Book Review: Marching with Caesar by RW Peake

  • Review: Marching with Caesar, Conquest of Gaul
  • Series: –
  • Author: RW Peake
  • No of Pages: 418 (ebook)
  • Release Date: April 4th 2012 by Smashwords

Synopsis:

Marching With Caesar-Conquest of Gaul is a first-person narrative, written in the form of a memoir as dictated to a scribe of Titus Pullus, Legionary, Optio, First Spear Centurion of Caesar’s 6th and 10th Legion. The memoir is written three years after his retirement as Camp Prefect, when Titus is 61 years old.

Titus, along with his boyhood friend Vibius Domitius, joins the 10th Legion in the draft of 61 BC, when Gaius Julius Caesar is the governor of Spain. Titus and Vibius are assigned to a tent group, with seven other men who will become their closest friends during their times in the legion. Titus, Vibius and their comrades endure the harsh training regimen that made the legions the most feared military force in the ancient world. The 10th Legion is blooded in a series of actions in Spain, led by Caesar in a campaign that was the true beginning of one of the most brilliant military careers in history.

Three years after joining the legions, the 10th is called on again, this time to be part of the subjugation of Gaul, one of the greatest feats of arms in any period of history. During the subsequent campaigns, the 10th cements its reputation as Caesar’s most favored and trusted legion, and is involved in most of the major actions during this period.

This first book of a completed trilogy closes with Caesar crossing the Rubicon, and the 10th preparing to march to war, this time against fellow Romans.

Interview with RW Peake!!

Please tell us in one sentence only, why we should read your book.
Ah, my favorite “Define the universe, give three examples” kind of question.
Because it’s good.

Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects?
Actually, this series of books is already written. When I sat down to write what would become Marching With Caesar, it was originally going to be one book. But, really quickly, I figured out that it was going to be more than one. So I was faced with a decision (this was in 2009), and that was; do I stop and work on what I have, which will be the first book, or do I finish my character’s entire story?
What I decided to do was tell my character’s entire story, which encompasses a 42 year career in the Legions, during the most tumultuous period of Roman history, which is saying a lot. Titus Pullus is one of the lucky few men, and they did exist, who survive an entire career, rising through the ranks and retiring as wealthy men. Titus is one of these lucky men.
But what I recently figured out is that it’s not a trilogy, which is what I’ve been telling everyone. It is in fact going to be FOUR books, and all but the very, very end of the fourth book is written and ready to go. I’ve been putting that off because I have become very attached to Titus, and don’t want our relationship to end just yet!
I don’t intend on writing in just this genre, although it’s looking very much like I will have a fan base that will expect this from me. Marching With Caesar isn’t actually my first novel; I completed a novel in 2006 that actually got interest from agents. However it’s on a subject that is such that I decided to wait until a later time to pursue it being published, mainly to wait for some people to pass away so they won’t be hurt.

What inspired you to want to become a writer?

Because my plans on making it as a winner of the Tour de France, or as a football player didn’t work out.
Seriously, this is something that the people who have known me have been pushing me to do for years. But I was pretty foolish, because it wasn’t something I wanted to pursue, for the dumbest reason of all.

I’ve always been attracted to taking the hardest road available to me; one doesn’t join the Marines, or go into the Infantry, or go even further and become a sniper for an easy path. Nor was I a natural athlete; I come from a long line of professional classical orchestral musicians, so a good 40 time wasn’t in my blood. But that made me more determined to make my mark in some sort of athletic endeavor, and completely ignore the talent I had in writing, because it came so easily to me.

I always liked to write, and I always liked the praise and accolades that came when I DID write, but again, it wasn’t as important to me as it should have been. I know now that I squandered a gift, and it’s something I am determined to take full advantage of, mainly because I have no backup plan. I didn’t save money for retirement (I never thought I would live this long), so this is it for me. If I’m not successful at this, at 53, I’ve got some problems. Fortunately it looks like this is going to work out okay.
Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.

