Author: James Duffy
The following review was contributed by: NORM GOLDMAN: Editor of Bookpleasures. CLICK TO VIEW Norm Goldman's Reviews
It is obvious from reading Sand Of The Arena that author James Duffy has an abiding and deep interest in the history of the gladiators and of the Roman Empire.To his credit, he has no doubt devoted countless hours in researching his debut novel, as poignantly illustrated in the many detailed scenes depicting the lives of the gladiators that dispel many of our aged-old preconceptions.
Drawing us into the era of Nero between the years 63-67AD, Sand Of The Arena revolves around Quintus Honorius Romanus son of Caicas and Politla. Although, Quintus is living a privileged life, all is not as rosy as it should be in the Romanus household, where a jealous slave, Lucius Calidus, barely hides his disdain and hatred for his master, and whom he considers “a spoiled rich kid.”
The family together with their slaves embark on a voyage to Britannia, where they are to meet with Quintus's uncle and aunt, Sextus and Julia, and where Lucius is to be left behind. On the way to Britannia the ship capsizes and claims the lives of everyone on board with the exception of Quintus, his bodyguard Aulus, who had taught him many techniques of the art of gladiator fighting, and Lucius. Unfortunately, Aulus was badly injured and Lucius decides to kill him. Subsequently, as Quintus is not in the best of shape, Lucius steals the latter's tunic and begins the charade of passing himself off as his master. The two are picked up by some fishermen and eventually make their way to the household of Sextus and Julia, where Lucius succeeds in convincing the couple that he in fact is their nephew and not Quintus, whom he ridicules. Consequently, the roles of Quintus and Lucius are now reversed in that the master becomes the slave, while the slave becomes the master. The ensuing lives of Quintus and Lucius are effectively contrasted- one based on brains, as well as bronze, while the other on deceit, greed and manipulation.
Sand Of The Arena displays all the hallmarks of excellent historical fiction with impeccable and affecting background, where events and scenes grip the reader's imagination with many a heart pounding moment. The narrative voice shows a strong cinematic influence, as the author in the past has provided creative development, writing and production services for television documentaries cable networks, government agencies, and interactive multimedia projects.