Robert Clive and the Pirates of London

  In the eighteenth century, if you were a young man high on ambition but low on prospects, the place to be was India. A job with the fledgling British East India Company was the epitome of high-risk, high-reward. The Company’s poster boy was a man named Robert Clive. He had begun his career as […]

From Forrester to Follett: the lure of epic adventure

When I was a kid, I got half an hour of reading time before I went to sleep. I soon finished all my Classics Illustrated epic adventure comics, so my dad gave me one of his books – CS Forrester’s The Gun. I got hooked on historical adventure fiction. Many of the classic stories I […]

Cortes and the Aztecs: 500 men against a million

And one woman The scene was a publisher’s office in Mexico City. Three journalists were interviewing me at once. My novel about Cortes and the Mexican conquest had just been published and had attracted a lot of attention, more than the publisher had anticipated. Two of the journalists liked my take on Mexican history. The […]

The Pope’s Crusade

Most people are familiar with The Crusades, a series of religious wars initiated by the Catholic Church in the Holy Land between 1095 and 1291. But few are as familiar with the most notorious crusade of them all: the Albigensian crusade, directed by Pope Innocent III.  In 1209, he ordered Christian armies against fellow Christians […]

Pondicherry: the Indian French Riviera

The checkered history of a fascinating town The Romans knew about Pondicherry as far back as 100 CE. They called it Poduke. Its name is believed to have derived from that.  Travel companies like to refer to it as the Indian French Riviera because of its obvious French influence. The locals call it Pondi. It […]

The Silk Road of the Sea

Valerius’ journey: Ends of the Earth Many people have heard of the Silk Road, mainly because of Marco Polo. But few are familiar with the ancient maritime silk route that linked the East and West at the same time. The people who pioneered this sea trade were originally from the desert – the Nabatean Arabs. […]

Stigmatics: Saints or charlatans?

The story behind the stigmata The first recorded stigmatic was Saint Francis of Assisi, who received the stigmata – the wounds of Christ – on his hands and feet during a religious ecstasy in 1224. But most stigmatics throughout history have been women. In the fourteenth century, Catherine of Siena, a mystic and laywoman, is […]

Josseran’s Journey: Silk Road

In the steps of Marco Polo The Silk Road, as it is called, was an intricate network of trade routes linking Asia and the western world. It came into being with the expansion of the Han Empire into Central Asia around 100 BC, with the Parthian Empire forming a land bridge to the Roman Empire […]

What was the real story behind the French princess in Braveheart?

Isabella of France

And how did she come to rule England? Gorgeous. Defiant. Looks great in a skirt. But enough about Mel Gibson. Let’s talk about Sophie Marceau’s character, the French princess, Isabella. In the film she has an affair with Mel and has his child, breaking the royal English line. It is a tale of adventure, romance […]

Nature or nurture? The story of Charles Sobhraj

And trying to make sense of the senseless Back in the 70’s and barely out of school, I went on a backpacking adventure across the Asian hippie trail. It was exciting, but it was also dangerous. There was no internet, no mobile phones. If you disappeared, no one would know about it for weeks. And […]