About The Effing Book


Stele from Newstead, known as Trimontium

Stele from Newstead, known as Trimontium

The Effing Book in its present form is the fourth draft of a historical novel – my first, in fact – set in Roman Britain and Ireland in the early third century CE during the last months of the reign of Septimius Severus – the autumn/winter/spring and summer of 210 – 211 CE, to be precise.

Like all the best stories, it began out of a severe attack of boredom. The title – which may come as a surprise – is a working title chosen for all the times I heard the phrase “Are you ever going to finish writing that f****** book?” Hence…the Effing Book.

Although it is written as historical fiction, I’ve taken great pains to ensure that all the facts and indeed many of the real-life characters are as accurate as archeology and history will allow. My fact-checkers in both the world of Roman Britain and in Ireland have combed through the story with vitriolic pens and they pulled no punches. Therefore, I owe very much indeed to Volker Bach in Hamburg and Stíofan MacGamhalghaidh of Waterford, Ireland for excellent source material and some heated discussions about the interpretation of archeological finds.

The background is likewise all true. In 208 CE, the situation north of Hadrian’s Wall and the pesky headaches known as the Maeatae had grown bothersome to such an extent, Septimius Severus felt compelled to arrive in Britain with forty legions and have the problem of border raids and attacks on Roman settlements in the border districts dealt with once and for all. The precise details of the Scottish campaigns are subject to much extrapolation, but the evidence left behind by hundreds of marching camps all over Scotland tells its own story. Whatever the background, it would be over a hundred and fifty years before the Scots made any trouble for the Romans again.

The names I’ve chosen are all authentic Roman names. The Arrians, who gave rise to our hapless protagonist Gaius Arrius Rufus, were indeed a family of senatorial rank. The stele above – which I found while writing the third draft – was found at Newstead – Trimontium in the story – and describes it erected by a certain Gaius Arrius Domitianus, in honor of a pledge.

In Ireland, a substantial ringfort was excavated at Bray Head in County Wicklow in the nineteenth century. Not much is known of any finds, except a passing remark in ‘A Social History of Ancient Ireland’ stating that Roman coins had been found. Take that as you please.

But what really threw Irish Iron Age studies into a tizzy was a Roman fort/stronghold dating to the second century CE, that posed all sorts of interesting paradoxes to a prevailing theory of Irish isolationism.

I believe that no culture – especially one as closely allied to Britain as Ireland surely was – existed in a vacuum, and therefore, that the existence of Roman trading with Ireland was not only likely, but highly probable.

The Irish family names are all taken from the Onomasticum Goidelicum, and all chosen for having likely Iron Age origins. As for the rest…that’s why it’s called historical fiction!

As for the rest…Enjoy!