David Lawrence-Young

David Lawrence-Young – Verisimilitude – Seeming to be real

David Lawrence-Young

Last time I wrote about why I write historical novels. This time I’m going to write about Verisimilitude – a lovely long word meaning the quality of seeming to be real. In other words, when I write, I do my best to get the historical facts (dates, names, places etc.) that I use in the main story or as part of the background absolutely right.



David Lawrence-Young


I will give you an example of this. Several years ago I wrote a story based on the accidental killing (or was it a pre-arranged murder?) of England’s King William II who was also nicknamed William Rufus because of his ruddy appearance. He was killed in the New Forest in the south of England by an arrow, supposedly by his hunting companion, Walter Tirel. When I wrote this story, I wanted to know which sort of trees grew in this forest. I contacted a friend in England who loves nature and who lived not too far from the forest to check out the situation for me. This is an example of going after the truth.

Credibility in writing historical novels is paramount. You may put words into your hero’s or villain’s mouth but you cannot have them saying what they say against an incorrect background. If I write a story about Thomas Jefferson signing the Declaration of Independence on 3 July 1774 or that William the Conqueror landed in England in 1065 then I’m guaranteed to lose my readers very quickly. And not only for this book, but forever!

Blog pic 2 Gallipoli grave_001

Another way I make my novels as true as possible is by actually visiting the places themselves. When I wrote my novel about England’s King Henry V, Arrows Over Agincourt, I based much of the section about this battle on two visits I made to this famous battlefield. Similarly, when I wanted to describe the First World War backdrop to my novel on the Zion Mule Corps, Of Guns and Mules (featuring Trumpeldor and Jabotinsky), I paid a visit to the Gallipoli battlefield where, by the way, I saw several Jewish gravestones among the other silent witnesses to what had happened there in 1915. In the same way, I visited the River Senio area in northern Italy where the Jewish Brigade fought and beat a crack Nazi unit some thirty years later. This I described in Of Guns, Revenge and Hope.

            But it’s not only battlefields I’ve visited. I was personally conducted around Corpus Christi College in Cambridge by the Chancellor himself when I was writing Marlowe: Soul’d to the Devil, a biographical novel about Christopher Marlowe, the Elizabethan playwright.

This is the ‘fun’ part of writing: the writing and the research. The ‘not fun’ part is finding decent publishers and dealing with them. This I will tell you about next time.

In the meanwhile, if you wish to visit my site, here it is: www.dly-books.weebly.com and I’ll be very happy to hear from you.

David Lawrence-Young – Author, Lecturer and Commentator

David Lawrence-Young

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