Review: Hannibal Clouds of War by Ben Kane

Hannibal Clouds of War New Front4 of 5 stars

Hannibal 3

My version:
Fiction Historical, Romans, Carthaginians, Punic Wars
Bought, signed

213 BC, Syracuse: outside the walls, a vast Roman army waits. Yet the city’s incredible defences mean that Syracuse will not be taken easily.

A veteran of the bitter war since its beginning, Quintus is ready to give his life in the service of the Republic. But dangers face him from within his own ranks as well as from the enemy – who include his former friend, the Carthaginian, Hanno.

Hanno has been sent by his general to aid Syracuse in its fight against Rome. Pledged to bring death to all Romans, he is diverted from his mission by the discovery of Quintus’ sister Aurelia, a captive within the city.

Two friends on opposing sides. A woman caught between them. They are about to meet in one of the most brutal seiges of all time.

Who will survive?

I don’t know if you’re (like me) thinking that Clouds of War is a strange title for a final part in a trilogy? And then, as you’re reading, you begin to think ‘maybe he should hurry up and get to the end of Hannibal’s story or he ain’t got enough space to write it properly!’ I went through all that and more, then realised, later backed up by Ben’s ‘afterword’ this isn’t the end. It’s the start of the end, maybe. But, don’t worry little brother – there are more. Relief all round.

signed-hannibalSo what then is Clouds of War doing, if it’s not a conclusion? Well, it’s taking a slight detour from the Punic War, to concentrate, in many places I think you could say ‘hone in on’ the various sub-plots there have been up until now. Aurelia’s marriage, her love for Hanno, Hanno’s love for her and Quintus’ undercover struggles in the Roman foot-soldier’s world. Once I was settled and not panicking because this wasn’t a final part of a trilogy, I relaxed and enjoyed what the good Mr. Kane is up to here. If it was to showcase his writing of other things than huge, fuck-off great battle scenes, that is. If it was, he passes with flying colours. I will admit to investing some personal experience into the scenes, but the final third and Hanno and Aurelia’s attempts at taking their love further, away from Syracuse, as it were, as the Romans close in, had me misty-eyed on the edge of tears. It is really that good.

Strangely then, for the man with his name above the door, Hannibal isn’t really in it, much. He sends Hanno away from Italy to go see how Syracuse is getting on, but that’s about it. So, I’m putting my hat and coat on the next one being more on Hannibal and the Carthaginians’ attempts to put the Romans in their place. As we know what happened, anyone who has been awake in their life so far that is, Ben’s job won’t be easy. He needs to get us on the edge of our seats hoping, hoping, hoping that just once, maybe this time, Hannibal will win. That’s because, Quintus apart, I’m guessing the readers sympathies are indeed with the plucky underdogs here. If anyone can do it, that isn’t called Frederick Forsyth, can do it, Ben Kane can. It’s going to be unmissable!

You can buy Clouds of War at The Book Depository

I’m on Goodreads here

Related reviews on Speesh Reads:

Hannibal Enemy of RomeBen Kane - Hannibal Fields of Blood

Meet the new god, not the same as the old god

I thought, after this post the other day, I’d also have a look at some books where their cover changed dramatically, between hardback and paperback versions. And make some completely uninformed speculation as to why that may be.

First up is Giles Kristian‘s God of Vengeance.

On the left, is the hardback version, the right is the paperback version.

God of Vengeance   Giles Kristian God of Vengeance PB (small)

Despite professing his love for the new (as it was then) hardback cover design for his return to the world of the Vikings, Giles Kristian’s publishers obviously didn’t feel the same love when it came to the paperback.

Neither did I at the time. I remember seeing the cover announced and thinking

”         ”


It did absolutely nothing for me. It did nothing for the book, the story or the series.

Raven series











Above, is a picture of ‘my’ Raven series in hardback (bottom). And paperback (top).

As you can see, the hardback of God of Vengeance will fit right in…

Let’s check…

Raven series 2














Yup! Job’s a good un.

Right. Well, of course, to look at it another way, maybe you could argue God of Vengeance should be a little different, as it is a prequel to the Raven series proper. But…a little toy ship at the top there, on what looks like a slab of black, rune-inscribed granit. That just screams “BUY ME!!!” to the casual reader, eh? Clearly not. You could argue that the paperback jacket has to do a different job to the hardback, it’s in a different market. “But!”, you cry, “the paperback versions of the first three, are absolutely the same as the hardback versions!” So why did/does God of Vengeance have to be different? Why spend more money on an already done project and commission a new cover for the paperback? Because they knew the hardback cover was crap? That it wouldn’t work for the paperback? I know absolutely nothing about the sales figures here, but I would have guessed that people who would buy a Giles Kristian paperback Raven book, aren’t the same who would fork out twice as much for the hardback version, six months earlier. So, a change of cover. To bring it into line with the rest of the paperback series? Well, yes…but, not quite. Times (and typefaces) have clearly changed since the publication of the first book(s), as have designs. So the paperback has been given what we in the trade are calling a Ben Kane-over.

