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History in Fiction

Press release June 18, 2010 Culture

Tumultuous events brought vividly to life by two authors

May 1812

At the height of the Napoleonic war, on 11 May 1812, the Prime Minister was shot dead in the House of Commons.  Sir Spencer Perceval remains the only Prime Minister in British history to have been assassinated.

M.M. Bennetts, author of the novel May 1812, will be speaking at the Winchester Discovery Centre on 28th June about the book—based around the assassination—and the historical research that fed it.  Bennetts feels strongly about the period: “The early 19th century was a period of tremendous dynamism, really a second Renaissance, and I feel it’s time we reclaimed it from the sidelining realms of genre fiction. 

“Britain was at the forefront not only of the war against Napoleon, but also of literary, scientific, naval and industrial invention.  It’s the age of our greatest military heroes, of Nelson and Wellington.  It’s the age of the invention of the steam-powered engine—that crowning glory of the Industrial Revolution.  While up in Scotland, Sir Walter Scott was inventing the historical novel, here in Hampshire Jane Austen was developing the domestic novel; and Keats and Byron were writing poetry which transformed our emotional lives.  And in the midst of all this, at the turning point of the war against Napoleon, the Prime Minister was assassinated, which is a wholly traumatic experience for any nation. 

“When I was at university, I lived in a cottage on an estate.  Living there allowed me, forced me even, to look beyond the stereotypes we’ve had for decades about the land-owning gentry—stereotypes created by literary taste or 20th century political theory.  For generations these men gave the country everything they had.  And living amongst the kind of people whose family members had served their King and country so tirelessly through the centuries, often in thankless jobs in times of turmoil, made me want to write about the real early 19th century, to tell this story.

“So I hope that what I’ve written is a book that reads with the depth and beauty of the best literary fiction, but has all the momentum of a runaway train.”

Bennetts will be joined at the Winchester Discovery Centre by fellow author Paul House.  His novel Harbour explores the many facets of Hong Kong society in the period leading up to the Japanese invasion in 1941.  As House explains:  “The fall of Hong Kong is the unknown chapter in the Pacific War, the chapter between Pearl Harbor and Singapore.  It was a time of huge change and it really did bring out the unexpected in everyone—unexpected humour and moments of great courage, as well as all too understandable fear and weakness.”

The same is true of House’s new novel, Common Places, which will be published by Diiarts on 25 June.  “Like Harbour, Common Places shows the ways in which people were changed by the war—and the ways in which they weren’t,” he explains.  “It begins with the stifling respectability of postwar Britain, and looks at the consequences and the folly of judging things at face value.  But it goes on to explore what happens when you look beneath the surface.”

The two authors will also be signing copies of their books at Waterstones in The Brooks, Winchester, on the afternoon of the talk. 

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Notes to Editors 

  1. M.M. Bennetts and Paul House will speak at the Winchester Discovery Centre, Jewry Street, Winchester on Monday 28 June at 7.30 pm.  The talk will cover both historical research and Admission is £3.  Visit for further details.
  2. Both authors will be signing copies of their books at Waterstones in The Brooks, Winchester, on Monday 28 June from 2.30 – 4.00 pm.
  3. The authors are also available for other signings or press interviews throughout the week of 28 June.  Please contact [email protected] or call 07879 007256.
  4. Diiarts’ titles are distributed via Central Books, and can be ordered through any UK bookshop or via online retailers worldwide.  E-books are available through Amazon.
  5. Advance Information about all Diiarts titles is available from, together with a fuller interview with M.M. Bennetts.


Ben Bennetts

Dragon International Independent Arts
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