Wednesday 3 May 2017

Deposed by David Barbaree

Published by twenty7 on May 4, 2017

The Books and Films that inspired Deposed

Deposed is a thriller set in Imperial Rome. Before I had the idea for the book, I read a lot of non-fiction about ancient and medieval history, but my fiction tastes were quite broad, anything from thrillers to fantasy, from modern to classic. When I started Deposed, I purposely stayed away from the genre so that, hopefully, I could approach it in a different way. As a result, the inspiration for Deposed is eclectic. Distilling it down into one list, I’d say the following were the most influential.

The Roman Way by Edith Hamilton

In 2006, David Brooks, a columnist for The New York Times, wrote about The Greek Way by Edith Hamilton, which is a series of essays on the giants of Athenian history and literature. Brooks recounted how Jackie Kennedy gave the book to Robert Kennedy after his brother’s death and the book helped Robert grieve and recover. I bought the book immediately after reading the article. I liked it so much that it led me to The Roman Way, also by Hamilton, which is similarly a series of essays on the great writers and personalities of Ancient Rome. I devoured this book and I regularly go back to it. Horace, Catullus, Cicero, Caesar, Virgil – all of Rome’s greatest minds and personalities come to life. The cumulative effect is that the reader feels he or she understands Ancient Rome better. I think this book, more than any other, made me want to write a book set in Ancient Rome.

Byzantium, Volumes 1-3, John Julius Norwich

In this series, Norwich chronicles the rise and fall of emperor after emperor (or basileis after basileis). On more than one occasion, he described emperors who, after they were overthrown, were content to shuffle off into obscurity. It was while reading this series that I developed the idea for a novel that follows a similarly deposed tyrant – but one who isn’t content to shuffle off into obscurity.

Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Dumas’ classic was a major influence for me. First, it is the ultimate revenge tale – and who doesn’t love a good revenge story. Second, I loved the relationship between the priest Faria and Edmund Dantes. I always thought it a shame that Faria died in prison, and that he and Dantes didn’t escape and run amok through Europe. At some point, this idea merged with my dethroned emperor and the basic plot for Deposed was born.

Wolfhall by Hilary Mantel

Possibly my favourite book of all time. Its greatness has been well documented. I drew inspiration from the way Mantel took Thomas Cromwell, a man most regarded as a villain, and made him her hero. She also expertly describes the maneuvering for power under the king.

Pulp Fiction

This may seem an odd choice. But I can still recall watching this movie for the first time and the epiphany I had when I realized that it was told out of order. From that moment forward, I was drawn to stories that toyed with structure. It paved the way for my love of books such as Cloud Atlas or Gone Girl and was, I think, the ultimate inspiration to have Deposed unfold in an unconventional manner.

The Wire, HBO

I am cheating a bit here, as the post was supposed to refer to movies and books. But I think it impossible not to be influenced by the Golden Age of television. Among the great shows we have seen in recent years, The Wire, in my opinion, is the best. It began by following the police and drug dealers. Each season its scope widened, to City Hall, to the local Unions, to newspaper. It’s set in Baltimore, but, by showing it from so many perspectives, Baltimore is effectively the main character. This is something I wanted to achieve with Deposed and one of the reasons I decided to write it from different perspectives.


It may be an obvious answer. But, given it is a revenge tale set in Ancient Rome, it would be hard to deny its influence on me. I loved the movie and have watched it more times than I can count.

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