The Assassin of Laurentium Ebook

My short fantasy story The Assassin of Laurentium is now available to download in epub, mobi and PDF from You can find it here

Writing for the anthology has been an exciting experience; it’s brought my writing to a much bigger audience than I’ve been able to reach thus far. 

As for the story itself, I became very involved with the world building of Laurentium – a sort of late Roman, early medieval set up and enjoyed creating the characters. The story perhaps outgrew the limitations of what I was able to polish ready for the Loves Landscapes anthology but I plan to expand it into a more substantial work, after I’ve finished work on my vampire novel Mortal Peril which I hope to have ready in the next couple of months. I am in the throes of filling out the final scenes of that novel and then will come the task of editing. All in all, it’s been a productive summer so far!

The Assassin of Laurentium – An Excerpt (Love’s Landscapes Event)

In celebration of the story making it through the first round of edits, I’ve decided to post a short excerpt of The Assassin of Laurentium, submitted tor the Love’s Landscapes Anthology run by the M/M Romance Group on GoodReads. The stories should be posted on site throughout the summer before being available as a free e-anthology.

Here is the excerpt – hope it intrigues..

Artor was swimming; it was a blazing summer day and he was striking out for the centre of a shady pool that nestled in the overgrown meadow that bordered his village, before the forest began in earnest. The sun shone dappled through the willow branches on his bare wet skin. Sprawled on a sun-baked stone rising from the water’s depth, someone was waiting for him, laughing.

There was someone in his chamber. Instantly, Artor left his watery dreamworld far behind, was aware only of his straining senses, of the jewelled dagger that lay under his pillow, of the precise sequence of movements necessary for him to be upright, dagger in hand in the time it took for an arrow to find its mark.

Good morning, Sir. I’ve brought your breakfast.”

It was Iason, his servant, standing in the doorway holding a tray, his figure greyly delineated by the dull light of early morning seeping through the shutters.

Why have you disturbed me so early?” Even to his own ears, Artor’s voice sounded shrill, petulant. He’d been getting up after noon over the past month, generally passing the remainder of the day moping in his opulent quarters.

You have a summons from His Clarissimus Florianus. He wishes to see you directly after you’ve breakfasted.”

Artor bit his lip at this and took the tray in silence. A bunch of blushing grapes, a silver goblet of sweet wine and a platter of soft, hot cakes, sweetened with melting honey made up his dainty repast. He had known it would only be a matter of time before his period of respite came to an end.

A jealous, crazy nobleman, evidently misunderstanding the nature of a courtesan’s calling, had broken into his apartments in a distant palace, enraged by the rumour that Artor had taken on a new lover in preference to him. Taken utterly by surprise, Hercle, his guard, had been stabbed in the stomach by the killer as he slept before his door. Nonetheless, Hercle had grabbed his weapon and, despite his injury, managed to fight his attacker to the death in defence of his charge. It was hours later that Hercle died, his agonies barely soothed by the powerful draughts Artor had concocted for him.

Over and over, during the past month, Artor had replayed the event in his mind, thinking of how Hercle had lost his life defending him. At least the nobleman had acted from foolish jealousy, nothing more. If his attack had been motivated by the discovery that Artor was not merely a faithless lover, but had been sent to spy on him, was smuggling regular detailed dossiers of his words and actions back to Florianus in Laurentium, Artor’s guilt and self-recriminations would have been that much sharper. As it was, he could comfort himself that he had not failed in performing his duties, had merely been subject to ill-fortune and the hazards of the courtesan’s trade.

Artor sighed, and got to his feet, pulling a silken robe around himself and heading for the bathing chamber that adjoined his bedroom. A conflicted expression crossed the servant’s face; Iason would not venture to remonstrate with the young master, yet he was very conscious that his orders from the Clarissimus were that Artor should be brought before him without the delay occasioned by a courtesan’s leisurely bath.

The bathing chamber was a round, vaulted room, faced with glittering mosaics of gold and green. The bath itself was a sunken hollow at the centre. At a word from Artor, a loinclothed slave, standing by, cranked a wheel that turned with a grating sound. The faucets, ringing the pool from on high and shaped in the forms of gods and nymphs, fish and sea serpents, began to gush forth, steaming hot water gradually filling the sunken bath.

