International Best Seller Colin Falconer

stories of romance and epic adventure


Colin Falconer, historical fiction, author


So this week at the Falconer Club one of the members won a print copy of Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile in the caption competition, plus I posted an exclusive excerpt from HAREM, there was news of an Amazon special offer on one of my books, as well as the latest on the publication of my latest book at Lake Union.

And there’s lots more this week. As well as more excerpts and offers, members will get to see the cover of my next CoolGus historical novel even before I do!

If you like books, if you like some humour, come on over, it’s free, you just have to ask! Just click here!



Imagine you’re on a flight from Amsterdam to Jakarta.

East India, Jakarta, Batavia, shipwreck Dutch, If you took that same journey in 1628, instead of taking less than a day the journey would take eight months.

That’s how long it currently takes for an unmanned space ship to travel to Mars.

But if you were on of the 4,000 intrepid souls who undertook the trip on a Dutch East India ship every year, it would in fact be very much like traveling to a distant manned space station.

After a seemingly endless and extremely hazardous journey you would arrive at your company’s outpost – in Batavia, now Jakarta – to be greeted by a sour and hard-bitten community of singular individuals, in an alien and hostile environment.

That is if you arrive. First, you have to survive the journey, which is so tedious and so uncomfortable that you will wish cryogenics had been invented. Imagine over three hundred people living and sleeping for eight months in a space not much larger than an interstate bus and you have some idea.

As part of my research I went on board a replica of one of those seventeenth century spaceships, the retourschip Batavia.

I couldn’t even stand up straight below decks. And then there are the bathroom arrangements; the best you can say about them is that they were … novel.

The bathroom was a platform extending from the hull below the stern, the toilet paper a long piece of rope with a frayed end.

You pulled it up to use it; you dropped it back down into the ocean to activate the self-cleaning mode.

East India, Jakarta, Batavia, shipwreck Dutch, During that eight months between Amsterdam and the Spice Islands you would travel through a dangerous and uncharted world.

It would be actually more hazardous than going to Mars today: our navigational systems today far exceed Dutch capabilities in 1628.

For example, skippers back then could calculate latitude with the aid of an astrolabe but had no reliable way to calculate longitude – distance east or west – and relied on experience and dead reckoning.

Often, the skipper’s dead reckoning was out by some considerable distance; it was how one East India Company ship came to be shipwrecked on the Houtman Abrolhos, off the western coast of Australia, over 1400 nautical miles to the south of its intended destination.

Now I’ve visited the Houtman Abrolhos. It’s a great place if you’re a sea eagle or a reclusive seal.

But if you had come from the bustling port of Amsterdam in the seventeenth century and then found yourself abandoned there, it must have seemed like being stranded on – well, the moon.

And rescue?

East India, Jakarta, Batavia, shipwreck Dutch,

the Houtman Abrolhos

As unlikely as Matt Damon getting off the space station in The Martian.

But they did survive, somehow.

What was left of them.

You have to hand it to our ancestors, they were a tough bunch.

They had to be, because as they say – in space, no one can hear you scream.

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historical fiction, colin falconer. authors



The Vikings: who were they, what were they?


SOURCE: helgi-halldorsson

No one seems sure any more.

They have arced from slavering thugs brandishing axes and erections to the revisionist view of them as Renaissance men with short tempers and an interest in gardening and travel.

Or there’s the TV series.

So what do we really know?

Well, let’s start with the obvious things: the horned helmets.

No, they never wore them.

They were first worn as props for the performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle at the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876.

They were much a part of Viking wardrobe as Mel Gibson’s kilt was to thirteenth century Scots.


The Vikings only used horns for drinking beer and blowing into as a means of communication: ‘I’m pissed and now I’m coming home.’

Not only did the Vikings not wear horned helmets, they weren’t called Vikings.

‘Viking’ is not a noun, it’s a verb.

Scandinavian men traditionally took time out of their summers to go “vikingr.” The itinerary for such expeditions varied, but the main aim was to turn a profit, either from trade, working as a mercenary, or raiding monasteries and unprotected town for loot and slaves.

Raid or trade, it was all the same to them.

Going vikingr was a summer job. Most of these men, who lived in rural chiefdoms in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, were villagers first, pillagers second and on their return they would resume their agricultural routine.

So were these Norsemen really that violent?


There were no sensitive new age Norsemen.

