Steven Saylor usually writes about people who lived long ago and far away—USA Today calls him “a modern master of historical fiction.” But as he notes in the introduction to this volume, “Even the writer with the most powerful bent for producing fiction will from time to time find himself writing nonfiction instead. One is asked to review a book, or to interview a fellow author. One feels compelled to pay homage to a mentor, or to reflect on the writing process itself.”
A Bookish Bent collects a baker’s dozen of essays written over a period of almost twenty years, beginning in 1992 when Saylor was asked to interview the poet Thom Gunn. All these essays have a connection to reading or writing—including “On Big Trucks, Bush, and Bikes,” which begins at the Texas Book Festival in Austin but ends with a chilling reflection on the near-accident that might have prevented the presidency of George W. Bush and changed history.
History is at the center of essays like “Caesar’s Legacy and Its Twilight.” Other pieces explore Agatha Christie’s sole foray into the historical mystery genre, the vanishing reputation of detective fiction giant Stuart Palmer, the legend of the London Monster, the state of the mystery short story, and the peculiar allure of the works of archaeologist-cum-thriller writer Valerio Massimo Manfredi.
Saylor also reflects on the origins of his popular Roma Sub Rosa series featuring Gordianus the Finder, sleuth of ancient Rome. An invitation to publish a piece called “Why I Write” in Publishers Weekly led to more soul-searching than he expected. “Why do I write? The answer surprised even me.”