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Medieval Underpants and Other Blunders: A Writer's (& Editor's) Guide to Keeping Historical Fiction Free of Common Anachronisms, Errors, & Myths [Second Edition] Paperback – 17 Jun 2013

4.0 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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Paperback, 17 Jun 2013
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Product details

  • Paperback: 242 pages
  • Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; Second edition (17 Jun. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1490424032
  • ISBN-13: 978-1490424033
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 1.4 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 948,831 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Susanne Alleyn has loved history all her life, aided and abetted by her grandmother, Lillie V. Albrecht, an author of historical children’s books in the 1950s and 60s. Happy to describe herself as an insufferable knowitall about historical trivia (although she lost on Jeopardy!), Susanne has been writing and researching historical fiction for nearly three decades. She is the author of the acclaimed Aristide Ravel French Revolution Mysteries; A Far Better Rest, the reimagining of A Tale of Two Cities; The Executioner's Heir: A Novel of Eighteenth-Century France, her latest novel, about Charles Sanson, executioner of Paris, who guillotined Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette; and A Tale of Two Cities: A Reader's Companion, an annotated edition of the classic novel.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Underpants may well have been the best thing since sliced bread (?) when they actually came along but this book could never make the same boast. Of course, I should've known from the title what to expect, but I never expected it to be quite as bad as it was. The sanctimonious schoolmistressly tone is simply excruciating after a while and the blatant schadenfreude leaves a bad taste in your mouth. If the odd titter at other's errors is what rocks your boat you might find something here to warrant the purchase. Otherwise there is very little of any use for the serious historical fiction writer or editor and it is certainly not a 'guide' for either.

Oh, and there is very little here about the medieval period either. It concentrates on periods much later, generally closer to the periods in which the author writes. All the sneering smugness here kind of makes you want to plough through Susanne's own fiction works in an attempt to find blunders to expose -- but then that would be childish... wouldn't it?
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The purpose of historical fiction has changed in the last couple of decades, and the author is, I think, harking back to a different age in historical noveltry as much as they are to a different age of history.

It is not merely about authenticity anymore; quite a lot of the time the purpose of the inaccuracies she castigates is real and direct, and they are what the writer wishes to achieve- either to bring the past closer to the present by skipping a lot of the difficult bits, or to have a political effect on the now by projecting modern attitudes into the past.

"Who controls the present, controls the past; who controls the past, controls the future." The bad writing Alleyn rails against may often simply be good politics, in the Orwellian sense.

Historical fiction is written to have an effect in the present, and the author's determination to ignore the elephant in the room is correct as fact and language go, but...
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Essential reading for anyone interested in writing or reading historical fiction. The book is informative and amusing. There is a lot of repetition (particularly about the underpants) but Susanne Alleyn highlights that writing about the past means an author has to 'time travel' to their chosen period and geographical location and be true to that period in every way. Researching even the smallest reference from the garments worn (or not worn), the food eaten and the method of preparation, in fact every aspect of life, not just in the past, but in that particular time.
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Would be especially useful for many American writers of historical fiction especially - which is what the book seems aimed at. Many hillarious bloopers have found their way into this book. Worth collecting many more. Anyone aiming at writing a historical novel should read this, especially if their knowledge of European (or anywhere else) history is so low, that they do not know how limited it is.
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This is a truly excellent book: witty, humorous, but also full of easily-missed pitfalls and essential warnings for the aspiring writer. I have too often thrown a book aside, because I became irritated by the number of silly and obvious mistakes in dealing with the chosen period. I don't mean the kind of things only a scholar or a nerd would notice; I mean major blunders that bring the reader up short and distract from the story.

What it all comes down to, as Ms. Alleyn explains, is checking your facts and showing respect for your readers. Near enough will not do; nor will assumptions or half-recalled snippets from school. If you don't want to do the research, chose another period to write about. Even famous writers, when they stray outside their usual historical territory, make silly errors.

It's also good to see the editors come in for some stick! I sometimes wonder whether such animals even exist in publishing houses today, given the typos, grammar howlers and half-erased rewrites that make it onto the printed page.
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An entertaining and informative guide to the avoidance of some of the common mistakes made by authors who know little and care less about the period in which they set their stories. Of course, it's not definitive - how could it be with thousands of years of history and many different cultures to contend with - but it does what it says in the title. If you're writing about the past and have any intention of doing some research to ensure authenticity, then this is a very good place to start.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've only just started this, but already I know I'm going to enjoy it. From page 2, where we meet the historical fiction author who had her 11th century knight lighting up a cigar - cue for howling with mirth and almost literal rolling around on floor (and you know, I wish Susanne Alleyne had given the name of the book - I find I really, really want to read it! ) it looks as though this will not only be educational - not about the cigar, I knew that - but a source of some hilarity. But I had better not laugh too much at the errors of others. How does that saying go? Let him (or her) who is without sin cast the first stone. Hmmm. But, hopefully, it will help me to avoid a few blunders if not all.
Amusng and useful. Well worth reading. I hope it will help me to check up on things I may not have thought of before. I would recommend it to anyone thinking of writing historic fiction.
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