Did you know. . .?

AD 193 – The Year of the Five Emperors


In AD 193, the mighty Roman Empire was in turmoil. Emperor Commodus was dead and his successor, Helvetius Pertinax, was killed shortly after claiming power. The scandal that followed rocked the Empire as two rival candidates faced one another for the title. Didius Julianus was victorious, but his grip on power was unstable from the start. Three outraged supporters of the previous Emperor proclaimed themselves as rightful heirs; Pescennius Niger, Clodius Albinus and Septimius Severus. Each had substantial troops at their command and despite trying to bribe support, eventually allegiance to Didius ebbed away. He was executed after only two months in power, allowing Niger, Albinus and Severus each to take over in turn.

This thrilling period of uncertainty is known as the Year of the Five Emperors and is the setting for Rosemary Rowe’s latest title, The Ides of June.


The Ides of June has just been released in ebook.







Behind the book


PYROPHOBIA by Jack Lance

I am your dead girlfriend…

“Hey, it’s me again. I was dead for a while…”

What would go through your mind if a complete stranger greeted you with an introduction like that?

Not a hard guess, I think.

But I once met an elderly woman who spoke these exact words.

She prefers her real name not to be known. In my novel Pyrophobia I called her Anya. Here’s an excerpt from the novel:

Anya had been experiencing the same nightmare for years. In her dreams she ran past houses and across rooftops, fleeing from enemies dressed in Nazi-style uniforms. Sometimes she heard strange screams. They were unbearable, demon-like. When Anya heard these screams, she would clap her hands over her ears to block out the horrible sound.

One day, during a yoga class, she had a horrifying vision. A mass grave had appeared in her mind’s eye and she heard people screaming. When those sudden, terrifying images disappeared, she started to believe in reincarnation. “It felt so intimate. As if a fountain of sorrow had sprouted from inside me. The vision was related to my own past,” Anya said.

She went into regression and returned to a past life. She ended up inside one of Joseph Stalin’s prison camps, a starving and haggard woman in her late twenties. Anya remembered incidents of torture and sexual abuse, and ultimately her death. During her regression she had seen how sickness and exhaustion had finally killed her inside a small, dark room void of any light. When she relived the horror of that life, she understood why in her present life she sometimes suffered panic attacks in the dark.

Dying inside Stalin’s camp had ended the pain. After that, everything had been bright and white and peaceful. She had the feeling she had ‘been asleep for a little while,’ and she had been reborn, as Anya, only a few weeks after her demise in the death camp.

After her regression therapy Anya became aware of her previous life, and also of the people who had been her friends and relatives in her other existence. She had looked them up, but of course these people from ‘before’ hadn’t recognized her. “I wanted to shout at them that it was me. I’d been dead for a little while, but now I was back,” Anya said. Finally, however, she had come to the realization that she had to let go of ‘before’ and find her own way in life ‘now’.

 All this is in fact what the real ‘Anya’ told me. In my novel, I just changed the setting of her previous life. The real Anya, in her previous life born in 1914 as a Jew, died in 1944 in the gas chamber of the concentration camp Auschwitz – not in one of Stalin’s prison camps. Just a few weeks later she was reborn, or so she claims. And when this life ends, it will for her be as if it has been one life that started in 1914, not thirty years later.

She says she remembers many details about her previous life as a Jew, including the man she fell in love with. In her current life she visited him and was astounded that he didn’t recognize her.

“At one moment he looked at me sharply and I wondered: is it finally going to dawn on him that I was his girlfriend? But when his eyes turned away, I knew I had lost him forever. That hurt because I felt I was still the same person.”

Anya remembered many more people, events and details of her much too short life as a Jew. It’s easy to brush all this aside as nonsense. And it’s impossible to prove it true.

So, what to make of this tale of Anya?

Personally I think that if it were only Anya claiming she has had a previous life, you might have a solid point to call it nonsense. Except worldwide there are millions of people, if not more, who will tell you similar stories. This gives credit to Anya.

Compare it to the billions of stars and planets out there and ask yourself if we really are alone in the universe.

