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Nigel Tranter

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Margaret
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Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
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Postby Margaret » Fri September 12th, 2008, 9:17 pm

Me, too, SweetPotato. I'd love to give him a second chance - but would like to do it with one of his best books. Alas, writers that are this prolific are not always as good as, say, Ellis Peters with her Brother Cadfael mysteries.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

Carla
Compulsive Reader
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Postby Carla » Wed September 17th, 2008, 11:05 am

Well, for what it's worth, I think the three Robert Bruce novels are his best historical novels. I've read a lot of Nigel Tranter's novels - though not by any means all of them - and I'd say his style is to take a chunk of Scottish history and mildly dramatise it. When the underlying history is stirring stuff or when the reader has a special interest in it, the result is a good read. When the underlying history is, ahem, a bit dull or confused, the same applies to the associated novel.

I'd say the 'best' Nigel Tranter novel is one that covers a historical figure or period you're especially interested in.

He has some style quirks that don't particularly annoy me, such as long sentences and staccato dialogue, but which I could see might drive some people up the wall. Love scenes range from so-so to dreadful - fortunately they are usually short and easily skipped.

More detailed article here: (http://carlanayland.blogspot.com/2006/10/nigel-tranters-historical-novels.html).
PATHS OF EXILE - love, war, honour and betrayal in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria
Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009
Now available as e-book on Amazon Kindleand in Kindle, Epub (Nook, Sony Reader), Palm and other formats on Smashwords
Website: http://www.carlanayland.org
Blog: http://carlanayland.blogspot.com

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Wed September 17th, 2008, 5:39 pm

Thanks for a very helpful analysis, Carla. Loved your article, which is not only insightful but fun to read (several LOL spots). I've added a link to it from the Medieval Celts page at http://www.HistoricalNovels.info.

I'm going to put Tranter's Robert the Bruce novels on my TBR and skip the rest, at least for now.
Last edited by Margaret on Wed September 17th, 2008, 5:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

Carla
Compulsive Reader
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Postby Carla » Wed September 17th, 2008, 6:42 pm

Cheers, Margaret - glad to hear the review was useful, and thanks for the link!
PATHS OF EXILE - love, war, honour and betrayal in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria

Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009

Now available as e-book on Amazon Kindleand in Kindle, Epub (Nook, Sony Reader), Palm and other formats on Smashwords

Website: http://www.carlanayland.org

Blog: http://carlanayland.blogspot.com

Cuchulainn
Reader

Postby Cuchulainn » Sat September 20th, 2008, 1:35 am

The Bruce Trilogy is a genuinely excellent read. It was the first thing I read by Tranter; I couldn't put it down and was really excited that I had found a new author for myself.

And then I read some of his other books.

They were horribly, horribly dry.

I started reading "The Stone" which was supposed to be a thriller in line with Buchan but I stopped reading it at the scene when he tried to create suspense out of the hero's inability to do a three point turn in the motor car he was driving in the dark to avoid the imminent approach of a bunch of archaeologists from the university.

Then I tried "Hope Endures" which reads as though he had a history book open beside his typewriter (or whatever) and just sort of transposed the history into a kind of fictional narrative. I put that one down, too.

Since then I've been shy of Tranter. I really, really wanted to like his books. Maybe one day I'll try his book on Wallace, and I think he has one on MacAlpine who was, I think, a Pictish king (and there is so little written on this place and period, both fictional and non-fictional).

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Sat September 20th, 2008, 5:50 am

Jack Dixon has written a book about the origin of the Picts, their arrival in Scotland and the incursion of Roman forces under Agricola. It's called "The Pict".I found it a good read- only complaint, it was a bit short and a tad scanty. Jack Dixon said that as it was his first effort he didnt want to get too carried away in case people didn't like his work. Now that he knows they do like it, he'll try something longer!

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Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Sun September 21st, 2008, 1:30 am

LOL, Cuchullain. It's unusual for an author's work to be so variable in quality. A lot of authors have a real winner and a few near-misses, or get steadily better from their first not-so-great efforts, but it's rare for someone who writes a really good novel or two to also write some amateurish ones after they've written better. Maybe Tranter was just super-inspired by Robert the Bruce and/or got away with a lot because Bruce's story is just so exciting in and of itself.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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Ariadne
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Location: At the foothills of Mt. Level

Postby Ariadne » Sun September 21st, 2008, 1:47 am

I've also found Tranter's work to vary considerably in quality. I enjoyed his Master of Gray trilogy a lot, and even found myself getting used to his clipped dialogue, though that style is certainly not my preference. But I found some of his later novels to be very dry; they also had stereotypical depictions of women. This seemed especially odd in a novel such as Price of a Princess, where a woman was the main character. His skills in characterization seemed to slip as he got older.

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EC2
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Location: Nottingham UK
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Postby EC2 » Sun September 21st, 2008, 9:45 am

Carla, I enjoyed your summary of Tranter, thank you. As always you're wonderfully even handed.
He is definitely variable. Perhaps if I'd read the Bruce trilogy to start with I'd have had a less dismissive view of Tranter. I did get through part of the Master of Grey trilogy and it was indeed a cut above the other two I'd tried - David the Prince (I think that's the title) and some other one I forget that only lasted a chapter.
Interesting what you said in your article about Tranter being true to the history rather than fitting the history into the needs of a novel. I can respect him for that - although I do think that it is possible to do both.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

Carla
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Postby Carla » Tue September 23rd, 2008, 2:46 pm

"EC2" wrote:Carla, I enjoyed your summary of Tranter, thank you. As always you're wonderfully even handed.
He is definitely variable. Perhaps if I'd read the Bruce trilogy to start with I'd have had a less dismissive view of Tranter. I did get through part of the Master of Grey trilogy and it was indeed a cut above the other two I'd tried - David the Prince (I think that's the title) and some other one I forget that only lasted a chapter.
Interesting what you said in your article about Tranter being true to the history rather than fitting the history into the needs of a novel. I can respect him for that - although I do think that it is possible to do both.


I think it's possible to do both, too, and indeed I'd argue that that's what historical fiction is for. It takes time, though, at least with history that's not as obviously epic as the Bruce Trilogy. Nigel Tranter wrote an awful lot of novels (not as many as Jean Plaidy under her various pen names, but getting on that way), and logically there must have been limited time available to research and write each one. Some of Jean Plaidy's output has the same 'history book with dialogue' feeling as Tranter's drier novels, perhaps for the same reason. With both of them you know pretty much what to expect, a slice of mildly dramatised history, and that must have helped establish a readership that could be relied on to buy the next one, and the next, and the next, as fast as the author could write, so why change a winning formula?
PATHS OF EXILE - love, war, honour and betrayal in Anglo-Saxon Northumbria

Editor's Choice, Historical Novels Review, August 2009

Now available as e-book on Amazon Kindleand in Kindle, Epub (Nook, Sony Reader), Palm and other formats on Smashwords

Website: http://www.carlanayland.org

Blog: http://carlanayland.blogspot.com


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