Journalism, history, biography, memoirs, and historical fiction overlap to some degree. The first two focus on provable facts, but the facts must be arranged to form a coherent story, and that requires an element of interpretation, especially in history. Biography and memoirs demand even more of a story arc, although still devoted to a specific person who once lived or still lives. And historical fiction, although it departs from that fundamental reliance on what can be documented or evidenced by creating imaginary characters or putting words into the heads and mouths of real people, nonetheless relies on creating a you are there sense of authenticity that cannot exist without considerable research into how people in a given time and place dressed, talked, ate, traveled, and socialized.
Finding Billy Battles
and its sequels, The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles
, 2016) and the forthcoming The Lost Years of Billy Battles
(title not set), occupy this space between journalism and fiction. William Fitzroy Raglan Battles, a centenarian in an old soldiers home when his reluctant great-grandson makes his acquaintance, turns out to have lived a rich and varied life that has taken him through the American Wild West, the Philippines, late nineteenth-century Saigon, the Spanish-American War, and other places, not to mention many of the tamer regions of the United States. A reporter by inclination and training, Billy typically observes and records, but the areas he visits often draw him into their conflicts, blurring the line between participation and journalism.
, himself a journalist and professor of journalism who has visited many of the destinations where he sends his main character, brings each of these venues to life in a way that is both vivid and true to the time period. And in Billy Battles, based on a veteran of the Spanish-American War whom Yates interviewed in the same old soldiers home where we first meet his hero, Yates has created a multilayered portrait of a man of integrity who just cant resist a good fight.
C. P. Lesley is the author of six novels, including
Legends of the Five Directions (The Golden Lynx, The Winged Horse, and The Swan Princess), a historical fiction series set in 1530s Russia, during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible. Find out more about her at http://www.cplesley.com.