Indie Roundup: A Look at Exceptional Indie HF of 2014

by Helen Hollick

Tristan and IseultThere were two things I wanted to do when I took over as Managing Editor for the HNS Indie Reviews: 1. Encourage good quality – if the end result is poorly produced it can spoil the reading experience. The Indie Editorial Team, consisting of myself, Janis Pegrum Smith and Nicky Galliers in the UK, and US-based Steve Donoghue – plus all our wonderful volunteer reviewers – take into account how a novel looks as well as how it is written. 2. Introduce an HNS Indie Award. For 2014 the winners and runners up were difficult to choose; for the forthcoming 2015 Award it is proving even harder! All novels submitted for Indie Review are eligible; if your book is chosen as an Editor’s Choice it is automatically added to the longlist, from which a shortlist and eventual finalists are selected.

Two favourites of US Editor Steve Donoghue were 1914 by Charles B. Smith – an “impressive debut novel” – and The Art Procurer by Jeff Ridenour – “plenty of intrigue, a surprising amount of humor… a remarkable and sometimes quite sad worldly wisdom.” The Spirit Room by Marschel Paul was reviewed by Sarah Johnson because she thoroughly enjoyed it, while My Lady Viper: Tales from the Tudor Court by E. Knight and The Love Letter of John Henry Holliday by Mary Fancher became strong US shortlist contenders.

From the UK enjoyable reads were provided by Anna Belfrage with two more episodes of her Graham Saga: Serpents in the Garden and Revenge and Retribution; these are superb timeslip novels brimming with seventeenth-century detail and adventure: “The action races along towards a terrifying climax… period and place are brought vividly to life, with smells, sounds, plants, food and stunning geographical descriptions.”

Another novel by David Ebsworth passed muster in the form of a fascinating story of the Zulu Wars: The Kraals of Ulundi. “An accomplished, rich, beautifully produced and very rewarding read.”

Good reads, too, came with A Just and Upright Man by R J Lynch and another in the Roma Nova Alternative History series, Successio by Alison Morton: “Absolutely recommended and well worth a read.” The Evergreen in Red and White by Steven Kay makes clear that “the life and work of a professional footballer in the 1890s was very different from the modern image.” After reading The Liverpool Connection by Elisabeth Marrion, the reviewer complimented the author whose “talent lies in the details, the description and portrayal of the times.”

I was pleased that The Tribute Bride became an Editor’s Choice; the author, Theresa Tomlinson, has an immense talent. So does J D Smith, whose excellent novel, Tristan and Iseult, was singled out as “A great adaptation of a legend.” I remember a pop hit from years back, Tokolosh Man, but had no idea what it meant; thanks to In the Shadow of the Tokolosh by Conrad K, I’ve been enlightened. The review noted “… breathtaking descriptions of Africa.”

Finally, a book that would perhaps not fit mainstream because it is different – it is here that Indie comes into its own. A Day of Fire was written by an ‘Inspiration’ of six authors (what is the group name for authors?) who came together to write their own individual chapters about one dramatic event – Pompeii. Nothing original in that? Well, “the originality lies in the extremely smooth and professional way it has been done.” A firm contender for the Award shortlist, I think!

My thanks to Steve, Janis, Nicky and all our reviewers. We have a harder task than the mainstream reviewers because, for Indie, there is no intermediary agent or publisher. Some submissions, unfortunately, are not of a standard to warrant a review, but finding the gems is an absolute delight! As an Indie author myself, I can speak for all historical fiction Indie authors when I say: “Thank you HNS for so enthusiastically supporting us.”

About the contributor: Helen Hollick is Managing Editor HNS Indie Reviews.


Published in Historical Novels Review  |  Issue 71, February 2015

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