I’m pleased to be welcoming Robert M. Kidd to Novel Kicks and the blog tour for his novel, To Kill a Consul.
217 BC. The Gauls are restless. Where is the wealth, plunder and lands they were promised? Hannibal’s army has become little more than a burden to be fed and quartered … as welcome as a plague of locusts. Assassination plots abound as Hannibal is driven to take desperate measures to evade the assassin’s knife.
If Hannibal is to appease the Gauls he must act fast. The invasion of Italia must not be delayed – his very life depends on it – but as that winter of winters fades into memory he is faced with a stark choice. Should he strike east towards the plains of Umbria and face consul Gnaeus Servilius Geminus’ legions holed up inside the unassailable walls of Ariminum? Or strike westwards into the plunder-rich lands of Etruria?
Consul Gaius Flaminius’ legions guard the western approaches. If any man can fire the bellies of Gauls with loathing it’s Flaminius. But there is one other whose blood runs cold at the mention of the name. Flaminius ordered the brutal murder of Sphax’s parents and Sphax has sworn a sacred oath to seek revenge. Can Hannibal trust the leader of his Numidian cavalry, or will this blood feud cloud his judgement? Sooner or later Sphax will have to face his inner demons.
Robert has stared an extract with us today. We hope you enjoy.
*****beginning of extract*****
Spring 217 BC – For days Hannibal’s invading army have been trekking wearily westwards over the mountain passes of the Apennines with Sphax and his Numidians scouting ahead. Their aim is to reach the flat coastal plain bordering the Tyrrhenian (Mediterranean) sea where thy will turn south for Arretium (modern Arezzo).
But first they have to cross something the army has been dreading for weeks: the Arno marshes. Today, all that’s left of these vast wetlands west of Florence is the Fucecchio Marshlands, north of San Maniato (it’s still Italy’s biggest inland marsh!). In 217 BC it was a vast watery graveyard for unwary travelers!
The passage begins when Sphax catches his first sight of the swamp from a hill that sweeps down to the water. Marcus and Julius are guides Hannibal has hired to lead the army through this watery barrier.
* * * *
Sphax slid from Dido and shielding his eyes from the sun, stared to the south. Ahead of him lay not a marsh, but a vast inland lake that stretched as far as the eye could see, its only feature a faint ridge on the distant horizon some thirty miles away. Looking to the south west he could clearly trace where the sparkling waters of the Tyrrhenian sea met the murky brown waters of the swamp. Gazing to the south east he saw how the ridges and spurs of the mountains formed narrow peninsulas that disappeared into the flood. Even if they kept to the high ground, it would take days, if not weeks, to circumnavigate this watery wilderness.
‘Wait here,’ he commanded his captains. ‘Marcus, Julius … you’re with me.’ Mounting Dido he nudged her forward, allowing her to pick her own way down the half-mile of steep track to the water’s edge.
He saw immediately that the view from the ridge had been deceptive. It was indeed a flood, not a sea, its waters bubbling and swirling with hidden currents that were driving it ever westwards towards the sea. What met his gaze was not the inland lake he’d seen from the ridge, but a drowned landscape of half-sunken trees, copses and woodland, whose spring flush of newly formed leaves were beginning to wilt and turn yellow under the deluge. On withered stumps rising from the murky depths sat cormorants, like ravenous harpies, drying their sinister black wings in the hot sun. Only the shrill calls of geese and waterfowl disturbed the dead calm of the foetid air.
He’d been in such a place before. Where the waters of the great Podanus river met the Adria lay a drowned wilderness fit only for wild beasts and birds of tooth and claw. Even with a sturdy river craft it had taken them three desperate days to escape its watery grip. If they had been on foot there would have been no escape.
‘I’ve never seen it this bad,’ observed Marcus, grimly.
‘Me neither,’ agreed Julius, shaking his head. ‘But after the winter we’ve had, I’m not surprised. I can’t recall a winter with so many tempests and snowstorms. It was as if the gods were trying to drown us!’
This offered Sphax little comfort. ‘In the name of Hades,’ he stormed, ‘how do you intend to guide sixty thousand men through this stinking shit-hole? I wouldn’t send Herakles himself into this cesspit. It’s worse than Tartarus!’
*****end of extract*****
About Robert M. Kidd:
I’ve always read widely and been fascinated by ancient cultures – especially those of Greece, Phoenicia and Carthage. But my reason for writing the first novel in The Histories of Sphax series may sound strange to readers: I really wanted to set the record straight, to write about Hannibal’s war with Rome from Carthage’s perspective.
When Cato the Censor demanded that ‘Carthage must be destroyed,’ Rome did just that. In 146 BC, after a three year siege, Carthage was raised to the ground, its surviving citizens sold into slavery and the fields where this once magnificent city had stood, ploughed by oxen. Carthage was erased from history.
That’s why I’m a novelist on a mission! I want to set the historical record straight. Our entire history of Hannibal’s wars with Rome is nothing short of propaganda, written by Greeks and Romans for their Roman clients. It intrigues me that Hannibal took two Greek scholars and historians with him on campaign, yet their histories of Rome’s deadliest war have never seen the light of day.
My hero, Sphax the Numidian, tells a different story!
When I’m not waging war with my pen, I like to indulge my passion for travel and hill walking, and like my hero, I too love horses. I live in Pembrokeshire, West Wales.
Would you like the next book in The Histories of Sphax series to be dedicated to you? Here’s your chance.
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