Giles Kristian God of Vengeance PB (small)Ben Kane Clouds of War PBEagles at WarIron & RustWhoops! A stray Harry Sidebottom seems to have snuck its way in at the end there.

They do tend to appear on each others’ books claiming they are all better than anything else they’ve ever read, but the same deigns? Too far.

Clearly, as it’s been a while since Giles K wrote a Raven book and people who bought the paperbacks of the first three might be thought to have forgotten that he is about – given that the sales of his Civil War series clearly weren’t what were hoped for (hence the return to Raven and the very belated release of the paperback version of Brothers’ Fury, obviously only now out in paperback in an attempt to ride on the coattails of the hoped for success of God of Vengeance), so the paperback GoV has to work hard. Harder than was anticipated, after the design of the hardback. Bottom line, the hardback cover is a hardback cover, the paperback cover is more of a paperback cover. Quite why it was felt it should look like a book set in Roman times, I can’t tell you. I haven’t yet got on to reading it. Partly because of the dreadful cover, partly because I’m tired of Giles K’s ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ attitude towards Viking history and culture. He seems to think he and his books are in a comic book-world sometimes. Make that all the time, actually (there IS going to be a comic book of the Raven series at some point, or at least he has set some drawings going anyway. So look out for a very square-jawed, very clean, Hollywood matinee idol version of Raven, only putting his Mead horn down to go pillaging, very soon). I’ll get on it as after I’m done with the half dozen more serious Vikings books I’ve got.

Actually, I think the paperback cover of God of Vengeance is absolutely stunning. If my version had that cover, I’d be reading it right now. Or be already finished. So, it’s done its job, then. One day – if I get any Skat back from the Danish tax people, I may even invest a few unnecessary Kroner*, just to have its magnificence sitting on the shelves there. But as I’ve got a (signed) hardback…not yet.

As ever, click on the book covers at the top to go to the relevant book pages at The Book Depository.

*I am now due some 1500Kr, so I may well have to put some money where my mouth is when I get the dosh, start of April.

Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?

It is an unwritten law, that hardback covers must be worse than their paperback versions. That’s The Law. Not a lot you and I can do about it.

Some books, however, do skip the trend, sneak past the Book Law Enforcement patrols and make sure their hardback versions have halfway decent covers. I’m thinking of the last two Bernard Cornwell titles here. Both of which, in their muted, autumnal tones in hardback, are still better than the technicolour paperback versions.

Check them out (top two, hardback. Bottom two, paperback):

The Pagan LordBernard Cornwell The Empty Throne

The Lords of the North 2The Last Kingdom 2



















Now comes Giles Kristian’s latest in paperback. With a cover that simply slaughters the hardback version, stone dead.

Here’s the hardback version.             Here’s the paperback version.

God of Vengeance

Giles Kristian God of Vengeance PB (small)










Now, you tell me, were the two side by side on the shelf, price not an issue, which you’d go for…Exactly.

“Read me, or I’ll kill you.”

I do feel Giles plays the whole Viking genre a bit too much for laughs sometimes, but there’s no doubt he does write a decent, tight, interesting story. I haven’t got onto God of Vengeance (in either form) as yet, but I speak from having read the Raven saga series proper and the first of his English Civil War saga.

There does seem to be a move towards having actual people on the covers of the kind of historical fiction I like. Not the Mills & Boon-like crap, books with the words ‘Queen’ or ‘Lady’ in their title, or ‘passion’ or ’emotions’ in their back-blurb. You know, the proper stuff.

Ben Kane (as mentioned previously) for example.

Ben Kane - Hannibal Fields of BloodHannibal Fields of Blood PaperbackHannibal Clouds of War

Ben Kane Clouds of War PB



















The first Hannibal, is the hardback, the next is the paperback version. Much better. Now, it seems they’ve learned their lesson and for Clouds of War, both the hardback and paperback have the same, powerful, figure-based cover. I have said ‘trend‘ so I better come with other examples. Well, Anthony Riches has been there for a long time with his covers (the first few were clearly illustrations, but the recent ones are obviously done in a photo studio), Douglas Jackson and Angus Donald. How’s that?