Ironically enough, it has nothing to do with being published or writing.As I mentioned, I didn’t know my dad. While I won’t go into details, what I will say is that life, as most of us over the age of 20 know, is messy. And it’s part of that messiness that I have a half-sister who is 6 months younger than I am. I wasn’t even aware of her existence until I was in my 20′s, at roughly the same time I first made contact with my dad’s family. But when someone in my family (which is an embarrassing chapter in and of itself) reached out to my dad’s widow, and asked if her daughter would be amenable to meeting her brother, the answer, understandably in my mind at least, was no.

However, that turned out to be a decision that my sister knew nothing about. She became aware of my existence at roughly the same time as I did, but her mom never let her know that I had reached out to contact her.
So we both went on with our lives thinking that the other didn’t have any interest in getting to know the other. It wasn’t until I sent a picture of the cover of my book, using my real name, to my dad’s sister, the only member of that side of the family that I know, that we actually made contact with each other.

It turned out that we were both interested, and it was because of the book that we made contact with each other. We now communicate regularly, and we’re going to meet face to face. I am an only child, and until I saw a picture of my dad, nobody around me looked (or acted or thought for that matter) the way I did. But when I saw the first picture of my sister, it’s hard to describe the feeling, as good as I may be with words, that comes from seeing the same set of eyes staring back at you. And it turns out she’s athletic as well, and has just started in triathlons after being a runner for 20+ years!

If you could jump in to a book, and live in that world.. which would it be?
I would like to jump into (strangely enough) the world of The Stand, by Stephen King.
Second would be the Old West, particularly the Four Corners are of Colorado, as brought to you by Louis L’Amour.

What is your dream cast for your book?
Funny, but we’ve actually been talking about that. I made no secret that Ray Stevenson, the actor who played Titus Pullo in the HBO series Rome was the model for my character. In fact, Titus Pullus WAS Titus Pullo until the week before I published, because he is one of the few men from the ranks whom Caesar names. However, the real Titus switched sides in the civil war, and my Titus stays true to Caesar. So Titus Pullus it became, but in the book part of his prowess comes from his size when compared to other Romans.

But Ray, as perfect a fit as he may be, is a little long in the tooth to be a young Titus.
So otherwise it would have to be someone who is physically larger than everyone else, since that is a key element to the story. I can’t think of anyone off the top of my head.

What was your favorite book when you were a child/teen? 
As a child, the Hardy Boys was my bread and butter. As a young teen, Reilly’s Luck, the first Louis L’Amour book I ever read, was my favorite.

Is there a song you could list as the theme song for your book or any of your characters?

Conquest by the USC Marching Band perhaps. (I had to work in a plug for my favorite football team somehow)
What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?
Jeeze. I feel pretty pretentious giving advice, particularly since I’m self-published. Although I will say that I actually made that decision not so much out of desperation, as it was a deliberate choice. I heard Amanda Hocking speaking on Anderson Cooper; I had been really down on myself because I had been rejected around 20 times. Then I heard her story of a THOUSAND rejections, and remarkably, I didn’t feel so bad after that. But it got me doing some research, and I realized that self-publishing is an absolutely viable alternative, IF, and it’s a big “if”, your work is not just good enough, but edited and presented well.
But if I were to offer one piece of advice, it would be what I told the writer’s group of which I am a part. I was in a seriously dark and bad place at the end of last year and beginning of this one. As I mentioned, I had just lost my beloved boy Luke to cancer, and I was getting rejected. So I enrolled in a Creative Writing class at the local college. At first I felt really weird, because not only was I one of the oldest, but because I realized that I had actually finished my books. Most of my classmates were what I would call “dabbling”; lots of great starts, lots of great endings, but very, very few completed projects.

After the class was over, a few of us started a writer’s group, and it was at the last meeting before the summer that I issued a challenge/piece of advice, and that was to FINISH something.

I was a great starter; I have so many story openings that just finishing all those would fill the rest of my career, but it wasn’t until 2006, when I finished my first novel, that I ever felt like I was TRULY a writer. And that’s the first step to being an author. Both of which I can say I am.

