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Laying Down the Law

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Showing 1-17 of 17 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Nov 2013, 08:17:57 GMT
AJ-99 says:

A while back I was reading 'Claudius the God' (and can highly recommend that and 'I Claudius'.)

Call me megalomaniac, call me dull, but my favourite bits were the passages where he's just sort of sitting around ruling Rome. Hearing legal cases, dispensing justice, making up new laws, building viaducts and harbours and so forth. I couldn't get enough of that and now I want more.

So please tell me other books - no, I COMMAND YOU to tell me other books that involve people exercising power. Not scheming to get power a la Game of Thrones or something, but having it and using it. Building things, having existing things moved a bit to the left, telling people what to do. I suppose I don't mind a bit of political manouevring and so on, but the emphasis should be on the giving orders and running things. There can be sex and stabbing and that but it should be mostly scenes of improving civic amenities.

This is serious and I'm genuinely curious to see if anyone can suggest anything in this line. Must be fairly autocratic, no modern politicians please. Benevolent despots preferred, colourful psychopaths considered.

ALSO I would gratefully welcome any suggestions for readable-by-laymen books on legal cases, celebrated trials, the workings of courts etcetera.

Posted on 11 Nov 2013, 20:21:31 GMT
gille liath says:
Hi AJ.

I agree, both very good books. Not sure if it's exactly what you're after but you might be interested in The Alexiad of Anna Comnena (Classics). The closest thing I know to a first-hand account by a reigning emperor.

In reply to an earlier post on 11 Nov 2013, 22:13:27 GMT
AJ-99 says:
YES! Sold. Thanks, G-man, I actually meant to get that ages ago but had forgotten about it. Probably exactly what I'm after.

Posted on 14 Nov 2013, 11:08:28 GMT
gille liath says:
I just thought - have you read Graves' book Count Belisarius (Penguin Classics), about the reign of Justinian? Not as good as Claudius, but it's worth a read. Apparently the ending is not entirely historical, though.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Nov 2013, 23:47:14 GMT
AJ-99 says:
I haven't and must. Thanks, Gille, good think.

To complete a hat-trick I have Scott's 'Count Robert of Paris' somewhere too, which covers similar territory. Throw in some Yeats and I will soon know all there is to know about Byzantium.

I take it Graves is an exception to your dislike of historical fiction.

In reply to an earlier post on 15 Nov 2013, 12:30:30 GMT
gille liath says:
I suppose so. When he writes about the ancient world it feels real, probably because he spent so much time trying to immerse himself in it (and Yeats was another one!). He got into the role. He doesn't seem like a modern writing about ancients, like most; he writes about them as one of themselves. And his military experience gives him a bit of credibility on that side.

Seeing the telly series as a kid didn't hurt either, Liddle Marmozet.

I don't mind a wee bit of Scott either, although I've only read a fraction of his vast oeuvre - not including that one. Come to think of it, he too had that kind of mind: very much immersed in ancient legends and ballads.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Nov 2013, 00:15:01 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Nov 2013, 00:17:36 GMT
AJ-99 says:
I'm too tired right now to muse about how & why Graves & Scott pull it off when others don't. Graves seems to have believed that he was channeling from somewhere.

I'll just say we should marry each other because Herod Agrippa was absolutely my favourite character too, to the extent that I clapped and squealed every time he came on. He was just so smiling and happy in the midst of all the bloodshed and terrible things.

It's possibly the best TV series ever, but ideally you need to see it before reading the books, otherwise you pout a bit about things that get left out, e.g. the extended digression about Agrippa's adventures ducking and diving about the Middle East.

I've always wanted to know if Augustus's death scene involved some pioneering freeze-frame technique, him just dying and staying dead for about three minutes while Sian Phillips monologues, or if Brian Blessed actually held his breath that long with those colossal lungs of his.

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Nov 2013, 20:36:54 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Nov 2013, 20:43:02 GMT
gille liath says:
I'm pretty sure - although I'm not sure why I'm sure - that it's a genuine 'live' shot.

Great series, just as good as the books although different. What you lose on the outdoorsy side you gain in dialogue and character drama (not Graves' strongest point).

