In one novel, a veteran of the British Army discovers a valuable antique pendant that leads him, through family history, to the Iberian Peninsula under Napoleon’s invasion. In another novel, a young man named Vitruvius discovers after an assassination a coded message that leads him to Julius Caesar. Both stories begin with a mystery that sparks a deadly adventure, yet each is tempered with romance.
CEC friend and writer David Aucsmith has published two historical novels, edited by Matthew Bennett. David is a research scientist and a US Naval Officer with a background in military history and theory. He writes historical fiction and his process involves filling up the “white space” around historical events. “With historical fiction,” David states, “you have to respect the historical events and weave your characters in and around those actual events to create a compelling story with history as the backdrop.”
The result is two ambitious novels that make for delightful reading. Each book evokes in the reader a broad emotional response, from the fear and tension of deadly battle to the warmth and joy of tender romance.
In The Spanish Pendant (2020), a former Captain in the British Army, who lost a leg in Afghanistan, seeks to return a priceless pendant to a living relative of his ancestor’s mysterious finance. He must come to terms with his own painful past and the guilt that is strangling him. As he heals, the protagonist falls for a whip-smart woman and learns the story of an ancestor’s secret love.
You might recognize the titular name in David’s second novel, The Vitruvian Man (2023). Many are familiar with Leonardo da Vinci’s 1490 drawing of a man inside of a circle and square. What is less known is that this drawing of aesthetic proportions dates all the way back to ancient Rome. David’s protagonist Marcus Vitruvius Pollio is the only ancient architect whose work survives into the modern era.
According to David this novel treats “how Vitruvius came from humble beginnings to become an advisor to two Caesars while escaping the snares of political intrigue and a plot to overthrow the Republic itself.” Along the way, Vitruvius must decipher a coded conspiracy while making himself worthy of the love of the Greek physician Aemelia.
Continuing his creative engagement with the past, David is currently writing a third novel titled The Affair of the Pig (forthcoming). In this novel, a jaded army surgeon is forced to lead the investigation into the murder of an American in the early days of the so-called Pig War between the United States and Great Britain. Cascadians may recognize this as the almost-disaster that took place in the San Juan Islands in 1859. One false step by the army surgeon could be all it takes to turn a dead pig into a war between nations.
For more books and writing news from David Aucsmith, visit Tera Nova Press. We’re looking forward to being the first readers for his upcoming The Affair of the Pig.