People often wonder whether historical novels are too fictitious to be relied on for knowledge of history. I think most historical novelists nowadays try to be true to the facts to a large extent. We are not writing for the Golden Days of Hollywood.
You do have to remember that you are reading fiction but it should not be pure fantasy.
Perhaps the following points will help clarify this.
- In Highwaypersons, I have tried to be as accurate as I can about the major events and have also tried to give what I consider a reasonably true impression of the economic and social background.
- I admit that I have made some adjustments to the facts for the benefit of the story, such as making the Battle of Preston take longer than it did so as to give my heroes time to do their stuff.
- To help you separate fact from fiction, I have followed the example of certain well known authors, by including some historical notes near the back of the book. At the front I have inserted a list of the main characters, where I have indicated those who were real historical people with an asterisk.
- I fully agree with Bernard Cornwell that some of the most bizarre incidents, those which readers consider too far-fetched, are usually those based closely on actual events, such as the two-stage surrender at Preston.
If you want to learn more about the history of the Eighteenth Century, there are plenty of works of non-fiction to go to. I will not mention any in particular, as they all meet different readers’ needs.
Finally, I find this quote, the source of which I have forgotten, worth remembering.
The textbooks tell you what happened: the historical novels tell you what it was like.