I’m not saying that covers should be so good you wanna frame them…though that might be an interesting revenue stream for authors to consider…but when you shell out over £25-odd notes for them to be sent to Denmark, you wanna feel like they put the same amount of effort into designing the cover, as you have into the earning of the money to buy the book. No?

Click on a book cover and you link to The Book Depository for buying.
Don’t buy from Amazon unless you really, really have to.

Book News Friday 16 May

…can see pretty well. Colours still very light and it’s like looking into bright sun the whole time, but I can read ok and that’s what matters.

And what have I been reading about?

The Fifth Legion

Enemy of RomeDouglas Jackson another Blog Fave™ has produced the cover for the next in his ‘…of Rome’ series, called Enemy of Rome. As Douglas says in his Facebook posting, this is more or less how it will look, there may be some tweaks between now and publication. Can’t see why, it looks the apis genu to me. Unless some other very famous in the field, or related field, author decides to put a soundbite together that can be used on the cover. It will be released on August 28th. Order at The Book Depository.

Stylistically, it is a continuation of the covers so far for Douglas’ books. And all the better for that. I wasn’t happy (like that matters) about the title typeface change between #3 and #4, I will admit. But that was more for it breaking up an otherwise perfectly reasonable sequence. I think the ‘new’ face is better, however, it does join a list of other authors in the same HF field. Just hope people don’t get confused, or is that the idea?

The first three below, are the (hardback) ones I have. However, as you can see, Avenger of Rome, did get up-dated to the new typeface for release in paperback. If I’d been collecting the paperback versions, I’d have been a bit miffed.

Hero of Romedefender-romeAvenger of RomeDouglas Jackson - Avenger of RomeSword of Rome cover






Others to have gone down this route are:

Hannibal Clouds of War New Front

The Emperor's KnivesThey’ll all make for a fantastic collective shot some day in the future, that’s for sure.

It’s been a while since I had anything much to do with specifying typefaces, 10 years this year actually (9th May, to be pedantic), but I’ll take a run at them being based around Times New Roman. What say you?

 Historical Faction

SwornSwordThe Splintered KingdomKnights of the HawkIf reading about times gone by has whetted your appetite for all things old and you’re thinking “but, where can I find out more about that sort of thing?” Well, let’s face it, even if you’re not thinking that, I’m going to link you anyway…and if perchance, you should find yourself reading James Aitcheson‘s magnificent 1066 ‘Conquest’ series, he has ridden to your rescue. He has finally found a use for the reams of research material amassed while writing about The Norman Conquest and has begun posting a series of articles to his website. You need to click on ‘Tancred’s England’ at the top there. I have suggested further items could be on Tancred’s visits to Dublin and Scotland (hope I’m not giving to much away there, if you haven’t read that far). Which has of course led to a rethink of the name for the section. Favourite at the moment, could well be ‘Tancred’s World.’ Which would, as James points out, allow for his imagination to take full flight when planning Tancred’s further adventures. I have suggested Tancred visits Denmark (the Normans were ‘North Men’ after all), mainly in the hope of meeting James on a future research trip. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Boomtown Rats
Looking back, thinking back, whatever, I find I actually enjoyed Stuart Neville’s Ratlines more than I perhaps made out in my review. When I have a slightly less long ‘to read’ shelf over there *points over there*, I will investigate his previous works. However, I will also be ordering up his new one, called ‘The Final Silence.’ It’s out on the 17th of July. I got hold of Ratlines because of the WWII connection and the new one looks more of a mystery, psychological, murder, suspense novel. Phew!

Final Silence - ProofOn Twitter, there was posted a shot of what the lady (@Crime_Queen) said was the proof version of the book.

Final SilenceWhich, as you can see, is a fair bit different to the cover Amazon have in place for pre-ordering.

I’ve not read any Lee Child (though I do know he is a fellow Brummy, albeit an Aston Villa fan. Still, nobody’s perfect…Actually, surprised Lee’s quote wasn’t “Bostin’!” I guess he’s moved away), but I would have thought his was a very good name for having on the cover, as in the Amazon version. I also like the more ‘open’ style of the Amazon version, especially the knocked over chair. It gives it a little something, as my old boss was want to say. I asked ‘Crime Queen‘ wha’goahn? And she says that the proof version she posted a picture of is not the version that mere mortals like you and I will be reading. It is a copy just for booksellers (which I’m not) and reviewers (which I’m not an important enough one to be worth sending one *sob* I suppose I should have asked. Damn!).

You can also follow Stuart Neville on Twitter.

