Ancient Rome, a different View

I want to talk about 3 related books in this post.  The author is Alex Johnston, and all are available as EBooks from  They are, in the order they should be read:

Caesar’s Ambassador

Caesar’s Emissary

Caesar’s Daughter (Song of Julia).


These are short books, and while I realize that Epublishing is redefining such terms as short story, novella and novel, to me, a book under 175 pages or so is a long or short novella.  OK, so I would classify each of these as medium novellas, and I tend to think of them more as a collection of novellas than as 3 separate novels, but I’m also ancient and probably a luddite, so be advised.


I’ve read a fair amount of historical fiction set in Ancient Rome, from Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series (my personal gold standard) to Ron Peake’s series about the legions, starting with Marching with Caesar; Conquering Gaul,  Stephen Saylor, Lindsey Davis and Robert Harris (all authors I like very much.)  One of the things I notice is that all the work of these authors has a kind of serious respectful note …they take their subject seriously, and their excellent research is evident.


These books are also well researched, although one might not think so while reading them (more about that in a bit) because they deal with ancient Rome, and very famous ancient Romans in a humorous, irreverent and exuberant manner that made me feel more like I was watching Saturday Night Live than reading a historical novel.  And do you know what?  It works!  The plots get zany, the dialog moves from cheesy groaner jokes to laugh out loud funny, the great are treated with little respect and less reverence … and the main characters are so impossible they are absolutely credible.  This isn’t a history lesson, it’s a romp through Rome, and it’s wicked funny.


Each book has an epilog, which is as much a must read as are the books, because it is here that we see how well each book has been researched.  The author even makes excellent cases for some of his most outrageous (and outrageously funny) scenes, such as, for example, Caesar’s daughter, the epitome of what a Roman matron should be, rapping (yes, really!) triumphantly, albeit alone and in her own home. 


Modern readers may find the style of these books disorienting, but I strongly suspect that Plautus would have loved these stories, as I did.


2 thoughts on “Ancient Rome, a different View

  1. Felinitye – I enjoyed your post very much and I completely agree with your assessment of the books. Although I might be biased because I wrote them!

    I’m happy that you enjoyed the books, of course, but also very gratified that you seem to really have gotten what it is I am trying to do. The style is a little different, I know, but I have been happily surprised by the reactions from readers like you. It is very flattering.

    I know deep inside that the Romans, in the midst of all of their marauding and conquering, enjoyed a good yarn. Hoping to write a few more.

    BTW – very interested in your post on Dragon software. I have been toying with the idea of trying that out myself. Doing some stream of consciousness stuff and seeing if I can edit it down to a workable book. I am following your blog, so if you post any updates I will see them.

    So nice to virtually meet you!


    • Hi Alex! I’ll admit there was an adjustment period during which I first realized how well researched your books actually are, and then I had to get used to the way you treated the material. Once I got used to your style, however, I had a wonderful time reading these books! I think Plautus would have loved them, as would the very Romans you wrote about. From what I’ve read of their humor, they preferred slapstick comedy, and would have far preferred, say, the Three Stooges to a witty, erudite comedy presentation. As to Dragon, I’m finding it hard to move from composing in my head while typing to composing in my mind while speaking. Perhaps I’ll make the adjustment, but when I dictate, my prose feels stilted and unnatural to me, and I find it very hard not to get distracted by what I’m saying, and I lose the thread of what I am thinking will come next. Still, it has its advantages, is relatively easy to use, and far more accurate than I expected. Far better than my typing, actually.

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