These men were not just warriors, they were very good ones. The Varangian guard of the Byzantine emperors in the 11th century was made up entirely of Swedish warriors.

But this was a violent age and although they were brutal, they weren’t especially … well, severe.

If history has recorded them as barbarians, it is perhaps because the men writing that history – the Christian monks of Britain – were the Norsemen’s prime targets.

The Christian monasteries of the time were unguarded treasure houses of loot and the Norsemen must have enjoyed taking it. Increasingly subject to Christian persecution and forced baptisms in their own lands, the sight of an unarmed monk must have really got the juices flowing.

Payday and payback all at once.

Vikings, Norway, Sweden, Iceland

SOURCE: viciarg

These men not only knew how to use a sword, they knew how to make one.

They were skilled weapon-smiths and made highly prized pattern-welded swords. They were also brilliant navigators, they sailed along rivers into the far reaches of Russia, as far as the Caspian sea, and may have reached as far east as Baghdad.

In fact, the largest body of written sources on the Vikings in the 9th and 10th Century is in Arabic.

And forget Columbus.

The Norsemen already knew about America. They reached Labrador and Newfoundland in the eleventh century and even set up colonies there – after they had already colonised Iceland and Greenland.

They may have been vicious, but these ‘barbarians’ also pampered themselves like a male model in a Bulgari commercial.

Vikings, Norway, Sweden, Iceland

SOURCE: tone

Archaeological finds have included tweezers, combs, nail cleaners, ear cleaners and toothpicks.

An anonymous Anglo-Saxon letter has a man admonishing his brother for giving in to the ‘Danish fashion with a shaved neck and blinded eyes’. Blinded eyes probably meant a long fringe.

So these savages had plucked eyebrows and reverse mullets.

No surprise the monks of Lindisfarne were running scared.

And despite the drinking, raping and general bad behaviour, it wasn’t all frat week.

The 300-year era of their martial and navigational primacy Vikings, Norway, Sweden, Icelandeventually becomes a story of immigration and assimilation.

The Norsemen started bringing women with them on their travels, instead of taking them away. Conquest became colonisation.

The Normans, who took the throne of England in 1066 were descended from Norsemen who won feudal control over Northern France. Even before that, there had been two Danish kings of England.

Once they settled down, they then gave the west its first long-running action dramas; the Icelandic sagas were the probable forerunners of … well, “The Vikings.”

So there you have it.

They were, as we first thought, violent bastards. But more Don Corleone at the opera than Tony Soprano in a singlet.

Which was why, if you saw them sailing into your bay with their supper-savers and perfectly manicured nails, there only ever was one choice.



WHY NOT JOIN ME AT THE FALCONER CLUB? Last week I previewed the cover of my new book coming up in November, launched a new video, posted some background photos from a research trip to Granada AND wrote about my visit to the most dangerous library in the world. It’s not all professors and 800 year old manuscripts! Not in my world anyway.  AND I posted the password to a free excerpt form one of my books.

Come on over, it’s free, click this link, you just have to ask!

Atlantis, Vikings, Valhalla,

AMAZON buy3._V192207739_




The trouble with being alive is that you never really get a clear view of reality.

We see the present moment through a keyhole. We think none of the events we witness has ever happened before, that religious fundamentalism and refugee crises are problem foisted on us in the twenty first century.

Are they?

Reconquista, Granada, Spain. ISIS, Islam

source: Bernjan

Let’s take a good look through one particular keyhole; and a very pretty one it is, too.

It looks out onto the manicured gardens and reflected pools of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.

The Alhambra represents the apogee of Islamic culture in Spain, its roseate walls rising on a crag high above the city, framed by the snowy flanks of the Sierra Nevada.

Last year two and a half million tourists visited the Alhambra palace to gasp at the impossible beauty of the Court of Myrtles or gaze up in awe at the honeycombed dome of the Sala de los Abencerrajes.

Built during the fourteenth century by Yusuf 1 and Mohammed V, the Alhambra rose to fame at a time when Islam was not associated with terrorist atrocities in the leading cities of Europe. There was another group responsible for that. (We’ll come to them in a moment.)

Reconquista, Granada, Spain. ISIS, Islam

13th century illustration depicting a public library in Baghdad, from the Maqamat Hariri. Bibliotheque Nationale de France

In fact, while Europe was wallowing in a mire of religious conservatism, Muslim scholars were laying the foundations for modern science, medicine, astronomy and navigation.