Ah, so…
Not to be outdone by Douglas Jackson (see above), James Douglas has announced he has a new book out, called The Samurai Inheritance. Well, I knew that, so it’s more an announcement of what the cover will look like.

The Samurai InheritanceSomething like this in fact:

‘James’, says that the strap lines may well change (Hey! I’ll do a couple for the usual fee!). With the fairly obvious Robert Ludlum references, well, in the titles anyway, they should get a copy to him to re…ah, I see…to Eric Van Lustbader then.

Moving straight on…’James’, the little tease, teases thusly: “From the back streets of Berlin to the jungles of Bougainville, Jamie finds himself on the trail of the last great secret of World War Two and embroiled in a conflict the world isn’t supposed to know about.”

The other Jamie Saintclair adventures from Douglas ‘James’ have been superb reading, so I’m really looking forward to slapping some peepers on this one. It will be released on 28th August.

Friday book news

…is back! And, on a Saturday!

Imperial Fire

Imperial Fire, Robert Lyndon‘s follow-up to Hawk Quest, has now been released.

You can order it here:


The Book Depository

Or, if you fancy a signed first edition copy and don’t mind paying full-whack and possibly postage the same cost as the book (depending on where you live of course) you can try Goldsboro Books. That’s where I put my order in. They’ve taken the money, so I’m guessing he’s now signed and it is on its way.

Interestingly, The Book Depository have it also listed as having this cover (left).Imperial Fire 2

From what I can tell, that may well be the US hardback cover. Though they’ll have to wait a little longer for it to be released over there. As they should. Maybe I’ll have to run a post like the one I did for Hawk Quest, showing the different covers different countries got.

I can’t really see from the UK cover, what the story might be about. But the US one does rather seem to say ‘China’, doesn’t it? I’m guessing he’s continuing with the characters, those that were still alive, from Hawk Quest, so maybe they travel off to China, getting all Marco Polo on our asses. I guess I won’t have to wait too much longer to find out.

God of VengeanceIf you breeze over to Amazon, you can see that Giles Kristian‘s next, to be called ‘God of Vengeance‘ – a return to his ‘Raven’, Viking characters – will be released on the 10th April. I’m not too sure about the cover. Without knowing what the story is about, I can’t say whether it reflects it or not. Maybe it does. But, I doubt it. It’s too static. Not Vikingy enough. “But there’s a longboat on the cover!”, I guess he would say – but the dead, black background? OK, they’re runes, but it all looks like a new version of Homer’s Iliad or something, than a rampaging, rollocking story about a band of desperate Viking desperadoes. Which I’m guessing, even though it is a prequel to the other Raven stories, and not necessarily featuring the ‘Wolfpack’ as we know and love them, it is about.

Were it me in charge of things over at the publisher, I’d have said – try again. Give me something that at least looks as if it comes from the same historical period as the other three Raven books. I’m guessing that there won’t be any dramatic changes to this cover for the hardback version when it is released, be interesting to see if they keep the design for the paperback version.

You can pre-order God of Vengeance here:


The Book Depository

Hannibal Clouds of War New Front

Ben Kane‘s next title, Hannibal Clouds of War, out on 27 February, has got itself a new cover.

Well, not a new, new cover, more a slight change to the original proposed cover.

Ben posted on his Facebook and Twitter Wednesday, that Wilbur Smith had come up with the goods, quote-wise. I’m guessing they have somehow got an advance copy of the book in front of the great man and he has liked it so much, he’s allowing Ben to quote him on the book. The quote is, in case your eyesight isn’t up to it:

Who is the rising star of historical fiction? I say Ben Kane

Today, he’s showing off a cover, an up-dated cover, with the afore-mentioned quote/gold dust, front and centre. They also seem to have brightened the soldier’s face area up a bit, and got the plume/crest a lot more reddish, though that could just be compared to the version of the cover I originally posted. I think it is, because the Amazon order page has a picture that looks exactly the same as the version Ben posted today, apart from the quote rather than the ‘Sunday Times…’ bit. It does really have a zing about it, don’t ya think?

Hannibal Clouds of WarIt seems, on the face of it from how Ben phrased it on his Facebook page, that they may not have started printing the covers yet. Which, having been in the game myself before moving over to Denmark, I find a little hard to believe. Ben’s quite rightly thanking his people for managing to get the cover re-done, with Wilbur Smith’s quote on it. I’d rather go for the angle that the designers and printers have now got a version together with the quote on. Meaning, I would not be at all surprised if there aren’t at least a few, maybe even a few thousand, of the original version printed and ready to go on a book. Now THAT would be worth getting hold of. As I say, and having been in the business, I’d put money on some of the originals finding their way onto shipped copies. Anyway, Ben’s quite rightly over the moon about the quote, that should hopefully get Ben out in front of a wider market, so it’s all good. As others on his Facebook page pointed out, Ben is already a star of the Historical Fiction world. Be interesting to find out which other HF authors Wilbur Smith knows of, or is comparing Ben with. What he may be on to, is what I’m getting from this cover and the re-design of Hannibal 2 – Ben is ready for and aiming for the big time, these new covers say Ben is moving into the Premier League of Authors.

