I am so pleased to find others who respect and love the grand master of ancient historical novels as I do for all she has given us. I read several of her novels, but The Charioteer set during WWII in England stayed with me long after I read it in high school. I would say I was about 16 or 17 then, but I had no idea what I was reading. I had never heard of men with men in a sexual context. All I could think of was that beautiful kiss Laurie shared with Andrew and how he wished he could tell him something. The flow of the words kept me reading and wondering. That was about 50 years ago. It took reading on the Mary Renault fic site in LJ last week for me to completely understand TC, The Persian Boy and others. I loved her style and descriptions, but she always held back. In 1977, when I was 32, I wrote her and told her some of this. Here is her reply. I am sure she wouldn’t mind that I’m sharing this with you now. Thank you all again, for your wonderful efforts and pics of Alexander, Hephaestion and especially Bagoas. I hope you all got to see the most complete Stone Alexander, with all of Bagoas’s scenes put back. Fran’s voice is as charming as the rest of him.
My four published novels can be found at web site www.peninakeenspinka.info if you care to look them up. I’ve never attempted Renault fan fiction. As much as I love her and her writing, I couldn't do it. My published novels are my own, but my fan fiction in ff.net can be found under Vampire Reader. I’m improving those stories and changing the names since I wrote them for Moonlight, a vampire TV show of 2008. I hope to get at least one or two of them published. The one set in Babylon makes me think of Bagoas, but that was Iraq. He lived in Iran and this story was before his time. I love good vampire stories, especially Chelsea Quinn Yarbro’s Saint Germain. I wish we were allowed to ff him, but she is against it.
Here is Mary Renault’s letter to me. I am copying her punctuation. Only her signature was in ink, and after 35 years, it is a little faded. The original will stay in my jewelry box.
Best to all,
9th Feb. 1977.
Dear Mrs. Aberman,
It was very good of you to write so generously about my books. I do seem to have collected some rather young readers from time to time, but I don’t ever remember hearing from anyone who cut their milk-teeth on THE CHARIOTEER – as you say, it certainly wasn’t intended for children, though it’s mild stuff indeed compared with about half the contemporary fiction one reads today; in fact I wonder from time to time what people of the age you were, who I suppose are often reading them, do make of all these very explicit accounts of sex, and whether it turns them off as I think it would have done me at 12 or ever older.
The hospital in THE CHARIOTEER was drawn from life; it was one of the emergency ones run up early in the war, and very makeshift they were. We did have CO orderlies and some of the background situations are real but the main characters are all invented. Trying to copy characters in depth from real persons is very restricting, and I think very few writers ever do it except in satire, which is two-dimensional.
I have had one book out since THE PERSIAN BOY. It’s not a novel. It’s called THE NATURE OF ALEXANDER and is a straight biography, with illustrations.
All good wishes,
(Signature) Mary Renault