Do you like books set in the past?

I find the past fascinating, and love reading and writing historical novels.  In two recent blogs, I have written about some of the reasons for setting a story in a particular century.  I also realise that a writer can re-tell some stories in a different setting, more readily than others. As promised, I now come to a different reason why people sometimes choose a historical setting for a novel.

The past is less in-your-face than the present.

What I mean is that, if you are writing about a controversial subject, you can make it less offensive, if you set it in the past. You are not talking about ‘us’ but about some other people. Hopefully, when people think about it, they will see it applies to ‘us’ as well as to ‘them’. Readers may find things some of the characters say are echoed in things they hear today. Perhaps they will see they are as wrong now as they were then.

Why not be obvious? Why hide it in the past?

If you mention something controversial, such as race, gender, religion or Ireland, people tend to take sides as soon as you begin, before they have heard what you are saying. When they read something that happened back in some other age, they sometimes come with a more open mind. When you have deplored racism in the US Cavalry in a western, you might reflect on the similarities to racism in the Army or the Police today. If the book was set in the present, you might reject its message before you had taken it in.

Is that why I set Highwaypersons in the past?

No! The stories are bound up in the events in Britain in the early eighteenth century. But you will find things in those novels that are relevant today. After all, race, sex, class and injustice were around then and still are.

Read them and see. Go to