Hannibal Clouds of War New Front & Back copy

Anyhoo. Here’s the whole thing, hardcover version, front, spine and back:

I’m crossing my fingers that they’re going to get some gold, embossing going on on the name, either Ben, or the title. Though I could well imagine a ‘flat’ version would look equally sexy.

As the paperback version of what Amazon refers to as ‘Hannibal 2’, has been done in the same photographic and design theme as this new Clouds of War (‘Hannibal 3’), I’d say the paperback version of Clouds of War, won’t differ that much from the hardback. They’d be fools if they re-invented the wheel there, as my old boss used to say.

You can order Hannibal Clouds of War here:


The Book Depository

or, if you’re quick, you can order a signed copy from Goldsboro Books, just be aware that you’ll pay RRP and cop for some juicy postage charges. Though if Ben has time to date and first line it, it may well be worth the extra few sheets. For instance, at Goldsboro, a signed and dated The Forgotten Legion (that’s Book 1), will cause some serious open wallet surgery, coming in at a sizzling £165.

Happy reading.

Saturday Book News

The Man Booker Prize was announced the other week.

Mann Booker WinnerAnd here’s the result!

Someone called Elanor Catton won. That’s her on the left holding – in two hands, as it’s a 900-page monster I’ve heard – her winning tome.

I think I did read one winner’s book once. JM Coetze‘s book called The Life & Times of Michael KThe Life and Times of Michael K, I think that was one of his that won. Can’t remember much about it now, above the title (the version pictured is the cover of the version I had, it’s different now).  And I’m hardly likely to read, or even see for sale, any of the books by the people on the shortlist. Living in Denmark, and all.

Anyway, what interested me was, the Daily Telegraph reporting on how much betting there was on the prize. As if any of the people putting money on the thing had any evidence or knowledge to base their selections on. Unless the people doing the betting, were also the judges. But then, that surely would be against the rules? I would have thought that the odds were set by the betting company. But what do they go on? The only thing I can think of that they could possibly go on, is genre. Which genre they think is likely to win, based on previous results. Given that the people most likely to be putting money on, couldn’t possibly have read all the books and then taken a critical judgement, based on which one they thought was best.

The bookies must just love this one. Oh and the guy top right in the pictures in the Telegraph article, sheesh! Way to make me want to buy your book!

The Gold of TolosaAnthony Riches recommended a book.

Called The Gold of Tolosa, by Philip Matyszak. Not surprisingly, it’s set in Roman times. And apart from the dreadful cover design, looks very good. Here’s the SP:

Meet Lucius Panderius, war hero, connoisseur of fine wines and Germanic prostitutes – and the perpetrator of the biggest gold theft in history. This first novel by well-known writer and historian Philip Matyszak takes us from the mean streets of Rome to the even meaner streets of Gallic Tolosa in a journey filled with ambush, intrigue, battle and double-cross. In 105 BC Rome is faced with extinction, both from a huge army of invading barbarians and by a dark curse that has been festering for generations. It falls to Lucius Panderius to avert both threats, and incidentally to make himself richer than Croesus. Though fiction, the Gold of Tolosa is historically accurate and explains how enough loot to recapitalize a third-world economy was taken in a theft that really did happen. Whether Lucius is crossing swords with barbarian warriors or Roman magistrates, the pace is never less than frantic, and ancient Rome has never been more fun …

It looks a little home-baked to me that cover there, Going against one of the pieces of advice given by a leading publisher recently. I am firmly of the opinion that you can judge a book by its cover. So I would probably wait to see if this gets picked up by a major publisher before parting with my hard-earned for it.

Anthony himself has this to say about it:

Just read ‘The Gold of Tolosa’ by the estimable Philip Matyszak. It’s different to the usual Roman fiction by some distance, and I’d place it closest to Lindsay Davis if I were seeking a comparison. I’m sure Maty will have his own view as to what it’s most like, although to be fair the style is very much his own, as anyone that’s read his excellently informative non-fiction output (I devour them whole) can attest.

