There is something to be said for revisiting the classics, those books that have remained popular for decades.
I happened across a new edition of Paul Maier’s The Flames of Rome at the library. While penned nearly thirty years ago, the book shines as an example of historical fiction. Christian bookstores are overflowing with historical novels and some of them are simply badly written.
The novel chronicles the birth of the Christian church. This is hardly a new concept, but Maier’s approach is, shall we say, novel.
A professor of ancient history, Maier went to painstaking lengths researching the events leading up to the famous fire that destroyed vast portions of Rome in the first century. Initially emperor Nero blamed the Christians after people began accusing him of setting the blaze in order to make room for his new palace.
Maier researched the events, and then penned a novel faithful to the historical facts. There are no characters present in the book that history does not record. Often with historical fiction authors create a highly fictionalized world to flesh out the facts.
Maier deliberately avoided embellishing in any way. Where the historical record was silent and the narrative needed to be bridged, he evaluated the events and wrote the most likely occurrence. In the back of the book is a detailed chapter by chapter listing of the facts used in the book.
With a tone as fresh and engaging as any recent author, The Flames of Rome is a contemporary classic not to be missed.