10 August 2007


I'm currently on my way to Myrtle Beach for my annual week-long family vacation. We've done this for about 15 years now, and somehow it never tires. Maybe because it's so relaxing and I'm not required to see things or do things.

We talk a lot about the different histories we love and adore. We discuss what we've written about--New Orleans pre-1803, the Ancient World, India, China. It's funny how romances set in WWII are considered unusual--have you seen a war movie lately? Flipped on the History Channel? WWII is all over the place.

Pirates are big now, (Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy). But anyone growing up with Errol Flynn or on the 80s pirate romances will have already known that. (Come on ladies, raise those hands!)

Ancient Greece is big, too. (The 300. If you watch it for no other reason, check out those 300 Spartans' abs--wow.)

The late 1800s is becoming popular at least as related to the occult. (The Illusionist and The Prestige).

If you could read one book set anywhere, any time, and with any conflict what would it be? That one book you're dying to write because you adore the period but there're others to write about first because they fascinate you. If you've already written that book, what's next? More in the same era/place, or is there another that tempts you?

I've thought about this for a while, and have finally settled on one only because I forced myself to. World War I. I love that era, and not nearly enough attention is given to something whose effects we're still feeling almost 100 years later. It can be on either front, Western or Eastern, or The Gallipoli Campaign at the Dardanelles. I'd even love a political thriller set before then. Of course that's covering a good 40 years previous, but it's all fascinating stuff.

Further reading:
Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman (1962 Pulitzer Prize winner in general non-fiction since Pulitzer's will stated the history category had to be American history). Possibly the best book on the convoluted alliances that led up to the war. There's also a 1964 documentary based on it by the same name.

The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World Before the War, 1890-1914 by Barbara Tuchman. Not as clear as her previous, but if you want to understand what led to WWI, a must read.

A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918 by G.J. Meyer. A popular history book that's much shorter and readable than the 3 volume scholarly The First World War by Hew Strachan, also a great book, if you can get through it. (I couldn't.)

The Fall of Eagles by Cyrus Leo Sulzberger. More on what led up to WWI and its aftermath; the collapse of three great European dynasties -- the Romanovs, the Habsburgs and the Hohenzollerns. Also a mini-series with Patrick Stewart. Yes, that Patrick Stewart.

First World War. A great site with everything from battlefield tours to how it all began.

The World War I Document Archive. This archive of primary documents from World War I has been assembled by volunteers of the World War I Military History List (WWI-L).

PBS's The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century. It's PBS, I think that says it all.

BBC -- History -- World War One. From beginnings to the new air war, this site has it all.