Don’t eat the figs

Fresco - Figs in a basket

I had prepared for this moment and in my head was a list of the things I must now do. I rose with the first, carefully-thought-out speech, on my lips – “May the gods receive my husband the Emperor Augustus into the place they have surely prepared for him” – when I realised that Ceryllus had actually said the wrong name.

Triumphs and Tragedies

“Triumphs and Tragedies” is an anthology of short stories on a Roman theme. Authors like Derek Birks and Peter Tonkin have contributed, and it includes my own Lucius Sestius story, “Blood Money”, and is on the Kindle Unlimited scheme.

Fowl Play

Tree of Life

I woke up one morning with an idea for a short story. I drafted it out, and thought it would work, but I needed to check one thing. Did human flesh keep an impression of something that hit it?

“Hunter’s Revenge”

How appropriate that “Hunter’s Revenge” should be published on St Andrew’s Day, for it is whole-heartedly and gloriously Scottish.

Val Penny’s “Hunter’s Chase” on tour

Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until Edinburgh is safe.
Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city, and he needs to find the source, but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course.



Now that I’ve done the – 9th? 10th? – revision of the third novel in my Lucius Sestius trilogy, I am beginning to feel quite strongly about what my hero went through. Not what I have put him through – that is justifiable for the novelist! But the real Lucius Sestius Quirinalis went through enough […]

The pearls of Pliny the Elder 

Al-Zubarah-World Heritage site

My goodness, Pliny the Elder did not like pearls. Or seafood.

“Luxurious living and the corruption of morals arises mostly from shellfish.” (Book 9. 104)

Straight from telling us about crabs running backwards and changing into scorpions, Pliny gets right down to the nitty-gritty (oyster and pearl joke there), and goes on:

“Out of the whole of the natural world, the sea causes most harm to our stomachs.”

Etruscan towers

The Sestius family were associated with the town of Cosa through the number of amphorae discovered in the area, all with the family stamp. At the time of my Sestius family, Cosa was going through a decline, with rich owners investing in business-like villa estates out in the countryside and the great archaeologist Andrea Carandini […]

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