Discussion Forums - Historical Fiction

Topic: Top 10 Historical Fiction Writers

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
  Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: Top 10 Historical Fiction Writers
Date Posted: 9/19/2013 11:29 AM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2007
Posts: 763
Back To Top

A compiled list here

Agree?  Disagree?  Complete rubbish?  cheeky


Date Posted: 9/19/2013 3:06 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,576
Back To Top

Wow, some I agree with some are downright RUBBISH to use Carolyn's word.  SKP and Ms. Chadwick, I totally agree with.  I also could make a case for Mr. Cornwell as well as maybe Ms. Gabaldon (except for her last 2 awful books).  Ms. Seton and probably Ms. Heyer belong there as well. Weir and Gregory absolutely not and it's too early to make a case for Mr. Gortner.  To me the biggest glaring omission is the lack of Dorothy Dunnett on the list.  Okay I'll get off my soapbox now.....

Date Posted: 9/19/2013 3:25 PM ET
Member Since: 7/15/2008
Posts: 4,035
Back To Top

Some good choices, but definitely rubbish there as well. I laughed at this comment about PG:

In a presentation to the 2012 Historical Novel Society Conference, Gregory, a former historian, spoke eloquently about her craft. She sees the historical novel as “animation and recreation of a life, the fleshing out of historical bones” to put “life into the skeleton.” In her words, historical fiction “rescues history from the past” and “conquers death and time.”

The historian myth continues frown

And Alison Weir? Her non-fiction is pretty questionable among true historians, and after reading her fictional novel on Eleanor, I have my doubts she belongs on that list. 

Date Posted: 9/19/2013 5:54 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
Back To Top

I agree with the comments above re:  Gregory and Weir and with Cheryl's point about the omission of Dunnett.  I also wonder where Patrick O'Brien and Colleen McCullough are well as my all time favorite Mary Renault. 

Date Posted: 9/19/2013 7:28 PM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2007
Posts: 763
Back To Top

I'm not a fan of Cornwell...and I agree with Donna-McCullough certainly belongs on this list. Totally agree Penman should be #1, and I like Gabaldon despite the ending to Echo in the Bone. I haven't read some of the other authors, so I'm interested in your opinions :)

Date Posted: 9/19/2013 8:37 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,576
Back To Top

I totally agree with you Donna, I forget some of my faves that you mentioned!

Date Posted: 9/19/2013 10:51 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 1,588
Back To Top

I SWEAR I posted to this thread already ... oh well, try again.

I think it's a decent list if the criteria were "HF authors CURRENTLY WRITING" (except that would exclude Heyer.)  I can see Gregory being farther down in the top 10, if it were exclusive current authors.  But if this is overall HF, no -- nowhere near top 10.  Nor Follet.  And Weir doesn't belong on a top 100 list!  Missing is Dunnet, McCullough, and Sutcliff.

Date Posted: 9/20/2013 9:56 AM ET
Member Since: 9/21/2009
Posts: 1,179
Back To Top

I've read some by everyone on that list except for Follet.  Some I've liked more than others-and some I absolutely love-but to classify some as "historical" fiction-rather than fiction set in a historical time period is completely inaccurate....

And if they can include an author with a small sampling(Gortner-who I really like), then I say Angus Donald should be in there as well.....

Date Posted: 9/20/2013 9:58 AM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2007
Posts: 763
Back To Top

I would have voted for Alan Furst. too....

Date Posted: 9/21/2013 2:44 PM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
Posts: 3,112
Back To Top

Last Edited on: 9/29/13 9:32 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Bruce -
Date Posted: 9/21/2013 5:18 PM ET
Member Since: 12/19/2008
Posts: 3,412
Back To Top

I would agree with Penman, Cornwell, and Follett. The rest can go imho. I would add C.J. Sansom and David Liss. S. J. Parris and C. S. Harris are leagues better than some on this list, ie Gregory. Try reading Newt Gingrich/William R. Forstchen Revolutionary War series; it is outstanding!!! Even though Alex Grecian has only written two books, I would put him above some on the list. Louis Bayard deserves mention.

ETA: Conn Iggulden

Last Edited on: 9/21/13 5:23 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/21/2013 10:46 PM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
Posts: 318
Back To Top

Last Edited on: 2/7/15 3:27 AM ET - Total times edited: 1
Alice J. (ASJ) - ,
Date Posted: 9/23/2013 12:21 PM ET
Member Since: 5/13/2009
Posts: 43,189
Back To Top

I would agree on Michner should be on the list. His reseach was intense and thus dense books. You could always learn something by reading his books.



