Authors: Mike Ashley (ed)
Tags: #anthology, #detective, #historical, #mystery, #Rome
THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF
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Edited by Mike Ashley
Constable & Robinson Ltd
55–56 Russell Square
London WC1B 4HP
First published in the UK by Robinson,
an imprint of Constable & Robinson Ltd 2003
Collection and editorial material copyright © Mike Ashley 2003
All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the conditions that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A copy of the British Library Cataloguing in
Publication Data is available from the British Library.
Printed and bound in the EU
3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Cover painting: the Bridgeman Art Library
Cover design: Pete Rozycki
y thanks to all of the contributors to this anthology, especially Steven Saylor, who wrote such a thorough introduction that it saved me the trouble of having to write one. With the exception of “The Missing Centurion”, which is in the public domain, all of the stories in this anthology are protected by copyright and are printed here with the permission of the authors and/or their representatives as listed below.
“Damnun Fatale” © 2003 by Philip Boast. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the author and the author’s agent, the Dorian Literary Agency.
“The Malice of the Anicii” © 2003 by Gillian Bradshaw. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the author and the author’s agent, the Dorian Literary Agency.
“De Crimine” © 1952 by Miriam Allen deFord. First published in
Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine
, October 1952. Reprinted in accordance with the instructions of the author’s estate.
“The Cleopatra Game” © 2003 by Jane Finnis. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the author.
“Never Forget” © 2003 by Tom Holt. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the author.
“A Hostage to Fortune” © 2003 by Michael Jecks. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the author.
“Great Caesar’s Ghost” © 2003 by Michael Kurland. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the author.
“Bread and Circuses” © 2003 by Caroline Lawrence. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the author and the author’s agent, Teresa Chris Agency.
“A Golden Opportunity” © 2003 by Jean Davidson. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the author.
“The Case of His Own Abduction” © 1966 by Wallace Nichols. First published in
London Mystery Magazine
#72, February 1967. Unable to trace surviving representatives of the author’s estate.
“The Finger of Aphrodite” © 2003 by Mary Reed and Eric Mayer. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the authors.
“The Will” © 2003 by John Maddox Roberts. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the author.
“Caveat Emptor” © 2003 by Rosemary Rowe. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the author and the author’s agent, the Dorian Literary Agency.
“Introduction: The Long Reach of Rome” and “A Gladiator Dies Only Once” © 2003 by Steven Saylor. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the author.
“Heads You Lose” © 2003 by Simon Scarrow. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the author.
“Some Unpublished Correspondence of the Younger Pliny” © 2003 by Darrell Schweitzer. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the author.
“Sunshine and Shadow” © 2003 by R.H. Stewart. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the author and the author’s agent, Laurence Pollinger Limited.
“Honey Moon” © 2003 by Marilyn Todd. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the author.
“The Lost Eagle” © 2003 by Peter Tremayne. Original to this anthology. Printed by permission of the author and the author’s agent, A. M. Heath & Co., Ltd.
owards the end of the last century (circa 1987), I took my first trip to Rome, and like many a traveller I was overwhelmed by the sensation of making visceral contact with the past. In no other city do so many layers of history coexist so palpably within such a small space. In a matter of hours one can follow Caesar’s footsteps through the Forum, take a short rail excursion to the excavated ruins at Ostia, view the art of Michelangelo and contemplate Papal intrigues at the Vatican, gawk at the Fascist architecture at Mussolini’s EUR, and even take a tour of the film studios at Cinecittá with their echoes of Fellini and
La Dolce Vita
Inspired by that visit, and having developed an insatiable appetite for crime fiction, I found myself craving a murder mystery set in ancient Rome.
It seems remarkable now that no such thing was to be found on the bookshelves as recently as 1987, but such was the case, and so I felt compelled to fill the gap myself. A couple of years later I finished a novel called
featuring a sleuth called Gordianus the Finder. Only days
after sending the manuscript to an editor in New York, I came across a copy of Lindsey Davis’s
The Silver Pigs
among the new titles at my local bookshop, and had an inkling that a whole subgenre combining murder mystery and Roman history was about to be born.
Indeed, so popular has this particular field of literary escapism become in the last dozen years that a volume like the one you hold in your hands seems as inevitable as it does intriguing.
The booming subgenre has grown to include its own well-established crime-solvers, and here readers will find new adventures for John Maddox Roberts’s hero of the
series, Decius Mettelus; for that randy vixen Claudia, the heroine of Marilyn Todd’s novels; for Rosemary Rowe’s Libertus, a freedman who solves crimes in Roman Britain; for John the Eunuch, the Byzantine sleuth of Mary Reed and Eric Mayer; for Peter Tremayne’s Sister Fidelma, who dwells on the furthest edges and in the last feeble twilight of the Roman Empire’s glow; and even for the young detectives of Caroline Lawrence, who takes the Roman mystery into the realm of children’s fiction (grooming a new generation of readers for my own Gordianus books, I hope).
Here readers will find traditional forms of the mystery story, including a “locked-room” puzzler by Michael Kurland, in which the great pedagogue Quintilian plays sleuth for the emperor Vespasian; traditional forms of historical fiction, such as Darrell Schweitzer’s epistolary “Some Unpublished Correspondence of the Young Pliny”; and even a story which purports to be actual history, Gillian Bradshaw’s “The Malice of the Anicii”, complete with footnotes.
Many of the stories are set in Rome itself, but the locales range from ancient Egypt (“The Missing Centurion”) to the besieged city of Jerusalem (Simon Scarrow’s “Heads You
Lose”) to the Canterbury of Tremayne’s Sister Fidelma – all the better to demonstrate the extraordinary reach of Rome across both seas and centuries. (Quite a few of the stories take place in Roman Britain, including those by R.H. Stewart and Jean Davidson.)
Inevitably, perhaps, the shadow of Julius Caesar falls across these pages (see Michael Jecks’s “A Hostage to Fortune” and John Maddox Roberts’s “The Will”), as does that of Cleopatra (whose demise haunts Roman high society in Jane Finnis’s “The Cleopatra Game”).
Given the imperial might of Rome, it’s not surprising that a number of these stories are set in a military milieu. But Rome was also about the world of intellect and spiritual contemplation. Confronted by a bizarre death, it makes perfect sense that the mighty conqueror Scipio Africanus should seek a Greek philosopher’s advice in Tom Holt’s “Never Forget”, and even the advent of that curious sect, the Christians, is occasioned by murder, as seen in Philip Boast’s “Damnum Fatale”.
For my own part, as a bit of homage to a movie that gave a considerable boost to our subgenre (and because I’ve never written at length on the subject before), I decided to spin a tale set in the world of gladiators. The most famous gladiator of all does not appear in my story, but his shadow is eventually cast over the proceedings, as it was cast, if only briefly, over the entire Roman world.