While it’s not the usual blood and gutsathon, the book does have it’s swordy stabby moments, and the story itself is both solidly entertaining and highly entertaining. It will certainly keep you reading, and I don’t think I’ve read anything better from an authenticity perspective. Very highly recommended, if you like your Romans.

So, as it’s unfair to say ‘dreadful cover’, without saying what I would do to make it better – I’d change the typeface of the title – certainly not have it as a cut-out face, but not too bold, move the title down and the two lines closer together. Then, never, never range the author’s name right. It should be the same as the title, centred. As it is now, it looks like someone, at the stage before, said “it’s great, but where’s the author’s name?!” “Shit! Better put that on as well.” ie, it looks like an after-thought where it is now. But really, never do it yourself. Or let a family member do it. No matter how good they were at collages back in Primary School.

Ben Kane-athon

Ben has been running a raffle to win the manuscript for his next book in the Hannibal series, Clouds of War. £5 donation got you a ‘ticket’. The draw has been made, a winner has been found. Here’s what Ben has written:

Altogether, 132 x £5 ‘tickets’ were sold for the Clouds of War raffle. Most importantly, that means that £660 has been raised for Combat Stress (£690, if you count the £30 that a friend donated, while asking not to be entered into the raffle). THANK YOU SO MUCH to all of you who donated. That’s an amazing amount to raise in such a short time.

As I ran a post showing that the cover had been designed already, this shows a couple of things about the workings of the book-writing industry.

It would seem, that as Amazon had a page with the new cover for an, at the time, unfinished novel, the people designing the book cover – what do they go from? Must be a synopsis. Douglas Jackson posted a very interesting Blog post the other day, where in amongst all the good advice to prospective authors, he showed his synopsis’ for a series, presumably abandoned for now at least, on the English Civil War. So, the designer would be given some idea of what the book is about. General information as in Doug’s post. As the author is working on the manuscript after the synopsis is written, when he/she sees the ideas for the cover, they can decide which – if any – fit with where they are with the story at that particular moment. As the synopsis is the idea the author sells and the publisher buys, I’m guessing he is in some way contract-bound not to stray too far from that. So a cover designed from a brief synopsis, would still be a pretty accurate visual idea of how the final book will be. I’m guessing, obviously.

Ben says it is the final manuscript, though that may be final from his side. I can well imagine that the publishers may well either suggest a change – if that whole process hasn’t been gone though already – or that the version they typeset, for printing, will have to be checked again for errors. As we always managed to be making changes right up until the night before printing anything – work expands to fill the time available, as the old maxim goes – I can well imagine that there will still be room for changes for a while yet. A pretty decent prize, whichever you look at it.

If you would like to donate to Combat Stress, you can do so here.

Max Hastings

Max Hastings CatastropheContinuing our recent 1066 theme…erm, anyway, Max Hastings’ latest got a pretty damn fine write-up in the Telegraph the other day.

I have, as you know, read, reviewed and raved about Max Hastings’ previous WWII book, All Hell Let Loose. As the writer of the Telegraph article seems to have got, though of course, better articulated the feelings I got from AHLL, I think Catastrophe will have to go on the old Christmas list.

Something somewhere is telling me The Guardian weren’t as keen, but no matter.

Angus Donald

It really wouldn’t be right to go a whole post without mentioning young Angus. So I will rectify that immediately.

Grail KnightWarlord with writingEven though his latest in the Outlaw series Grail Knight has only just been released, it would seem that the previous, Warlord, is still going strong. Here’s what he posted the other day:

My publisher is doing yet another reprint of Warlord. Wise choice, in my humble op. Seems people like the book

Probably just as well, as Amazon are listing the hardback – a new version, by the looks – at an eye-watering £59.99! You can, of course, find it cheaper elsewhere. Though you are of course subject to their evaluation of what constitutes ‘as new’ and ‘very good’. Though having said that, I’ve had very good results from Abe Books.

King's Man 3And, he announced that King’s Man is now available as a paperback in the USA. The cover (left) looks a bit different to the UK one, but seems in keeping with the other US versions of his Outlaw series. Click on the cover to buy your copy.

With it all going so well for Angus – he should be good for a fiver until pay-day…

Incase you were wondering, that is if you haven’t got on to reading Angus’ Outlaw series yet, what order to read them in, here’s my handy, cut-out and keep guide.

1. Outlaw (out now as paperback)

2. Holy Warrior (out now as paperback)

3. King’s Man (out now as paperback)

4. Warlord (out now as paperback)

5. Grail Knight (out now as hardback)

The next one, nearly finished draft-wise, will be called The Iron Castle. Be out in the new year. They’re all equally excellent, but – if you haven’t done so yet – I really would recommend that you read them in order. You’ll feel better about it.