And I’m lucky, because I’m one of the few who can say that this is what I do for a living, that I have no other occupation at this point, which gets back to the fact that I put myself in a position where I MUST succeed.

So finish what you start.

How did you know you should become an author?
Because everyone kept telling me I should be one.

Who are your favorite authors of all time?
Already mentioned. Louis L’Amour, Stephen King (but really only for The Stand, which I consider not just his greatest work, but one of the great novels of our generation), Plutarch, Caesar, Bernard Cornwell, Sharon Kay Penman et. al.

Can you see yourself in any of your characters?
Sure. I put a lot of me in Titus, particularly as it pertains to the military stuff. And my first novel is kind of based on my life, although in my novel the character who plays me is on Death Row, and is executed. So far, that hasn’t happened.

What’s the craziest writing idea you’ve had?
Haven’t really had anything I would consider crazy. I’ve lived a pretty crazy life; I’ve been shot once, run over twice, stabbed or cut a half-dozen times, had 20 surgeries and I stopped counting broken bones at 30, and I have the scars to prove every one. So it’s kind of hard for me to get crazier than that.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?
The first week a recruit goes to Marine boot camp, they don’t actually meet their real DI’s. Instead they’re shepherded by a Marine who is called a Receiving DI, named after the barracks and process in which a recruit spends their first week. After that week, the night before we were introduced to our real DI’s, our Receiving DI, Staff Sergeant Glenn, walked among our racks (bunks) during what they called “quiet time”, the period right after the lights went out and before we were allowed to go to sleep. It was always during “quiet time” that we would be given pep talks, ass-chewings, or in this case, the best advice I ever got.
“Privates, you’re about to meet your real DI’s. This system is (at that time) 207 years old. We process 10,000 recruits through here every year, and there’s always someone who thinks they will beat the system. You won’t, nobody beats the system. The DI’s are in a no-lose situation; they’re either going to break you and make you a Marine, or if they can’t do that, they’re going to shitcan you and send you packing. Either way they win. For you to be successful, you need to keep your mouth shut, your ears open and do what you’re told, to the best of your ability. If you do that, you’ll be successful, and you’ll become a Marine.”

As it turned out, a lot of my platoonmates had fallen asleep. I did exactly what SSgt. Glenn advised, and I breezed through boot camp, but more importantly I excelled. I was tops in 2 out of the 3 graded individual events, not just in my platoon, but in the entire training Company of more than 400, and more importantly it set the tone for my career.

How do you react to a bad review?
Good question. And I know how this is going to come off sounding, but I haven’t had one yet. I am currently at 17 in the U.S., and they are all 5 star, and 13 in the U.K., and all but one are 5 star. I got a 3 star, but even that one was one that finished, “I’ll buy the next book that comes out.” His major complaint is that it was too long, which I liken to the scene in Amadeus where Frederick says, “Too many notes.”

So I haven’t had anything scathing yet, and I honestly don’t know what I will do or how I will react. I have a pretty thick skin in general, but I’m finding that with this, it’s a little different to all the other things I’ve done.

Which authors have influence you most how?
Louis L’Amour is the first one who comes to mind, and he had a huge impact on me as I’ve already mentioned. In fact, my VERY first novel I wrote when I was 10 or so, and I still have the notebooks and recently re-read them. What’s interesting is that you can trace my influences through the story arc. When I started it, I was deeply into WWII, so when the godless Soviets chose MY block to invade, me and my friends were armed with Tommy guns, M1′s and other ordnance from that era (which I explained by virtue of a friend’s father being a gun collector), and we fought the entire might of the Red Army to a standstill. I wrote a few more battles into the story, all still centered on my block. (I never really went into why it was MY single street that served as the focal point of the invasion)

Then I discovered Louis L’Amour, and between his stories, and the fact that many of them are set in a region of Colorado with which I was familiar, since we went camping there every summer, my band of marauders and I relocated from Texas to outside Silverton, Colorado. Given that my only experience with any kind of driving vehicle at that point was a riding lawnmower, my friends and I “souped” ours up so they would go a whole 25 mph, and throwing some armor plating on, we drove all the way up to the mountains.

