About The Author
Born in Birmingham, Lindsey Davis read English at Oxford before working in the Civil Service. She decided to become a full-time writer when one of her early novels was runner-up in the 1985 Georgette Heyer Historical Novel Prize. She began by writing romantic serials for the magazines, Woman's Realm.
Her passion for Roman-era history and archaeology led her to write The Course of Honour, based on the true story of a romance between Emperor Vespasian and his mistress Antonia Caenis. This led to the much-loved Falco series of 20 novels about a detective in ancient Rome. In 2010, she published an official guide to her Roman-era series, Falco: The Official Companion.
She published a standalone novel set during English Civil War, called Rebels and Traitors and a Quickread set in the same period, A Cruel Fate. Another standalone novel, Master and God, is set during the reign of the Emperor Domitian and led to her new detective series about Falco’s adopted daughter, Flavia Albia. This shows Rome from a different perspective: that of a woman and an outsider from Britain. In addition, the familiar world of Vespasian’s Rome is now much darker, with a paranoid ruler who we know from Master and God will come to a violent end.
Lindsey has won numerous awards, culminating in the Crimewriters' Association Cartier Diamond Dagger for lifetime achievement in 2011. In addition, she has also been Chair of the UK Crimewriters' Association, Honorary President of the Classical Association and Chair of the Society of Authors.
Find out more about Lindsey and her books on her official website. www. Lindseydavis.co.uk
To mark the publication of her standalone novel, Master and God, Lindsey shared some of the books that have inspired and entertained her most during a lifetime of reading and writing, you can see these below.
Find out more about Lindsey and her books on her official website.
Her latest book is The Third Nero, the fifth Flavia Albia novel. Below, exclusively for Foyles, in An Unusual Job for a Roman Woman, Lindsey introduces her book and describes the challenges - and joys - of having a female protagonist in a world previously seen almost exclusively through the eyes of men.
The Author At Foyles
An Unusual Job for a Roman Woman
I can hardly believe we are publishing the fifth novel in my ‘new’ Flavia Albia series – especially as that means I am well into writing the sixth!
I remember when I set out to write Falco, I considered whether I could have a female protagonist. Then, hard though it is to believe now, all historical novels had a reputation as difficult to sell, and no popular novels about the Romans were being written at all. I chose to do something original, which meant I had to train publishers to accept this long ago period was not scary. I nearly didn’t make it. So at that time, even though female crimewriters were experimenting with female detectives, I decided I had enough problems making ancient Rome accessible and a Roman detective believable. I made my protagonist a man.
I used to say that if you believed the textbooks, Roman women had no legal identity. Until very recently textbooks were written by public school men. They took their lead from surviving Latin authors – who of course were all men too, and writing for a specific masculine élite. According to what these fine fellows repeated for many centuries, Roman women could only act through their fathers or husbands. Although their position was slightly freer than that of ancient Greek women (they could appear in public with the said fathers or husbands), no respectable woman could do the job I assigned to Falco. Only a prostitute or a midwife could knock on strangers’ doors and start asking questions. I didn’t fancy the research I’d need to do to write about either profession.
In time I gained more confidence. I studied enough to see that apart from the senatorial orders, which were a very minor part of Roman society, women throughout the Empire had vital roles. By definition, Roman marriage was a partnership, two people deciding to live together in an equal relationship. I certainly chose that for Falco and Helena Justina. And as I studied inscriptions, documents and tombstones, I found evidence that the accepted definition was wrong. At most levels of society, women were equal in family businesses. Pictorially, women were shown the same size as their husbands, which in ancient art matters. Women could inherit, or have legal pleas made on their behalf, or indeed be sued. Women owned ships, ran stalls, had job definitions in the female Latin form.
So, after 20 Falco books, I had made Rome familiar. I had persuaded readers to accept him as an ex-army scout who becomes a private eye and imperial agent. I had written in the first person as a man for long enough and was ready for a change. I reckoned that with carefully chosen cases I could give Albia the same occupation.
At first, Albia supposedly works for women. Her first client, in The Ides of April is a woman, though she is soon murdered. This is classic, of course. In fiction, private eyes rarely have much luck with their clients. In Enemies at Home Albia works with slaves, in Deadly Election she takes on a favour for her lover, and in The Graveyard of the Hesperides the search involves a supposedly missing barmaid. All this is subtly ‘suitable’.
Along the way she meets Tiberius Manlius Faustus, who is a magistrate, an aedile. He is plebeian but rich. Public office has made him reconsider how he spends his life. He will give up being an idle playboy, return to his forebears’ business, as a building contractor (so useful for turning up bodies), and he will publicly marry Albia. I have set them up to show how Roman family businesses ran.
At the start of The Third Nero things are rocky because Tiberius, to whom readers have taken in a big way, had a near-fatal accident during their wedding and may be a permanent invalid. (No, no, he won’t, don’t worry!) Albia sits down and actually tells us how, in the family business, it is her responsibility to pay the bills while he can’t.
And at this point, I branched out in what she takes on – taking it as far as possible. In this book, Albia, like her father, works for the government. Albia helps save Rome from ruination. Albia comments on politics, and sceptically denigrates the tools that officials use. Yes we are in the world of ancient intelligence. I have always loved spy novels. And now it’s my turn to write one!
© Lindsey Davis 2017