Ain’t goin’ on no book cover, Hannibal!

I’ll admit to having been a bit lax on the Ben Kane front lately. I read the Forgotten Legion series and enjoyed them all tremendously.

In fact, I’m crediting The Forgotten Legion, the first book, with re-kindling my interest in Historical Fiction (though not Horsetorical Fiction, as that was before spellcheck pointed it out) as a genre and book-reading in general as a sport, after many years lying fallow.

Hannibal Enemy of RomeBen Kane - Hannibal Fields of BloodI have bought/collected the Hannibal series (ok, the two) so far, as hardbacks. The first one was a little difficult to get hold of, but the second, Hannibal Fields of Blood I got recently as a new release. I’ll get onto reading them as soon as I’ve read the firsts in the other series, of authors new to me, that I haven’t started yet. Seems only fair.

But…then Ben posts these.

Hannibal Clouds of WarFirst up, is the design (proposed) for the third book in the Hannibal series, Hannibal Clouds of War. Then there’s the paperback version of Hannibal Fields of Blood.

As you can see, these are something new, but in a similar vein, to the previous two Hannibal covers and I think the new close-up idea works very well indeed. And is strong enough to be continued. I thought the cover to Hannibal Enemy of Rome was good, but maybe playing a little safe, a little too passive, maybe? Hannibal Fields of Blood and its Iwo Jima pastiche* turned it into, what it says, a ‘pastiche’. Now, being an ex-advertsing man, I am interested in and generally have strong opinions on, book covers for good or bad. I can well imagine that was really funny and highly thought of at the end of a very long day and after a liquid lunch. I’ve been there. But really, someone somewhere should have said at sometime before they were confronted with several thousand of them “…no, really, what have you got to show me?” I would have.

Hannibal Fields of Blood Paperback

These two are a departure for the series. So if you were hoping to get in as quick as possible and buy them to make up a set, before they redesigned them – you’ll already have been disappointed by Hannibal #2, I guess. The closest Ben Kane has got to having a theme run through his book series’, is with The Forgotten Legion. Though my copy of the first book, in paperback, is different in design to number two and three. However, you can now get it in the same design. Should you wish to have them all looking the same. Bus since then, with Hannibal and Spartacus, Ben’s books have changed design between ‘volumes’ and certainly and radically, between hardback and paperback. Maybe it’s a deliberate design decision, I don’t know. I’m not going to die in a ditch for continuity, but I can’t fathom why they feel the need to re-invent the wheel each time.

But for these two, I’ll happily make an exception.

These are superb cover designs from whoever is doing them on Ben’s behalf. Really much more of a realistic feel (thanks to photographs!) and a general ‘in your face’ angle to the both. I really hope they don’t get changed too much (if they find it necessary) from these seemingly finished ideas. I’d guess that if they do do anything with them, it will be to add some embossing or gold to the titles or Ben’s name, much as on the recent The Pagan Lord, by Bernard Cornwell (another one which prompted me to get it in hardback, rather than waiting and adding it to the paperbacks I have of all the others). But that was also because they changed the designs of the ‘Warrior Chronicles’ paperbacks which would have ‘spoiled’ my series, I thought, so I might as well break into the series with a hardback this time. I think the soldier on Hannibal Clouds of War (and Ben has said that the helmet is wrong for the period the book is set in) could look perhaps a little more animated. As in, perhaps some clouds of frosty breath, some sweat maybe. That kind of thing. Not much. Doesn’t need too many things going on. The paperback for Hannibal Fields of Blood is just fine, by me. Just add in the Pagan Lord embossing and we’re done. They’ve even got the type-feel consistent. With Ben’s name and the ‘of’ in both titles. Down the pub, fellas!

The Time of the Wolf Hardback The-Time-of-the-Wolf-Wilde-James-9781605984162It seems that Hannibal Clouds of War cover, is most likely the ‘nearly done’ version they need to give Amazon to put on the page for ordering it. It may change – slightly – before it lands in your lap. Similar to what I noted with James Wilde‘s US version of Hereward, The Time of the Wolf. See pictures, left (look at the sword hilt. The image on the left, is how the printed book is, the one on the right is from Amazon’s page for the book. Still there too). We can just hope that they stay consistent with any further Hannibal stories Ben might write (I have no information on this is a trilogy or a quartogy or a fiveology…erm, but I would recommend keeping the type style of Ben’s name as a logo of sorts for future releases, in or out of Hannibal territory. That’s siurely a no-brainer…). One thing I think we can be sure of, is any further Hannibal’s from Ben, will have ‘of’ in the title somewhere.