I can't hear the word 'marmoset' without muttering that in a croaky would-be-Levantine voice. But he didn't really register when I first saw it (as you say, he looms much less large than in the book). It was Livia all the way, scary woman. It's not quite as good after she dies.

Actually, I think there's too much Herod in the book. He doesn't really serve the story; I suspect one of Graves' occult/poetic bees-in-bonnet was behind him.

Posted on 16 Nov 2013, 22:19:20 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Nov 2013, 22:26:15 GMT
People scheming to get to the top tend to be more interesting than people already there. Robert Harris's Imperium (about the rise of Cicero) is a good example.

John Williams' classic novel Augustus deserves a mention, too.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Nov 2013, 21:10:15 GMT
AJ-99 says:
Thanks Ryan.

I like tales of scheming and power-politics as much as anyone, and I didn't much expect to find novels that are -just- about ruling, but I hoped there might be some where there are some good meaty scenes of order-giving in among the conniving and bodice-ripping.

But I suppose there are unlikely to be any as lengthy as the ones in Graves who, as Gille says, throws in anything he finds interesting rather than dutifully sticking to one story.

Probably I should just read one of those 'Perfect Mom and ballbusting CEO' books, or pay one of the indy writers here a couple of quid to knock me out an enthralling book about a reforming town planner.

Posted on 18 Nov 2013, 22:39:27 GMT
monica says:
Perhaps The Story of H, in which Napoleon III through his--visionary or dastardly? *you* be the judge--city planner M. H_ orders visionary/dastardly revision of civic amenities leading in turn to M. Emile Z_'s La Curee in which there is sex & sweat & no doubt a bit of ordering about along the lines of 'move a bit to the left, chere tante' and calling to mind Sir Stephen's despotic command of O*.

The French do these things so much better.

* Who has in the process of being reduced to a sex object lost the _ that once followed 'O'.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Nov 2013, 22:44:37 GMT
monica says:
And of course the Bible. Civic amenities be damned; cf Jericho, Sodom/Gommorah, etc.

Posted on 18 Nov 2013, 22:59:10 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Nov 2013, 23:00:22 GMT
gille liath says:
Isn't it amazing, the number of literary forms that originate in the Bible!

But actually, if you buy the idea that Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon - I suppose you could argue that that's an interesting commentary on what it means to be an all-powerful king.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Nov 2013, 21:29:37 GMT
monica says:
Didn't know that. My favourite book of Bible as well. Gloomy old chap, wasn't he?

Actually, Jehovah seems to be exactly what AJ is looking for, save delegating/enslaving others to construct the odd viaduct and harbour, that is, and I think the power to make from thin air rabbits and limestone and ancestors of the person who invented Dr Pepper has that beaten every which way.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Nov 2013, 22:24:46 GMT
gille liath says:
You don't say. :)

It's only tradition, I think, that he wrote it - not sure there's any basis for it in scholarship.

I think AJ's identified a genuine gap in the market here - SPers take note! -but I guess God's account would be too easy. Nobody would be able to get one over on him (pace Time Bandits, second time I've mentioned that today).

You'll recall Alan Partridge's comment on Dr Pepper: 'tastes like fizzy benylyn'. Never drunk it since then.

In reply to an earlier post on 20 Nov 2013, 00:45:55 GMT
Last edited by the author on 20 Nov 2013, 02:07:04 GMT
AJ-99 says:
Cheers Monica, haven't read Curee, sounds right up my boulevard.

I suppose I could re-read the 'Take down a law' bits of the Bible but it all goes to hell after the Ten Commandments, God just goes on and on with dietary restrictions and dress codes and practically ends up going, 'Not THOSE shoes, darling, that's strictly for the Philistines' like an omnipotent Gok Wan.

Solomon's merry judging tricks, though, chopping the baby in half and that, is just the kind of thing I'm looking for.

In reply to an earlier post on 6 Dec 2013, 15:20:29 GMT
[Deleted by the author on 6 Dec 2013, 17:42:06 GMT]
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Discussion in:  fiction discussion forum
Participants:  5
Total posts:  17
Initial post:  11 Nov 2013
Latest post:  6 Dec 2013

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