushed over it. “Ambrosius! Over here!” It was only a partial boot print but it was clearly outlined in dried blood, and it pointed towards the door. Ludo found the next one, tracking back towards the gloomy staircase. “There’s more,” he muttered. “Watch where you step …” “Wait! You’re right: just wait a minute. Bulla, I need your knife again.” He disappeared for a few moments and from the first room came the noise of fabric being torn apart and wood splintering. He returned bearing a section of dustsheet and a crate lid. “Hold this,” he said, presenting the lid to Bulla. He threw the cloth over it and twisted the drapes around underneath so that the material became taught across the surface, like the skin of a drum. “Go on, and avoid stepping on the blood.” With Ludo at the head, the four watchmen ascended the rickety staircase, noting how the prints became clearer. Ludo rounded the corner and stopped in his tracks. He thrust his torch into the gloom. “Ye gods!” The dancing flames etched a look of horror on his face. Ambrosius pushed past him and stopped dead. There was blood everywhere: in pools on the floorboards, in spatters on the wall and, most sinister of all, on the dirty sailcloth laid out in the centre. More than this, however, and what would linger in the memory of all of the watchmen, was the evil stench of fear itself. It screamed at them in the silence. Even as the men entered the room and skirted the sailcloth, the cloying, pungent whiff of stale urine, clotted blood, bodily fluid and death assaulted their senses. Bulla and Ludo gagged, barely managing to retain the contents of their stomachs. Titus’ fist gripped the torch handle so tightly that his knuckles turned white and his eyes were wide with fury and incomprehension. Ambrosius made for the shutters and prodded them open, noting the dried blood on the peeling paintwork of the slats. He ignored the stares of the vigiles posted outside and the people that were now gathering at the rope cordons. The view to the crumpled body was blocked by the step and screened by the fog but it was in line with the window and perhaps six feet from the building; a considerable distance, which could only mean that she was flung out of it with brutal force. He shook his head: of all the unanswered questions, this was the most puzzling. Was she hurled out in a fit of rage after scratching her attacker hard enough to bend her nails? Had he looked out and assumed she had been swallowed up by the Tiber or was it a crude effort to simulate an unprovoked street assault and divert attention from the building? But there was nothing of any interest in here; nothing to link either the girl or her killer to it since it had long since fallen out of regular use. He rubbed his tired eyes and steeled himself to finish the task. He retrieved the dustsheet and crate lid and returned to the centre of the room. Bulla was frowning at him. “What are you going to do with that?” “Just an idea … Bulla, Titus, Ludo: have you avoided this area?” The three looked at the patch of viscous, drying liquid in the centre of the room, in the midst of which was a boot print. The distinctive pattern of hobnails embedded in the sole was defined in the blood: three columns of five with an extra one by the big toe. They all nodded. “Then you’ll be witnesses to this.”
Title: The Consul’s Daughter: A red-blooded crime thriller based on true events
Author: Mark Knowles
Genre: Historical Fiction – Murder/Mystery, Crime/Thriller
Formats: Trade Paperback & eBook
Published by: Endeavour Press
Pub. Date: November 3rd, 2017
Number of pages: 343
Content Warning: 18+ for brief nudity and violence
Purchase at: Amazon.com, Amazon.ca & Amazon.co.uk
Author Bio: Mark Knowles read degrees in Classics and Management Studies at Downing College, Cambridge. After a decade working as a frontline officer and supervisor within the Metropolitan Police Service, he became Head of Classics at a school in Harrogate. He is a particular fan of experimental archaeology and rowed on the reconstructed Ancient Athenian trireme ‘Olympias’ during its last sea trials in Greece in 1994.
Find and follow Mark on his: website and on Twitter.
Don’t forget to follow along with the rest of Mark’s Nurture Book Tour.