Date Posted: 9/23/2013 12:59 PM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2007
Posts: 763
Back To Top

yes for CJ Sansom!

Date Posted: 9/23/2013 1:20 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,576
Back To Top

I've never read any Alan Furst.  What's a good book to start with for those of you who like him?  Maybe we should list our own personal favorite top 10 h/f authors for fun and edification!?

Last Edited on: 9/23/13 1:21 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/23/2013 1:32 PM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2007
Posts: 763
Back To Top

@Cheryl - I started with The Foreign Correspondent and I was hooked with his storytelling.  Usually I'm a stickler for reading books in the order they were written, but I don't believe that's necessary with Furst.  However, if you do read him, make sure you read The World at Night before Red Gold, as that is its sequel.

And I totally think we should start our own list!  cheeky

Date Posted: 9/23/2013 4:33 PM ET
Member Since: 3/23/2008
Posts: 2,576
Back To Top

thanks for the info Carolyn!  I'll be brave and start out with my top 10 h/f authors:

1. Dorothy Dunnett

2. Sharon Kay Penman

3. Colleen McCullough

4. Patrick O'Brian

5. Elizabeth Chadwick

6. Bernard Cornwell

7. Arianna Franklin aka Diana Norman

8. Rosemary Sutcliff

9. Ellis Peters

10. M.M. Kaye

How about everyone else?  Who are your 10 favorite h/f authors?



Date Posted: 9/24/2013 9:41 AM ET
Member Since: 7/6/2007
Posts: 763
Back To Top

Here's my list so far...in no particular order

1. Sharon Kay Penman

2. Diana Gabaldon

3. Alan Furst

4. CJ Sansom

5. Colleen McCullough

6. Steven Saylor


Many of the authors that others have listed (Dunnett, Chadwick, Parris...) are on my TBR list.  And while I've read many historical mysteries that I've enjoyed (Peters, Willig, Frazer) I Don't think I can add them to my all time list. 

Date Posted: 9/24/2013 11:54 AM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
Back To Top

This is tough.  I could more easily come up with my top ten HF books than authors.  Thinking....

Date Posted: 9/24/2013 12:32 PM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2010
Posts: 754
Back To Top

I'm just going to starrt my list...I'm sure I will have to edit because I've forgotten some.


R. F. Delderfield

Bryce Courtenay

Diana Gabaldon

Sharon Kay Penman

Kenneth Roberts

Elizabeth Chadwick

Patrick O'Brian

Dewey Lambdin

C.S. Forester

Anthony Trollope

Bernard Cornwell

Ellis Peters/Edith Pargeter

Georgette Heyer


C. S. Harris

Kate Ross

Kate Sedley

Susanna Kearsley

Diane Haeger

Kaki Werner

Deanna Raybourn

M.M. Kaye

Valerie Fitzgerald

Kathleen Winsor




Last Edited on: 9/24/13 2:32 PM ET - Total times edited: 4
Date Posted: 9/24/2013 12:35 PM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2010
Posts: 754
Back To Top

I'm sure Norah Lofts and Anya Seton also belong on my list.  I have read only one book of each so far and they were great.   All the rest of their books are on my Mt TBR list. 

Also TBR- Will Thomas, Mel Starr, Angus Donald and Margaret Campbell Barnes.

Date Posted: 9/24/2013 4:52 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2008
Posts: 1,976
Back To Top

When I looked at the complete list I noticed Jane Austen was on it.  She did not write historial fiction; she wrote fiction for her current time.

Date Posted: 11/6/2013 10:00 AM ET
Member Since: 7/13/2005
Posts: 5,201
Back To Top

I agree with the list mostly, except for the glaring omission of Jean Plaidy (aka Philippa Carr and Victoria Holt).

Date Posted: 11/7/2013 12:48 PM ET
Member Since: 1/24/2009
Posts: 9,499
Back To Top

I agree that Weir and Gregory should not be on the list.  While I'm not as well read in HF, I have never been able to read their books.  And try I have.

I would have to say on my list of favs (in no particular order)

Elizabeth Chadwick

Stephanie Pintoff


The City of Thieves author (Benoff I think) (but I think thats the only book he's written)

Robert Alexander

Date Posted: 11/9/2013 2:51 PM ET
Member Since: 7/7/2007
Posts: 4,815
Back To Top

I am amused that some of those authors most noted for historical inaccuracies are the ones quoted as preaching about the need for historical accuracy ... devil

Perhaps this list would be better renamed as "Bestselling HF Authors of the Last 4 Decades"?