I want my fiction to be true. This is why I don’t write about vampires and zombies (well, I do sometimes, but only in short stories) and do write about things which just might be real, however strange they seem. The trueness being that I experienced them myself, or perhaps other people did. That probably doesn’t count for a whole lot in the eyes of scientists or sceptics, but still, at least I have heard stories about phenomena like, for instance, reincarnation. Never, however, have I heard of someone meeting the real Count Dracula.

I like to believe readers appreciate these mysterious, intriguing flavours in my novels, otherwise Pyrophobia wouldn’t have been a success in thirteen languages and many more countries all over the world.

9780727885692 Jack Lance is a bestselling author of mystery and suspense. His thrillers, Pyrophobia and Zone, are inspired by his previous career, in which he reported for newspapers and magazines about people’s strange yet true experiences.

Visit our website for more information on Jack Lance and these titles.

Editor’s Pick – Casting Bones

9780727886361Kate Lyall Grant has selected June’s Editor’s Pick. We hope you enjoy it.

We are delighted to welcome USA Today bestselling author Don Bruns to Severn House with CASTING BONES, the first in a brand-new series of atmospheric mysteries set in that most exotic of all American cities: New Orleans. Having left his native Detroit under something of a cloud, the homicide detective protagonist, Quentin Archer, arrives in the city to be thrown straight into a high-profile murder investigation when the body of a prominent New Orleans judge is found floating in the Mississippi. Archer’s enquiries lead him into a sinister world of darkness and mysticism which underpins the carefree atmosphere of the Big Easy – but it’s only when he meets beautiful young voodoo queen Solange Cordray that he begins to find the answers.

A pacy and compelling read, with its cunningly planted clues and nicely-balanced juxtapositioning between Solange’s voodoo mysticism and Archer’s more conventional dogged detective work, what makes this police procedural stand out, I think, is the richly atmospheric backdrop of New Orleans, still suffering the toxic fallout from Hurricane Katrina. Bruns succeeds in bringing the city vividly to life in all its edgy, dangerous, sleazy, corrupt, racially-tense and intoxicating glory – and the inevitable culture clash between the conscientious, by-the-book, Detroit-trained Archer and his new partner Adam Strand, who brings his more relaxed, bend-the-rules ‘Big Easy’ attitude to the investigation ensures that sparks fly throughout. Highly recommended!

Reviewers, Booksellers and Librarians can request a review copy now from NetGalley.

Competition – Pauline Rowson

In celebration of Portsmouth International Port’s 40th anniversary here is the chance to win signed copies of two of the latest crime novels by Pauline Rowson.  Why not delve into the adventures of DI Andy Horton in Fatal Catch and marine investigator, Art Marvik in Dangerous Cargo. Great reading and an excellent addition to any ferry or cruise trip.

Entries must be received by 30 June 2016. Only one entry per person.

Click here to enter the competition.

Good luck.

The Portsmouth International Port features in the DI Andy Horton crime novels where it is referred to as either the Commercial Ferry Port or the Continental Ferry Port, before it was re-branded to reflect its burgeoning operations. Owned and operated by Portsmouth City Council, the Port has grown extensively since its formation in 1976 when initially it offered  just one route to France from a small section of reclaimed harbour front. Now it is known as Britain’s Best Connected Port with more destinations than any  other UK Port. The  Port is also a key destination for fresh fruit and vegetables from all over the  world.

You can also read the article about crime author Pauline Rowson on the Portsmouth International Port’s website.

Pauline Rowson, with Art Marvik Crime Novel, Dangerous Cargo and Geest Line's MV Benguela Stream - picture Malcolm Wells

Picture: Malcolm Wells

Nancy Pearl Book Award

9780727885500Congratulations to Bharti Kirchner on making the shortlist for the Nancy Pearl Book Award 2016 with Goddess of Fire.

A remarkable novel of a young widow following her dreams 
Moorti – widowed at just 17 and about to be burned on her husband’s funeral pyre – is saved from the fire by the mysterious Englishman, Job Charnock, Moorti, renamed Maria, must embrace her new life amongst the English traders. But the intelligent and talented Maria is not content to be a servant for the rest of her life.

