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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Historical accuracy in fact, and words


“I write novels, mostly historical ones, and I try hard to keep them accurate as to historical facts, milieu and flavor.” – Gary Jennings

Born on this date in 1928, Jennings wrote the bestselling historical book Aztec and had a stellar career as a writer of historical fiction.   A native of Virginia, he began writing as a war correspondent in the Korean War (awarded a Bronze Star for heroism in the process).   

His thoroughly researched – and sometimes massive – novels are known for their detail.   He spent 12 years in Mexico researching Aztec and its sequel Aztec Autumn and joined 9 different circus troupes to write his bestseller Spangle. 
 In the course of his writing Jennings learned that many words modern writers take for granted simply didn’t exist in the time periods he wanted to represent – something he said all writers, especially of historical fiction, should be prepared to deal with.   He suggested that a writer looking for a project might consider  “. . . a good, thick, complete-as-possible dictionary of 'What People Used to Call Things.'
 “I could list hundreds of words I've come up against in the course of my work that did not exist in the era of which I was writing and for which I never could find a suitably old-time, archaic or obsolete substitute.“

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