I have written on this blog before on book covers, or two specific covers. If you’d like to investigate that, you can do so here and here. I’m currently mulling over another book cover post, based on the profusion of really terrible covers there are out there. But that’s to come later and will not be featuring these two new Ben Kane‘s.

Hannibal Clouds of War, is released 27 February 2014 and is available to order as we squeak. Hannibal Fields of Blood paperback is available to order on Amazon, but seemingly not from them, as yet. The page seems to be more or less the hardback’s page.

*I know that the famous picture, of the men raising the flag, as portrayed on ‘Hannibal Fields of Blood’, was itself re-staged for the photograph. But still, I’d have thought the men involved, or the surviving relatives of the men involved, could have been shown a little more respect. I know it’s been pastiched before, but I don’t think that is an excuse to do another pastiche of something these men fought and other men died, for.

Friday book news

Angus Donald

Robin Hood – six on TV?

Angus Donald – long-time friend of this blog and general Robin Hood-type author – has announced on his Twitter account that;

“I have just signed a contract with a big US media company giving them to option of making a TV series or film of The Outlaw Chronicles. Yay!”

As he himself says, it’s an option, not a promise. But still, exciting times. He also says he has finished the first draft of the follow up to Grail Knight, called The Iron Castle. This will be number six in his Robin Hood chronicles, if my memory serves. One can only hope they don’t try and squeeze six books into one film. So maybe a tv series would be better.

wpid-Photo-19032013-20.37.jpgHoly WarriorKing's Man 2Warlord 1Grail Knight


Robin Hood – the story so far. Click on a cover to go to the Book Depository page for that book.

Luke PrestonExile, on main street

Cuddly, loveable Luke Preston, the psychopathic madman at the helm of the Tom Bishop novel called Dark City Blue I read, reviewed and liked a lot recently, has announced that the second Tom Bishop story, called Out of Exile has just hit the street. Subtitled ‘A Tom Bishop Rampage’, it may be just available as an e-book right now, so you better get a Kindle app for your iPhone. Like me. You can read more about Luke and quite probably ‘Tom’, on Luke’s new design website. He’s also on Facebook and posted today that you can actually get Dark City Blue FREE on Apple’s iBooks store. Unfortunately not in the Danish one so far, but certainly the US iBooks store. You can also it looks, download it for free from Luke’s publishers website, here. If you go through the buying process, you do have to leave your name and address and an email, but you can leave the ‘store details’ box un-checked. You can then choose to download a file for a Kindle, or an ePub file which will work on your iPhone (by dropping it into your iTunes). I just tried it out and it works a charm. Go! Free’s free – what have you got to lose?

On the subject of free. This is a promotion for a book Luke has put a lot of time and effort into and he of course needs to make a living out of it – and even with the release of Out of Exile, he only has two books to make a living from. He isn’t releasing one every other week, like Lee Child or Bernard Cornwell. So I asked him (on Facebook) how he felt about giving his hard work away for free. He said:

Luke Reply

I’d love to get to chat with him about the why’s and wherefore’s of giving away your blood, sweat and daily bread-winning work for free. The problem I see it is if you get used to getting stuff for free, maybe even just by waiting until the next book comes out, then you get used to getting stuff for free. And don’t get used to paying the author their due for a book. Just like Amazon and supermarkets have conditioned us into thinking books cost £5.99. That’s not a living wage for an author, unless you’re an author selling a supermarket truck-load of books. Maybe the next time he’s in Denmark…In the meantime, grab it while it’s hot! Then buy the follow-up!

Ben KaneThe K Team

Ben Kane showed us the covers for two of his books and finished with the blotting paper, before sending off the final draft, of the third Hannibal story, to be called Clouds of War to the publishers. You can, should you wish (and should said publishers actually receive said final draft, I guess), pre-order it from Amazon now (you only pay for it when it’s actually released). So that’ll be winging it’s way to Speesh Towers when it’s released next February.

HerewardThe Wilde Bunch

And finally, James Wilde tells me that the third and final Hereward story, Hereward End of Days, hasn’t got  a US release date as yet. Nor even a new US name either, I presume. Seems, even though it is the final part in a trilogy and American readers who have bought one and two will be mightily disappointed (not to mention mightily out of pocket if they have to order an import), it isn’t yet certain it will be published in the US: Seems like the arrangement is to “see how it goes” with The Winter Warrior. It must have gone ok with The Time of the Wolf for Winter Warrior to be published, so let’s hope for the same result again.

And the picture’s of Hereward and probably not James Wilde. He’s a camera-shy young fellow.