2016 Nancy Pearl Finalists
Best Book, Fiction, Mainstream or Literary
  1. The Girl Who Wrote in Silk, by Kelli Estes
  2. Goddess of Fire, by Bharti Kirchner
  3. The Announcers, by J.G. Perkins
  4. Waiting for the Cool Kind of Crazy, by Michael Moore
  5. Uncle Kenny’s Other Secret Agenda, by Lawson Reinsch

We have everything crossed for the end of July when the winner will be announced.




Paul Doherty -Brother Athelstan Series

9780727898487At the end of 2011, Severn House published Bloodstone by Paul Doherty, set in medieval London and featuring Dominican Friar, Brother Athelstan. It had been eight years since the last entry in the series and so the author wrote a background article setting the scene. Here is the article for anybody who missed it, or for those of you who are looking for a new historical mystery series to read.

London can be a dangerous, murderous place but no more so than in the icy winter of 1380.  Medieval London seethed with unrest. The gangs, the hordes of wolfsheads and the rest of the swarming low life hungered for easy pickings. They waited for the Great Revolt when the peasants in the surrounding shires would rise in bloody rebellion against the Crown. London would descend into chaos. The prospect of wholesale looting and pillaging was a very real danger.  People were choosing sides, be it Sir Robert Kilverby locked in his secure chamber in Cheapside, or the monks at the Abbey of St Fulcher-on-Thames. Murder would sharpen such choices. Kilverby is found dead, poisoned, yet there is no evidence as to who was responsible or how the assassin struck. Meanwhile, at St Fulcher’s, retired members of the Wyvern Company, former archers who served in France, are being gruesomely slaughtered. All these murders seem to be connected to an exquisitely beautiful ruby – the Bloodstone. The Coroner of London, Sir John Cranston, together with his clerk the Dominican friar, Brother Athelstan, have to investigate.

BLOODSTONE evokes all the grandeur and grimness, the sanctity and the sheer corruption of medieval life. BLOODSTONE is the eleventh of the Sorrowful Mysteries of Brother Athelstan and, like its predecessors, is based on original research. Sir John Cranston, the Coroner, deals with cases which a medieval coroner had to sift through, and they were often very busy!

London, with its narrow, ill-lit streets, its many taverns, inns and ale-houses was a violent city. Men and women went armed, be it with bows and arrows, swords, clubs and a wide range of daggers. Murder could erupt over the roll of a dice, or the wrong word to the wrong person at the wrong time.

For those who did commit murder there would be summary justice, followed by a hanging at the Elms at Smithfield or at the Forks by Tyburn stream. Naturally, many murderers decided not to wait around. They could flee for sanctuary to one of the London churches or seek even greater protection in those sprawling enclaves of London were the law could not enter.

Two of the most popular haunts for the Utlegati, i.e. those literally beyond the law, were the sanctuary at St Martin’s Le Grand, or the great sanctuary of Westminster Abbey. These nests off iniquity were the hosting places for the robbers, conmen, rifflers and assassins, men and women who’d slit another’s throat for a mere pittance. Strange eccentric characters thrived there, spies and Judas men.

Of course, iniquity was not just the monopoly of the poor; the wealthy mansions of Cheapside and the hallowed, hollow passage-ways of the great abbeys could also be the haunt of murder. The prospect of profit, as in a great deal of human wickedness, was and is the inspiring motive. Abbeys, churches, and all religious houses across Europe dreamed of holding a great relic, be it a piece of the True Cross, (and there were enough of these to build an entire navy!) or even a feather from an angel’s wing.

The Bloodstone is one of these precious relics; it not only carries a blessing but also a powerful curse. Paul Doherty weaves all these themes into a seamless, medieval tapestry which evokes the vibrant richness and rawness of medieval life. BLOODSTONE not only poses great mysteries but is a journey back to a London much more dangerous and exciting than we could ever imagine.

Severn House has subsequently published the following titles in the Brother Athelstan series, all available in hardcover, trade paperback, large print and ebook.

9781780103631_FC   9781780290607   9781780290669  9781780290799  9781780290867

Visit our site for more information on these titles.