Dangerous Days, Terry Deary’s new history series for adults with Weidenfeld & Nicolson, will kick-start in November with a look at the Roman Empire.
Dangerous Days in the Roman Empire (7th November) is the first in a series of four books in Deary’s new adult direction, after his Horrible Histories series with Scholastic was discontinued earlier this year.
The other books in the series with W&N—of which four have been agreed to date—are likely to be Dangerous Days on the Victorian Railways in May next year; with titles on Elizabethan England and Ancient Egypt to follow in late 2014 and 2015 respectively, although one of the trio could be replaced with a book on the Viking world.
W&N publisher Alan Samson said Deary’s new series would hopefully appeal to fans of “Blackadder” as well as the now grown-up fans of Horrible Histories, which began in 1992.
But Samson added the new titles are “more terrible” than Horrible Histories, and “more entertaining” than the usual history books. “There’s a sort of revisionism,” he said. “You don’t come away from these books remotely thinking you would want to have lived in Ancient Rome. There is nothing nostalgic about them.
“It’s not the glory that was Rome . . . the facts were always there, it’s the interpretation of the facts that is very wry, very skeptical, and not cynical. Ancient Rome proves to be a very violent, unpleasant place to live; I think it’s fair to say you wouldn’t have wanted to be a barbarian on the borders of Rome after reading this book.”
Samson added that the titles won’t be written in continuous prose, as many history books are today; instead they will adopt a format recognisable to Horrible Histories fans, with at least three medical fact boxes, “did you know?” box-outs, and timelines in each section. “The medical facts are in there about being skinned alive or being thrown in boiling oil or pushed off the Tarpeian Rock,” Samson added.
Of the rest of the series, Samson said: “These are four or five subjects that we’re looking at. I studied Classics and there are many things in there that I didn’t know; it’s full of information, good jokes, horrible behaviour, and wonderful facts.”
Describing Deary as a “one-man industry in the north-east,” Samson added: “This is going to appeal to not only people who grew up with Horrible Histories, but also people who have never read one, who just want an entertaining, informative book about Ancient Rome or the Victorian railways.”
W&N hopes Dangerous Days in the Roman Empire will corner the history book gift market in time for Christmas, with an unconfirmed price point of £9.99 or £12.99.