The Abbasid caliphs of the 8th to 13th centuries had promoted a rationalistic vision, making it a sacred duty to inquire into the workings of the world.

Their scholars had direct access to the remnants of the Roman and Hellenic cultures, in places such as Alexandria, Antioch, and Cairo, whose libraries held literally hundreds of thousands of books at a time when the best monastic libraries in Europe housed, at most, a few dozen.

They prepared Arabic versions of the works of Aristotle, Euclid, Ptolemy and Archimedes, and set up schools such as the House of Wisdom in Baghdad.

Not only did they preserve classical scholarship, Muslim thinkers also innovated in fields such astronomy, optics, cartography, medicine, and falsafa (philosophy).

Reconquista, Granada, Spain. ISIS, Islam

They developed the astrolabe (the most powerful analog computer before the modern age) and men like the Persian al-Khwarizmi (from whom we get the word algorithm) discovered algebra (al-jebra).

More importantly, without Islamic tolerance for the People of the Book, it is unlikely that the Jewish race could have survived.

Imagine a world without their contribution to art, medicine, science, literature and music (… think about no Albert Einstein, no Sigmund Freud, no Albert Sabin – who developed the polio vaccine – no Paul Simon, no Leonard Cohen, no Chagall, no Asimov …)

Oh, and you can also forget about Google and the invention of the Internet.

So who was the equivalent of ISIS back then? Which religious group tried to impose their fanatical views by employing extreme acts of violence and used God to justify them?

You may have heard of them: they called themselves the Holy Inquisition


05 (2)

Granada’s surrender in 1491 signaled the end of what later became known as the Reconquista. The reconquest of Spain from the Moors had largely been financed by Jewish money but now the job was done Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, urged on by the Grand Inquisitor, Torquemada, had the Jews expelled.

The ‘Alhambra Decree’ gave all Jews living in Spain three months to quit the country – leaving behind all their gold, silver, money, arms, or horses. (Or convert to Christianity. Those that chose that option became targets for the Inquisition anyway.)

Reconquista, Granada, Spain. ISIS, Islam

Where did the diaspora go?

Some went to Portugal, where their sanctuary lasted only a few years, or to Naples. Most went to the Maghreb, to seek the protection of … Islam.

Every historical novel is a keyhole in time. One problem for HF readers is that the time in question may seem so distant, it is hard to relate to it.

The problem for HF authors is that after a while history becomes so eerily familiar you realize that mankind is caught in an endless loop.

Reconquista, Granada, Spain. ISIS, Islam

ISIS, Trump, the refugee crisis in Europe?

It’s all been done before, and because we didn’t learn anything the first time, one day soon we’ll do it all again – just with a different cast.

Oh and by the way the edict expelling all Jews from Spain was finally revoked, of course.

Fifty years ago.

Seville, 1489.

The end of the Reconquista.

Diego Sanchis is Seville’s most famous painter; his tryptychs and murals fill every church in the city.

He is also ugly, angry, possibly Jewish and a dwarf.

Nobody but his father loves him and Diego likes it just that way.

Until one day he is asked to take on a new student.

historical fiction, spain, seville, granada, Colin Falconer, reconquista, love

Mercedes Goncalvez is the most beautiful young woman in the city, and her father is rich and powerful.

What could such a woman possibly see in him?

But there are many ways to see beauty.

And beyond the dungeons of the Inquisition; beyond betrayal and torture; and even as the guns pound the heavenly gardens of the Alhambra, and the Moors prepare to leave Spain forever, Diego finds true beauty among the ashes of his last hopes.

This week  A GREAT LOVE OF SMALL PROPORTION is Book of the Week at CoolGus Publishing. And THIS WEEK ONLY, readers in the US and UK can get the eBook for just .99 cents! Just click here to get a copy!

Remember too, if you join my newsletter you’ll always hear first about any specials and new releases as soon as they happen. Find the link at the top of the page or you can sign up here. (You can unsubscribe any time, of course.)

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Just click here and ask Jen Talty to make you a member! It’s free to join!


She was raised as a royal French princess, trained to marry and to obey.

Yet she became the only woman ever to invade England – and take the crown by force.

Who was she? And why were you never taught more about her at school?

Isabella, Braveheart of France,  is now exclusive to Amazon.

AMAZON buy3._V192207739_

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