Ian Drury - Sheil Land Associates Ltd. - 52 Doughty Street - London WC1N 2LS

Monday, 8 February 2010


I had a meeting with my new agent last Thursday.

We'll not dwell here on how I came to be stopped by the police in London, and we'll pause only briefly to note that I missed bumping into Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon by something less than twenty-four hours.

The meeting went well. A great chat. Most encouraging.

But some of the time, at least, was spent weighing up the relative values of historical fiction and non-fiction.

See, historical fiction is going great guns at the moment, apparently. While a certain chain of bookstores seems to have decided that homo sapiens is incapable of reading - or, at least, buying - 'serious' books (to that bookstore I can only say: 'Don't make the same mistake as television! We're not all sheep!')

Now, with both of my major projects I have, at times, considered whether fiction might not be the way forward. But then I've stopped considering and carried on trying to tell the story of what (I believe) actually happened.

Had I been writing them as fiction, I would have wanted to present descriptions of people when no genuine descriptions or portraits of them exist. I would have wanted to describe the meals they ate, what they wore, what the weather was like ...

In short, I'd have made stuff up. And once you start doing that, you might as well make up the whole thing.

But then, I'm biased. I rarely read fiction. Too often, I've picked up a novel, read the first page, and then given up - which is why Authonomy was such a shock to my system (more of that anon). I find non-fiction infinitely more comforting. Reality, to me, has always been more interesting than, well, somebody else's imaginary world.

I put it down to my Welsh blood. We're a race of preachers and teachers (and poets and perverts), and we believe passionately in learning. I began researching my main subjects - the historical Arthur and the life and times of Will Shakespeare - because I wanted to know who these people were. And I've found out some fascinating things about them.

Would I really want to bury all that in a work that somebody could easily dismiss as 'just fiction'? I don't want the Dan Brown get-out clause: I'd rather have written 'The Holy Blood & The Holy Grail' (although I think the authors of the latter got it wrong).

So, for me, the real issue is: can non-fiction be as gripping, as engrossing, and as entertaining as fiction? Not just for an autodidact like me, but for your average reader?

Can we not prove that 'truth is always strange - stranger than any fiction'?

Still, the good news is that my long chat with my agent dispelled any nagging worries about e-books, self-publishing and all the current malarkey that so concerns the writer of today.

Got some more work to do on the projects. That should keep my mind off things for a while.

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