When we got there, we traded all the modern weaponry for six-shooters, Winchesters etc., and ditched the lawnmowers for horses. By that time, I guess I was around 12 or so, I had become a steel-eyed gunslinger, and like my L’Amour heroes, I would mosey into town from our hideaway, and slap leather with some Russkies. Again, why the Soviets thought that a town of less than 2,000 people in the middle of the Rocky Mountains was strategic importance I didn’t go into.

Then puberty hit, and I developed other interests, so alas, the story is unfinished. Who knows, maybe this will be my Great American Novel?
What do you do in your free time? 
I’m either riding my bike, playing with Sadie, or playing NCAA13 on PS3. I may be 53 but that doesn’t mean I have to act like it.
If someone wrote a book about your life, what would the title be?
It’s already written, and the title is Damning Secrets. Aside from the Death Row thing, it’s pretty much an autobiography. As I mentioned, it got some serious attention from agents, but I made the decision that having it published would cause people I care about a lot of pain.
Give us a glimpse into a typical day in your day starting when you wake up till you lie down again.
Being a night owl, my day starts between 10:00 and 11:00 and ends at 2:00 A.M.

The weird thing is that right now I have less free time than I had before because of the book. Being self-published means that it’s all DIY; hence, this interview that I’m doing that’s not arranged for me. I spend most of my day answering fan mail, which right now only takes about an hour; then I scan the blogosphere looking for places where I might be able to plug the book. I’m helping another writer with his own book, so I spend some time with that.

Then I ride my bike, play with Sadie, watch TV, play video games. I have to say that it’s good being me right now.

Who or what inspired you to become an author?
All the stuff I’ve mentioned before. If people tell you something enough, gradually you start to believe it.
How did you celebrate the sale of your first book?
I didn’t really. I’m still kind of in shock now, even more than 3 months later. I got my first “big” check today, the 23rd of July, so it’s starting to sink in. The way I put it is that every morning is like Christmas right now, and while it’s an awesome feeling, it is a little strange.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Uh, Tillamook chocolate peanut butter ice cream I guess.

Finish the sentence- one book I wish I had written is….
The Stand. Epic, simply epic.

In your wildest dreams, which author would you love to co-author a book with?
Either Simon Scarrow, or Stephen King, although I don’t know what Steve (you know, us authors call him Steve) and I would write about.

My Thoughts:

So, here we have a book about history. Not only history but Caesar. I’m not one that is much for history but the very first chapter was so bloody that I knew this had me hooked. The writing is fantastic and apparently the history is pretty dead on. Or so my hubby says since I kept exclaiming all the really good parts out to him!!

Although I like history, I’m more the type of person to read about historical romances, anything about the Tudors (OF course!!), stuff like that. But Caesar has always held a special interest for me. Much like King Henry VIII, Gaius Julius Caesar seems invincible, someone that nobody, even now can hold a candle to. RW Peake’s writing brings the story to us and why we love, or love to hate Caesar. He wasn’t invincible but the man was Great.

It is written in first person from the view of Titus Pomponius Pullus and that is what makes this story so real. From start to finish you can feel what this man, first a boy, goes through as he joins this great army. What makes it extra special to me was the training. I was in the military and the training can be excruciating. Your leaders are there for a reason and whether you think so or not, those leaders know better than you. Pullus is smart but he knows when to keep his mouth shut, when to speak up and when to move out.
I can say this, if you’re not looking for “bloody” history this book may not be for you. If you’re not squemish however, and like me enjoy the story of Caesar, pick this up straight away, you will not be disappointed.

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3 comments

  1. How interesting! Like you, I’m not much one for Roman-era novels, but this does sound different.

    1. Thank you so much Renae! Yeah I was surprised that I liked it quite so much. It’s very interesting!!

  2. […] Marching with Caesar by RW Peake (Book Review) […]

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