When the water was at waist height, Artor shrugged off his robe and, naked, descended the marble steps into the bath. Throughout his days of withdrawal from the world he had taken comfort in this heated pool, floating for what seemed like hours in reflective silence, until the sunlight dimmed in the green glass panels above his head and the servants came to light the sconces which cast their uneasy swaying lights over the surface of the water. Now, Artor called briskly for Iason to come and cleanse his limbs and body with scented oils and unguents, to rinse his blond tresses in apple vinegar and honey, massage and scrape until his skin felt alive and glowing, his blood pumping through him with new vigour.


From behind his desk, Florianus looked unamused at having been kept waiting. A tall, greybearded, somewhat emaciated man of around fifty years, he was clad in a thick robe of black velvet. Silently, Artor went to his knees before him, his eyes cast down to the dizzying configurations of the floor tiles. He remembered the dread and shame he had felt when he was first required to perform this act of obeisance, when he was brought before Florianus nine years ago as a boy of fifteen. Now, he felt only a distanced acceptance at complying with the ancient protocol of the Laurentine court.

It is good to see you in the land of the living again, boy. The death of Hercle shook you badly.”

Yes, Clarissimus. He was a loyal protector and a friend.”

He did what he had sworn to do; to die in your service if need be. We all have our duties to perform, Artor, from the Emperor down to the lowest slave who empties the chamber pots. It is essential to the survival of our great Empire that we all perform those duties, large or small to the best of our ability.”

Yes, Clarissimus.”

You have grieved long enough. The time has come for you to resume your service to the Empire.”

Artor nodded his bowed head in acquiescence.

We have need of your talents once again Artor, a new mission. I will outline the details for you presently, but first I must introduce you to your new bodyguard.” Florianus clapped his hands.



Coming Soon – The Assassin of Laurentium

This year, for the first time, I am participating in the Loves Landscapes event, hosted by the Goodreads Group M/M Romance.

Each year, group members are invited to select a picture and write a letter to prospective authors about the kind of story they would like to read about the characters in the picture. These letters and pictures are then posted as prompts over several days and any member of the group whether seasoned author, or brand new to publishing can pick a prompt that appeals to them on a first come, first served basis and undertake to write that story.

Initially I kept missing the times when the prompts were being released and wondered if I’d miss the boat altogether. (I realised later that it was because I was confused by time zones.)

As luck would have it, however, one trawl co-incided with the release of a picture of a strikingly beautiful blond young man draped in wisps of fabric in a lovely setting and the prompt to go with it also caught my imagination.

I don’t want to give too much away at this stage, but the story that has developed in the last couple of months is set to be my first public foray into fantasy fiction.

I’ve really enjoyed creating the world for this story and will most likely want to revisit and expand upon it. It is a late classical, early medieval sort of a world with Greco-Roman and Celtic influences showing strongly so far.

Laurentium is an ancient and cultured city that for centuries was at the centre of an Empire and officially still is – but its glory is fading and its hegemony is acknowledged to some degree more as a way for the burgeoning new kingdoms of the Empire to keep peace amongst themselves than because it can still rule the world through efficiency and force of arms. It continues in its millennial old ways in an unspoken state of proud decay..

Loves Landscapes stories are going to be released throughout the Summer for free download in various formats and will finally be available as an anthology.

I will update here with further news and maybe some snippets..


Meeting Tiberius and Other Roman Tales

I’ve just published a short story collection on Smashwords. Meeting Tiberius and Other Roman Tales is a collection of stories featuring the protagonists of  Gaius and Achilles and Dancing Phaedra.

Like the earlier works, these stories blend an evocation of the artistic demi monde of the Roman Republic in the years leading up to the Civil War depicting the erotic and emotional lives of the protagonists, in particular, of how they find ways of giving expression to their desires and fantasies of giving and receiving erotic pain, playing with the tropes of dominance and submission while continuing gleefully to subvert the values of a society based on slavery, hierarchy ,and aggressive military expansion. Image

What was Ancient Pantomime?

To the modern reader, the word pantomime is liable to conjure up images of seasonal performances involving unlikely, shambling horses, risque dames, and enterprising cats. For the ancient Roman, however, at least from the time of Augustus onwards, the word pantomime evoked a type of performance both rather more elegant and more culturally pervasive.

