East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The Dark Alleys of Historical Novels


Historical novels.
I like them – back home my mother was the historical novel fan, and somehow passed the habit to me, if in a less virulent way.

Now, being a reader of fantasy, and sometimes a perpetrator of historical fantasy, I somehow have this sort of inferiority complex towards historical fiction writers (my friend Claire being a case in point).
They are the square ones, the serious ones, the ones that have both literary and historical dignity, that quote primary sources and are asked to give learned lectures and all that.
Me, I’m a hack, one that mixes mummies and Roman legions and tentacled monsters.


But, on the other hand, historical fiction does have a less reputable side – one that goes back to Gold Medal, Fawcett, Paperback Library, NEL and Lancer paperbacks, and continued well into the 1980s, and is just as lurid, preposterous and risqué as the things we hack do write.

So I decided to do a gallery with a few specimens – it made me feel better.


As usual, you can click on an image to see the full-size version.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

6 thoughts on “The Dark Alleys of Historical Novels

  1. Those Sanjulian covers! Real old-school inspiring stuff!


  2. The covers are wonderful, I really miss that style.


  3. I was always a big Harold Lamb fan. His collected shorts stories of Khlit the Cossack (The Curved Saber and The Mighty Manslayer) were among my favorites. His novels of Genghis Khan, Suleiman the Magnificent, Hannibal, Ther Crusades, etc., were able to not only entertain, but to impart a tremendous amount of historical facts to readers who might otherwise never have cracked open a history book for any reason other than to pass a test for school.
    Not that I ever had that problem, my best grades always came from my history and social studies classes.
    As for the not so accurate historical fiction novels by other authors, hey the lurid covers more than made up for it!


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.