5 August 2014

HNS Indie Award Shortlisted Author : Andrew Levkoff

This year, 2014, the Historical Novel Society has introduced for the first time, an annual award for the best Indie / Self-Published Historical Novel, with winner and runner-up prizes kindly sponsored by Orna Ross, bestselling literary novelist and director of The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and Geri Clouston of Indie B.R.A.G. There were eight eventual short-listed writers, from which four finalists were chosen by Orna Ross, with award-winning historical novelist Elizabeth Chadwick selecting the winner and runner-up.

Our judges found it very difficult to make their selections as the quality of writing 
was excellent, and to thank the authors, I would like to feature them all here on my Blog

So to start, we kick off with 
Andrew Levkoff, author of  The Bow of Heaven Trilogy

First and foremost, thank you, Helen, for the opportunity to feed a writer's ego with this bully pulpit. I'd like to use my virtual soap box to answer the question: why write a series of novels about such a loser like Marcus Crassus?

I believe Crassus got a bad rap. Rome hated nothing more than failure, and in the eyes of historians like Plutarch and Cassius Dio, Crassus' defeat at the battle of Carrhae was right up there at the top of their "Most Embarrassing Moments" list. Crassus lost most of his men and the standards of his seven legions to the Parthian enemy. It took Octavian (Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus) 27 years to negotiate their return, and the day they were paraded through Rome there was a celebration as great as if Augustus Caesar had earned a triumph.

There are two reasons historians put forward for Crassus’ ill-fated war:  greed and jealousy of Julius Caesar and Pompey. There may be some truth to each of these, but in my opinion, not enough to leave the life of Riley he was living. Crassus was one of the most respected, honored elder statesman of Republican Rome. He was also known as “the richest man in Rome,” so for me, the greed argument doesn’t fly. As for his generalship, if not for Crassus, Sulla’s overthrow of Marius and Cinna would have failed, and Pompey stole the “glory” of the victory over Spartacus when it was Crassus who deserved the credit. When you are already the richest and most powerful, risking everything for more of the same just doesn't make sense. Plus, he was so old.

The average lifespan for a Roman was around 35-40 years. Let’s call it 50 if you’re wealthy and have a good HMO. Crassus was 60 when he led a host of 50,000+ (including non-combatants) on a 1,500 mile trek across the Adriatic, over Asia Minor and into the wastelands of Mesopotamia. Again, why take on such a monumental task so late in life?

Roman politicians were divorcing and remarrying almost as often as they changed clothes. Marcus Crassus was married to his wife, Tertulla, for 35 years, and whatever japes may be found in the historical record, there is nothing that says they were not happy together. (There was a report, unsubstantiated, that Crassus was after the property of a Vestal virgin – Plutarch puts this in the very first paragraph of his Life of Crassus. Suspicious? I think so.) I believe history’s take on Crassus may be ill-founded, that the negative taste left in our modern mouths is the result of spurious attacks meant to demean the man who lost the standards and three quarters of his army.

There had to be something else to jolt him into leaving an idyllic, powerful, wealthy, happily married life, and I believe there was. No spoilers here, but the answer is in The Other Alexander. The second book in the series, A Mixture of Madness, is available here.

You can’t think "ancient Rome" without immediately imaging the bedrock of that culture, the slaves that made it possible. What was the nature of the relationship between slave and master? How did captives survive the trauma of losing everything? How could they find love and keep it when their lives were not their own? I decided to let one of Crassus' countless slaves tell the story from his acerbic, sardonic point of view. The trials of Alexandros and Livia provide a foil for Crassus and Tertulla, and I hope they give the novels some balance and symmetry.

The third book of the Bow of Heaven trilogy, Blood of Eagles, will be released by the end of 2014. Also in the works is a prequel to the Carrhae fiasco:  Melyaket, A Tale of Ancient Parthia. Thank you, Helen, for allowing me to chat with your followers. They are always welcome at my website:  www.andrewlevkoff.com.

Read th HNS review of
The Other Alexander 

HNS Indie Award 2014

HNS Indie Award Short List 2014
judged by Orna Ross

1. The Sower of the Seeds of Dreams by Bill Page
2. Blackmore’s Treasure by Derek Rogers (withdrawn, author deceased)
3. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
4. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
5. The Prodigal Son by Anna Belfrage
6. The Bow of Heaven: Book 1: The Other Alexander by Andrew Levkoff
7. Khamsin: The Devil Wind of the Nile by Inge H. Borg
8. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
9. Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer

and the 2014 Four Finalists are:
judged by Elizabeth Chadwick

1. Jacobites' Apprentice by David Ebsworth
2. A Gift for the Magus by Linda Proud
3. The Subtlest Soul by Virginia Cox
4  Samoa by J. Robert Shaffer

full details and rules can be found here

Elizabeth Chadwick: website
Indie B.R.A.G. website

HNS Conference 2014

Related Article: 'I am delighted to announce...'

Details of how to submit an Indie / self-published historical novel for review can be found here 


  1. Historical FICTION is just that: Fiction...Not so fast, I say. Just as in "The Bow of Heaven, The Other Alexander," there has to be a solid factual (and quite fascinating) base or it becomes Historical Fantasy. The wonderful thing is that this particular fiction brings knowledge to (and hopefully instills curiosity in) readers who otherwise are not likely to pick up a scholarly work. Andrew Levkoff's redemption of "old" Crassus also sheds light on history's injustice. A very enjoyable article on a great book.

  2. I am humbled, Inge. Just the lift I need as I sit here struggling with the last chapters of the trilogy.


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