The origins of pantomime are uncertain, but from some point during the first century BCE and surviving into the Byzantine era, pantomime was a vastly popular art form throughout the Graeco-Roman world. Literary references, the remains of theatres, epigraphic evidence, and art works are all testimony to the ubiquity of pantomime from Britain to the Near East.

Combining theatre and dance, the performance of pantomime centred around a single dancer, masked and sometimes elaborately costumed, bringing to life a story using dance and gesture to convey action and emotion in a manner similar to modern ballet or Indian classical dance. The narrative was often derived from mythology or from Greek tragedy, though dances based on pastoral or erotic themes could provide lighter entertainment. The setting of pantomime performances could range from a street colonnade, a packed theatre during a festival to an intimate dinner party entertainment for the very wealthy.

While the pantomime actor would be accompanied by musicians and sometimes singers, librettists or chorus dancers, he or she would embody each of the principle roles of the drama in turn exchanging masks throughout the performance to indicate change of character.

The word ‘pantomime’ derives from the fact that the one performer would take on all the roles, as ‘panta’ is the Greek for ‘all’ and ‘mimesis’ is to imitate or act. The overall effect of a pantomime performance was highly dramatic, noisy and emotional.

Who were the Pantomime Dancers?

While there were female pantomime actors, the most prominent exponents of the art appear to have been male.

Famous names that survive through inscriptions and literary references include Bathyllus and Pylades, who were among the first exponents of the art known in Rome, at the time of Augustus. Succeeding generations of dancers would adopt these resonant names as their ‘stage name’.

The most famous and successful pantomime actors were close to the equivalent of modern day pop stars or film actors. They undertook extensive performance tours and were feted by ardent fans, whose support sometimes spilt over into violent and disorderly conduct or could be a focal point for expressions of political discontent. Dancers are frequently represented in literature as being the focus of erotic fascination by both men and women.

In a sense, pantomime dancers occupied a social role comparable to that of gladiators. Often slaves or former slaves, even when freeborn pantomime actors, along with other popular performers, were legally infamis, not equal to ordinary Roman citizens due to the disreputable nature of their trade which was seen as tantamount to prostitution. The fact that male dancers wore a translucent silk tunic to show off the movements of their limbs and that they dramatised female roles added the further element of transgression of accepted masculine behaviour. Like gladiators, however, dancers though officially frowned upon by elite society, were feted and celebrated at all social levels. Sulla, a leading politician of the Late Roman Republic is noted disapprovingly by Plutarch as being fond of the company of theatrical performers, including Sorex the ‘archmime’ (Plutarch: Life of Sulla 2.4, 36.1).

Lucian, the prolific Greek satirist of the 2nd century CE, wrote an extended essay on pantomime in which he defends the art against the charge of being trivial and sensational and stresses not only the high level of skill but also of education and culture which the pantomime dancer must attain to.

Pantomime was a form of entertainment available to all the inhabitants of the larger towns and cities of the Roman Empire. As well as more private and exclusive venues, it was performed in the streets and at large public theatres and festivals, where attendance was usually free. Relying on dance and gesture to convey a narrative (although there might be additional librettists or singers) pantomime could be enjoyed and understood by those without any education or even knowledge of Latin or Greek. In that way, pantomime served as a medium of Greek classical culture. Only a narrow social elite might have either the education or the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the plays of the Greek tragedians, but everyone could watch the dances based, however loosely, on their plots.

The lone, masked pantomime dancer was thus a peculiarly compelling figure whose virtuosity in conveying emotion, character and story, through a repertoire of movements and gestures, delighted and educated all levels of Graeco-Roman society, from slaves to emperors, for many centuries.

When creating the character of Antyllus, the pantomime star of Dancing Phaedra, I drew on the contradictory ideas of what a pantomime dancer meant to their original audiences; both highly disciplined and athletic yet accused of being soft and dissolute, often a slave or former slave and never really respectable yet capable of commanding an audience of thousands and communicating the stories and motifs that formed the bedrock of classical culture. Antyllus’ is the story of how a slave prostitute struggles to live a life which successfully embodies these latent contradictions.

I took liberties with the vague chronology of the development of pantomime in Rome before the stardom of the likes of Pylades or Bathyllus in the early Empire, but there is evidence of pantomime dancers flourishing elsewhere as early as 80 BCE so even if there is no evidence that there were pantomime dancers like Antyllus performing in Rome in the decades just prior to the Civil War, there is nothing to say that there weren’t.