RESEARCHING MY NEXT BOOK
I have recently completed the first draft of my next novel – Guardians at the Wall. This is dual timeline historical novel set at Hadrian’s Wall. It was inspired by a visit to a number of Roman sites and museums close to Hadrian’s Wall in September 2020. This is very much my Winter 20/21 novel, and it has helped keep me sane through this trying Covid-19 lockdown.
I have set the launch date for 1st June, and intend to reveal the cover in my 1st April newsletter. The book blurb is a work in progress, but this is the current version:
A group of archaeology students in northern England scrape at the soil near Hadrian’s Wall, once a barrier that divided Roman Britannia from wild Caledonian tribes.
Twenty-year-old Noah makes an intriguing find, but hasn’t anticipated becoming the object of desire in a developing love triangle in the isolated academic community at Vindolanda. He is living his best life, but must learn to prioritise in a race against time to solve an astounding 2,000-year-old riddle, and an artefact theft, as if his career depends on it, because it does.
In the same place, in the year 180 C.E., Centurion Gaius Atticianus, hungover and unaware of the bloody conflicts that will soon challenge him, is rattled by the hoot of an owl, a bad omen.
These are the protagonists whose lives will brush together in the alternating strands of this dual timeline historical novel, one trying to get himself noticed and the other trying to stay intact as he approaches retirement.
How will the breathless battles fought by a Roman officer influence the fortunes of a twenty-first century archaeology mud rat? Can naive Noah, distracted by the attentions of two very different women, work out who to trust?
Find out in Tim Walker’s thrilling historical dual timeline novel, Guardians at the Wall.
I have tried to link the contemporary and historical strands of my story through objects and through themes, such as trust, loyalty, societal attitudes and locations. One object that fascinated Noah that is on display in the Vindolanda museum, is fragment of a glass drinking tankard with a hand-painted colour frieze around it depicting gladiators fighting (pictured). In my historical story, Gaius and his mates drink a toast to Saturn on the eve of the Saturnalia festival, downing the ale poured by a serving girl and passing it on to the next in their circle, each having to tell a story of bravery in battle. To think that Roman legionaries over 1,800 years ago would have drunk from this tankard in the tavern outside the walls of Vindolanda fort is amazing to me.
Here is what the Vindolanda guidebook says about this incredible discovery:
“A long strip building, situated just outside the west gate of the fort, was the Vindolanda tavern. here the people of Vindolanda would have been able to enjoy locally brewed beer and wines from across the Empire and hot food. The front of the building, facing onto the street was where the common room or bar was situated. Its ceiling was held up by pillars to provide an open social area, with a small kitchen set behind to supply meals to travellers and patrons. You can imagine this would have been a noisy and smelly room, on of the focal social points of Vindolanda in the 3rd century.
When excavated, the tavern produced the highest concentration of drinking vessels from the site. One of those vessels is a fragment of the beautifully painted gladiator glass cup (now in the museum). The tavern owners had planned for their future by burying 270 coins below the floor of the kitchen. Unfortunately for them they never had the chance to spend the money as it remained hidden until excavators located the hoard in the 1977 excavation. It is likely that some of the money, which you can now see on display in the Vindolanda museum, was used to buy a round or two of beer in the tavern, almost 1,800 years ago.”
Here’s an extract from Guardians at the Wall. It is the scene where Gaius Atticianus, Officer of the Watch, meets auxiliary soldier, Amborix, on the battlements at Vindolanda in 180 C.E. on a cold winter’s night:
“Thank you, sir – although I have been told something different,” Amborix replied, also turning to watch the shimmering lights. He was only a few months at the Wall, and had already spent his meagre wages on woollen socks and a thick tunic he wore day and night. He watched in silence as the mysterious wave of light added in new colours – red, blue, violet and yellow – as it climbed into the night sky. “This is a strange land,” he added, throwing a stone in the direction of a hoot from an owl, “and a cursed one. Our protector, Sol Invictus, will only rise from his slumber for a few short hours.”
Gaius decided to ignore his insolence and let him prattle on. His head still throbbed from the beer he had drunk with his unit at the tavern that afternoon to celebrate the start of the feast of Saturnalia. They had sacrificed a goat to Saturn and had roasted the meat on a spit beside the tavern. Now he regretted the last two toasts, but grinned at the memory of drunken tales of bravery on their last posting in the wild lands north of the Wall. A glass tankard depicting colourful gladiators fighting for their lives had been passed around his carousing mates – each making a toast and downing the contents as a serving girl stood by ready to re-fill it from a pitcher.
“It is indeed a strange and wild land, but you will see in the coming weeks that Sol Invictus will gain more hours and Artemis will sulk in her hall. The long days of summer will come to give me more time with my horses.” He adjusted his shoulder guard and turned to the youth. “In Rome they say this is an empire without end, but here we are, boy, at the wild edge of Empire, hemmed in by the Wall.”