Sunday, January 6, 2013



The knights of dark renownAs I believe I have commented before, I wish I had kept a journal recording all the books I have read—because then I would be better equipped to express the gratitude I feel to so many of their authors.

They saw me through many difficult times, steered me clear of depression, enriched my life to a degree that I can never express adequately, and steered me towards a craft which is endlessly rewarding.

Eventually, I, too, became an author—my life’s ambition and an extraordinary privilege as far as I was—and am—concerned. I worked hard for that honor. Nonetheless, primarily I owe it to the authors who went before me. Once I could read and write—a gift beyond price in itself—I learned by reading; and since I adored reading, I adored learning. Mind you, it depended on the subject. I cannot, in honesty, say I enjoyed Physics & Chemistry (though I do now) but have long being fascinated by history, and thus by historical novels.

Graham Shelby is a truly fine historical novelist. His list of works is as follows—courtesy of Wikipedia:

  • The Knights of Dark Renown (1969), set in the Kingdom of Jerusalem during the reigns of Baldwin IV, Baldwin V and Queen Sibylla.
  • The Kings of Vain Intent (1970), sequel to the above, dealing with the Third Crusade, depicting Conrad of Montferrat as the villain: the US edition contains an additional chapter.
  • The Villains of the Piece (1972) (published in the US as The Oath and the Sword), about the conflict between King Stephen and Queen Matilda.
  • The Devil is Loose (1974), a sequel to The Kings of Vain Intent, following the later career of Richard I of England.
  • The Wolf at the Door (1975), about John of England.
  • The Cannaways (1978), a story of a fictional eighteenth century family.
  • The Cannaway Concern (1980), sequel to the above.
  • The Edge of the Blade (1986).
  • Demand the World (1990), based on the life of Eliza Lynch.

The Knights of Dark Renown and The Kings of Vain Intent were translated into German as Ritter der Finsternis in 1975, and The Devil is Loose and The Wolf at the Door as Der ertrinkende Eberin 1980.

I am currently re-reading THE KNIGHTS OF DARK RENOWN—and enjoying it thoroughly. Here is one of the Amazon reviews:

This book follows the lives and actions of Europeans living and ruling in Palestine after the second crusade. The book centers on the conflict between the Christian leaders and the Saracans led by Saladin. There is much conflict between those who want to continue the peace with the Moslems, notably the leper King Baldwin and his supporters, led by the noble Lord Balian and those who scorn peace and want to wipe out the Moslems, led by the despicable Lord Reynald, known for his cruel acts of violence. Along with political intrigue the book features the romance between Humphrey, the stepson of the dreaded Reynald, and Isabella, the stepdaughter of Balian.

This book offers a clear look into the trials and tribulations of life in Palestine during the Middle ages. It has it all: intrigue, battles, love, romance - and it delivers all of these components in solid fashion. Shelby takes dry historical facts and breathes life into them, filling in the gaps with characteristic insight and detail, resulting in a wonderful story that transports the reader into the time and place of the Crusades. By the time of the fateful final battle with Saladin and his forces, the reader wishes to be transported into the leaders' tents to bash some sense into them. This book is more than a good read: it is an educational experience of a time and place most of us know very little of. This book is hard to find, but it is worth the look.

Kingdom of Heaven PosterI completely agree with that conclusion.

Incidentally, the core story covered in Graham Shelby’s book was eventually turned into the movie, KINGDOM OF HEAVEN by director Ridley Scott.

The writer was William Monaghan who also wrote BRAVEHEART.

Was Graham Shelby credited in any way? If he was, he is not listed on IDB. He certainly should have been in my judgment.

His book is a gem.


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