One Minute With: Saul David, historian


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Where are you now and what can you see?

I'm in my little writing hut in my Somerset home, looking down a sloping meadow which has a pond at the end.

What are you currently reading?

As ever, I've got multiple books on the go. The one I'm most concentrating on is Peter Englund's brilliant history, 'The Beauty and the Sorrow'. It is a collection of disparate accounts of the First World War from people living all over the world, and it corrects the Western view that most of the key fighting was done on the Western Front.

Choose a favourite author, and say why you admire her/him

The historian, Professor Hew Strachan, at Oxford University, who was my mentor. He got me into military history and unlike an awful lot of historians, who don't seem to be able to keep partiality or politics out of their work, he is able to do so. It's incredibly difficult to do, I think, but you never think for a moment when reading him that he has anything other than a distant, objective view.

Describe the room where you usually write

It's my hut in the garden, which has a chair, a desk, and the most important bit - the bookshelves.

What distracts you from writing?

Domestic business.

Which fictional character most resembles you?

The character I use in my novels, George Hart. He comes from a background not dissimilar to mine, has foreign blood like me, and a willingness to do the right thing, though he doesn't always get it right.

What are your readers like when you meet them?

The people who read the history books tend to have a natural zeal and are alarmingly well-read. Those who read the fiction assume that, because I'm also a historian, I know what I'm talking about.

Who is your hero/heroine from outside literature?

Eliza Manningham-Buller [former M15 chief], because she has been able to transfer from a completely secret world to a public one, and talk about issues of security with a candour that I find extraordinary.

Saul David's new book, 'All the King's Men', is published by Viking