17 April 2010

Brothers at War by Alex Rutherford

Book launch at Crossword, Mumbai
Their flight had been cancelled and they weren’t leaving the next day as they had expected to. After three and a half weeks in India, a successful book tour around the country and some days research for the next book on Akbar, they were ready to head home. But the ash from the volcano in Iceland lingered over Europe and the earliest booking to be had was ten days later. That meant appointments to be cancelled, messages sent to the milkman and other vendors, and various important engagements missed. On top of all this, Michael Preston wasn’t too well, and Diana had to manage the Bombay launch of their book on her own.
In the cab on the way to Crossword she heaved a sigh of relief that she’d remembered to carry her spectacles and we giggled about what she’d have done if she’d hadn’t. You surely know all this by heart? I asked her primly, pointing at the thick book, and then we giggled some more and began reciting The Owl and the Pussy Cat and Young Lochinvar and even quoting from Fawlty Towers, and were a bit giddy headed when we arrived.

Diana and Michael Preston have been travelling and writing together since they got married in the early 1970s. Serious academics with degrees from Oxford, they converted their love for research and travelling into books that bring history alive in the form of stories. They assumed the pseudonym Alex Rutherford for their Empire of the Moghul series. Brothers at War is the second in the series and tells the life of Humayun. Raiders from the North, the first, was about the life of Babur.
Both books are rich in detail of the daily life of the times. They use simple, contemporary language to describe historical events, which they piece together using documents that have survived from the times.
The parts that have emerged from the authors’ imagination rely on travelling to the places in the stories, and looking for those features of nature unchanged since then or relics that have survived. Often the food of the region is similar to what it used to be in historical times – the trees, fruit and vegetables usually are.
Writing the books together means travelling and researching together, but writing separate parts separately and then discussing, editing and aligning them together.
Talking to the small gathering at the launch of the book, Diane confessed that she and Michael would hesitate to kill Alex off after he’d finished writing the Moghul series, and they would soon be thinking about what he was going to write next.

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