I was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1970, where my dad worked as a vet for the Kenyan government. We returned to Ireland when I was 7, and I went to school in Dundalk, a town about 50 miles north of Dublin on the east coast. From an early age, I loved reading and all things historical, devouring classics written by authors like Henry Treece, Rosemary Sutcliffe, T.H. White and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s excellent medieval novels, Sir Nigel and The White Company. I spent a lot of time reading fantasy too – J. R. R. Tolkien, Julian May, Susan Cooper, Ursula le Guin, Ann McCaffrey, Roger Zelazny, Stephen Donaldson, Guy Gavriel Kay and Michael Scott Rohan to name but a few. As a teenager, I also enjoyed Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels, as well as Wilbur Smith’s African sagas.
When leaving school, I placed history on the list of careers, but not at the top. I think this was because although I loved history, I did not want to be a teacher! Obtaining the grades for veterinary medicine, I emerged as a veterinary surgeon in 1992. Work in mixed (farm and companion animal) practice followed in Northern and southern Ireland. I moved to the UK in 1996, working in purely companion animal practice in London, Surrey and Essex. A solo trip to Central Asia in 1997 (taking in Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, western China and Pakistan) reignited my passion for history, and I visited the ruins of the city of Merv, formerly Antiochia, where the Roman survivors of Carrhae were sent. I also saw Hellenic temples in Pakistan and shortly after visited Alexander the Great’s birthplace in Pella and the contents of his father’s tomb in the museum in Thessaloniki. I could not get over the scope of Alexander’s campaigns and began to read historical fiction all over again.
Then my desire to travel finally got the better of me, and in 1998 I left the UK to travel the world. Over the next 3 years, I only returned once for a few months to earn enough money to go away again. I drove a camper van from coast to coast in the USA, spent over a year in Central and South America, visited Antarctica, Fiji, Samoa, the Cook Islands and French Polynesia. I worked in New Zealand and Australia before reluctantly returning to the UK in early 2001. During the entire period of being away, I wrote lots of travelogues to my family and friends and gained the first idea for a military fiction novel. But the plot was far too involved.
It wasn’t until later on, in 2002, that I got a better idea for a novel. I was working on Foot and Mouth Disease duty in Northumberland and seeing Hadrian’s Wall every day. I visited so many of the sites and museums there. Frustrated with life as a vet, I started writing in earnest in 2003. I finished my first manuscript in 2004, the story of a centurion living on Hadrian’s Wall. I worked and reworked it for 18 months before going on an Arvon Foundation Course in summer 2005. It was at this time that I moved from my veterinary job in rural Shropshire to Bristol, so that I could take a job with less hours and no ‘on-call’, thus allowing me more time to write. Over the next few months I began sending the manuscript to literary agents, and after the usual refusals I met with Charlie Viney in January 2006, and he signed me up. Deciding that my first novel was not quite exciting enough, I began to work on a new idea, something which quickly became The Forgotten Legion. After a long process, the manuscript was sent out to publishing houses in July 2007, and a bidding war ensued between six of the biggest houses. Preface, a new imprint of Random House, won the war, and I was signed for a three book deal in September 2007. Since then, rights have sold to the USA (where The Forgotten Legion is released in hardback on March 3rd, 2009), Italy, Greece, Russia and Spain. Hardback sales in the UK are nearing 10,000, and The Forgotten Legion was the 8th highest selling debut fiction hardback in the UK in 2008. It reached 33 in the bestseller lists as well. The paperback will be released in the UK on April 16th, and The Silver Eagle, the second novel, is to be released in hardback on June 4th. I am currently getting underway on the third novel, The Road to Rome. During 2008, I also wrote an article on Roman sites in Rome, which appeared in the Mail on Sunday Travel section on July 27th.
I went part-time in veterinary work in May 2008, and as of January 2009, I am working full-time as a writer. I may not have given up veterinary completely just yet, but I am giving myself some time to get the third book underway. I am married to Sarah, who is a kinesiologist, and we have one child (a 2 & ½ year old boy called Ferdia – the name comes from the ancient Irish legend. In the Tain, Ferdia was Cuchulainn’s best friend.) Another baby is due, and will be born in about two months, all being well. Another reason to get writing on the third book! Once I’ve finished The Road to Rome, I will start work on a new trilogy, also about Rome.
Ben Kane books reviewed
Eagles at War
AD 9, German frontier: Close to the Rhine, a Roman centurion, Lucius Tullus, prepares to take his soldiers on patrol. On the opposite side of the river, German tribes are r...
Ben Kane bibliography
The Forgotten Legion Chronicles
- The Forgotten Legion (2008)
Romulus and Fabiola are twins, born into slavery after their mother is raped by a drunken nobleman. At thirteen years old they are sold - Romulus to gladiator school, Fabiola into prostitution, where she will catch the eye of one of the most powerful men in Rome. Tarquinius is an Etruscan, a warrior and soothsayer, born enemy of Rome, but doomed to fight for the Republic in the Forgotten Legion. Brennus is a Gaul, his entire family killed by the Romans, and he rises to become one of the most famous and feared gladiators of his day. The lives of these characters are bound and interwoven in an odyssey which begins in a Rome riven by political corruption and violence, but ends far away, at the very border of the known world, where the tattered remnants of a once-huge Roman army - the Forgotten Legion - will fight against overwhelming odds, and the three men will meet their destiny.
- The Silver Eagle (2009)
The Forgotten Legion fought against almighty odds at the very edge of the known world - and lost. Now Brennus the Gaul, Tarquinius the Etruscan soothsayer and Romulus, bastard son of a Roman nobleman, are prisoners of Parthia. They dream of escape, but in the brutal fighting which lies ahead, only two will survive. Meanwhile, Fabiola, Romulus's twin sister, is caught up in the vicious eddies of Roman politics. Hunted by slave catchers she flees, hoping to find her lover, Brutus, bound for Alexandria with Caesar.
- The Road to Rome (2010)
Having survived the perils of a journey across half the world, Romulus and Tarquinius are press-ganged into the legions, which are under imminent threat of annihilation by the Egyptians. Meanwhile in Rome, Romulus's twin sister Fabiola lives in fear for her life, loved by Brutus, but wooed by Marcus Antonius, his deadly enemy. Soon after, Romulus fights at Zela, the vicious battle where Caesar famously said, 'Veni, vidi, vici'. Tarquinius, separated from Romulus in the chaos of war, hides in Alexandria, searching for guidance. But mortal danger awaits them both. From the battlefields of Asia Minor and North Africa, to the lawless streets of Rome and the gladiator arena, they face death daily, until on the Ides of March, the twins are reunited and must decide either to back or to betray Caesar on his day of destiny.