Full Version: The Man from Cannae by John Jakes
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Sheesh, where do I start with this book? I read about it on a list of historical fiction novels a few weeks ago. It was ostensibly about the Second Punic War, a subject dear to my heart, so I looked it up here. I guess the cover should have put me off, but I overrode my instincts. When it arrived, I finished it in a couple of days. I'd give it one and a half stars out of five.

I recently read an article about Jakes in which it was stated that his publishers asked him to write a Roman novel because they were popular at the time. He did so in a very short space of time. Well, it shows. His research must have consisted of a book called 'Interesting facts about the Second Punic War', but little else. So on the first page, we have a Roman cavalryman, an officer in fact, using a pilum. Howler! On the second page, there are legionaries with a gold eagle. Howler! Worse than that, the main character is a commoner who has somehow become the prefect of a cavalry wing. Laughably, he gets demoted to the legions, is repromoted to his original position, demoted again and ends up as a centurion! There are Praetorians in Rome, when at that time they only existed as guards for army commanders; cohorts as well as maniples. I could go on, but my eyes have glazed over.

I could swallow some of those howlers if it wasn't for the dire plot, and the execrable sex. Women just fall into bed with the main hero - literally within half a page of meeting him. It's all snowy breasts in the moonlight and wonderful coupling, even when the hero is badly wounded. A couple of times he's captured and threatened with death by his own side, who don't recognise his accent as being Roman but think he's either a Carthaginian or a Greek. This, when he would have been a native Latin speaker while the races mentioned would not!

That said, the writing is decent enough, and a lot of the historical facts are accurate. If it hadn't been for that, I would have given it one star or less. This book would have been better marketed by Mills & Boon. Avoid it, unless that's your interest.
Quote:I guess the cover should have put me off, but I overrode my instincts.

Some powerful overriding there, Ben!

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Quote:wonderful coupling, even when the hero is badly wounded.

I should think so too - that sort of thing never put any self-respecting hero off!

Lavinia recoiled, her snowy face heaving in the moonlight. "But Quintus," she stammered frothily, "what about your leg?"
Quintus stared down at the bloody ruin of what had once been his limb. He let out a heedless grunt.
"Just a flesh wound," he said, manfully.

Quote:I guess the cover should have put me off, but I overrode my instincts.
Surely that cover is the main selling point?! Wink I loved his Brak the Barbarian books (when I was about 12).
Didn't know they wore pony tails at Cannae. Thanks John Jakes!
Wow. This guy reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut’s fictional pulp writer Kilgore Trout, who published hundreds of novels and thousands of short stories (never two by the same publisher, of course). Even some of the titles seem similar.

Sometimes I enjoy really terrible pulp stuff, like the original Conan the Barbarian short stories. Maybe it is literary slumming, but I think they can be quite fun.