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Ben Kane biography and books reviewed

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.

April 27th 2009 interview with Ben Kane

Ben Kane was born in Nairobi in 1970, returning to Ireland when he was 7. From an early age he loved reading all things historical, devouring classics written by authors like Henry Treece, Rosemary Sutcliffe, T.H. White and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In 2006 Kane began to work on a new idea, somethi [...]

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Ben Kane reviews

Eagles at War by Ben Kane

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 resentful of the harsh taxes about to be imposed upon them. Suspicious that there might be unrest, Tullus knows that his men's survival will be determined not just by their training and discipline, but by his leadership. What neither Tullus nor his commander, Governor Varus, realise is that ranged against them is the charismatic chieftain and trusted ally of Rome, Arminius, who has long been plotting to drive the Romans from the tribal lands east of the Rhine. As Varus’ legions prepare to leave their summer encampment, thousands of warriors – directed by Arminius – are massing nearby. Eager to throw off the Roman yoke, the tribesmen prepare a deadly ambush. Only the gods can save the Romans now...

"For this reviewer, part one of the novel is not bad, though it struggles as though the author is chafing to get into the action. The conversational interaction between non-legionaries is laboured at times, punctured by small vignettes of ever-growing action as we move from bar brawls to minor skirmishes. It’s clear that part one is a taster for the greater part of the novel – part two… which excels and leaves the reader well pleased and satiated. To that end, Ben Kane has produced a novel that will while away a good three or four hours of your time and will pique any reader to learn more about this infamous battle. I look forward to seeing how Centurion Tullus gets his revenge in the coming novels."

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The Forgotten Legion by Ben Kane

Romulus and Fabiola are twins, born into slavery after their mother is raped by a drunken nobleman on his way home from a good night out. At 13 years old, they and their mother are sold: Romulus to gladiator school, Fabiola into prostitution, where she will catch the eye of one of the most powerful men in Rome, and their mother into obscurity and death in the salt mines. 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; the Romans killed his entire family.He rises to become one of the most famous and feared gladiators of his day - and mentor to the boy slave, Romulus, who dreams night and day of escape and of revenge. The lives of these four characters are bound and interwoven in a marvellous story which begins in a Rome riven by corruption, violence and political enmities, but ends far away, where Romulus, Brennus and Tarquinius find themselves fighting against the Parthians and overwhelming odds.

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The Silver Eagle by Ben Kane

The Forgotten Legion – ten thousand legionnaires made captive by the Parthians – has marched to Margiana on the edge of the known world. In the midst are Romulus, Brennus and Tarquinius, all men with good reason to hate Rome. Together the trio must face the savage tribes which constantly threaten the area. But other, more treacherous enemies lurk within the ranks of the Forgotten Legion itself. When all hope is lost, the three friends’ character will be tested to the upper limit.

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