I’ve enjoyed immersing myself in the Middle Ages, and I know readers have been intrigued too, but it’s not the only fascinating period of history. I wanted to give readers a similar experience with an era that their own grandparents and great-grandparents lived through. In a way, Fall of Giants is about understanding ourselves and where we all come from.
Several real historical characters appear in these pages, and readers sometimes ask how I draw the line between history and fiction. It’s a fair question, and here’s the answer. In some cases, for example when Sir Edward Grey addresses the House of Commons, my fictional characters are witnessing an event that really happened. What Sir Edward says in this novel corresponds to the parliamentary record, except that I have shortened his speech, without, I hope, losing anything important.
Sometimes a real person goes to a fictional location, as when Winston Churchill visits Tŷ Gwyn. In that case, I have made sure that it was not unusual for him to visit country houses, and that he could well have done so at around that date.
When real people have conversations with my fictional characters, they are usually saying things they really did say at some point. Lloyd George’s explanation to Fitz of why he does not want to deport Lev Kamenev is based on what Lloyd George wrote in a memo quoted in Peter Rowland’s biography.
My rule is either the scene did happen, or it might have; either these words were used, or they might have been. And if I find some reason why the scene could not have taken place in real life, or why the words would not really have been said—if, for example, the character was in another country at the time—I leave it out.
Early in Ken’s career, he was known primarily as a thriller writer, but made the transition to historical fiction with The Pillars of the Earth, which became his most popular novel of all and his own personal favorite. With the Fall of Giants, the first book in his Century Trilogy, he moved into modern history.