Bullies, Thugs, Statesmen and Lovers

It’s been a while since I’ve looked forward to reading a book as much as I’ve looked forward to reading The Hun and The General. And finally it is here! Not only do I get to immerse myself in a story of passion between two powerful men, but I also get the chance to grab Tristram La Roche and make him talk (not that he needs much persuading!). I’ll shut up and let Tristram tell you a little about the history behind the story, and give you a taste of what’s to come….

When I was completing the publisher’s information sheets for The Hun and The General I came to the part where I had to describe Attila the Hun. I dare say we all have a picture of him in our mind, memories of some comic strip or maybe a film. I did some research before I wrote the story and came across some ludicrously handsome portrayals of him. I knew in my heart he could have been no Hollywood-style pin up, but finding facts about him or his people is hard.

The Huns were a feared tribe, sweeping across the grasslands of Asia onto the Hungarian plain, battling with Rome, Constantinople and dozens of other tribes. Life was a series of complex manoeuvres, swinging from rivalry to alliance and back again. The Huns were regarded as bullies and thugs, and Attila more a thief than a statesman. “He is therefore remembered as our worst nightmare, matched in folk memory only by Genghis Khan,” writes historian John Man in his excellent book Attila The Hun: A Barbarian King and the Fall of Rome.

Hun men would have been weather-beaten and hardy, with shoulders like slabs of stone from the use of their powerful re-curved bows. Attila will have had the classic sparse beard, and no doubt some battle scars (if not some of the self-inflicted kind, too). We also know that the Huns at the time of Attila will have already absorbed other races, making it highly probable that among them were some extremely appealing and exotic specimens. Yet when I described the clothing of this ogre – boots, felt trousers and furs – a smile crept across my face. “Chase me!” I heard him say.

The Hun and The General is a story about two powerful men from opposing sides who are brought together in an attempt to avoid a catastrophic conflict. But they have feelings for each other that have endured years of separation, feelings that are so strong they can change the course of history. It’s necessarily a story with some violence, but also a love story with some erotic, very masculine scenes, in which barbarianism plays against and with romanticism.

I loved writing The Hun and The General and really got inside the characters’ heads. I remember downing tools mid-scene for an appointment with my doctor; you should have seen the look on his face when I walked into the surgery, raised my right hand and greeted him with “Hail!”

The Hun and The General, published by Etopia Press on 2nd December.

Livianus is bored and longs for action. His reward for serving Rome is the governorship of a quiet corner of Gaul, but as he whiles away his days at his sumptuous villa, his thoughts turn to Attila the Hun, the feared barbarian with whom Livianus once enjoyed an intimate friendship. When a desperate emperor asks him to return to Pannonia to broker a truce with Attila, Livianus’s old passion flares.

Attila is losing the will to go on. He is tired of being a tyrant but his people’s future depends on him. The arrival of Livianus renews Attila’s spirit as he prepares to march on Constantinople. Livianus has nothing to bargain with, but when the emperor’s sister delivers a proposition for Attila, a new and brighter future seems to lay directly ahead. For the people, and especially for the two men.

But the deadly hand of the emperor isn’t interested in peace, and as their plans are destroyed, only one course of action remains open to the Hun and the general.

EXCERPT:

Gaul, Western Roman Empire

Livianus dismissed the women. There was a limit to how often he could screw them in one day, and when he wasn’t up to the balls in one of them they bored him almost to death. Their twittering voices and silly small talk, worrying about mirrors and makeup and which of the new slaves had the biggest cock—it all annoyed him. It made his teeth ache.

He launched himself off the edge of the pool and swam to the far side where six lion-headed pipes spewed crystal spring water from their gaping maws. The cascade massaged Livianus’s tense neck muscles and drowned the fading chatter of the women.

His villa in Gaul had been a gift from the senate. A reward for leading successful embassies to the barbarian hordes, time and again averting costly wars the failing empire could ill afford. From here, retired from his position as army general, he acted as governor of this imperial outpost. If the truth be told, he had little to do but add his seal to bureaucratic decrees, read his vast collection of scrolls, eat, drink, and fornicate. Many a man would kill for it, but this life was no good for one who had walked with giants.

He swam the length of the pool and reclined on the semi-circular steps, looking out beyond the curved colonnade of porphyry columns, across the undulating fields of crops, vines, and orchards, to the hills that rose like a blade to scratch the skies. He longed to leave this place and cross that distant ridge, to return to his homeland and feel the buzz of life again.

Livianus snapped his fingers, and a male slave appeared at the top of the steps to wrap a toga around him as he emerged from the water. The heat overpowered him immediately, and he sat down on a seat of carved stone. “Bring me wine, Publius.”

The slave bowed and hurried down the pergola toward the main hub of the villa. Livianus wiped himself with a towel and squinted at the sun as the first chirp of cicadas announced noon. Soon he would be called for lunch. Today he’d make the women eat in their own dining room; any more of their chattering, and he’d have one of those headaches that lasted an entire lunar cycle.

He rubbed his temples with his fingers. The problem was a total lack of intellectual stimulation. The minor bureaucrats that Valentinian sent out here were those unfit for higher office. None could match Livianus’s quick thinking and wit. While his muscles softened, his brain rotted in his skull. Life had become one long blur of gluttony and debauchery. And if he continued to fornicate like this, his cock would wither and fall like a leaf in the autumn.

The slave returned with a jug and a gold goblet. He set them down on a table, which he drew close to Livianus.

“Leave me. Just go.” He dismissed Publius with a wave of a hand and poured himself some wine. His mouth tingled as the cool wine swept across his taste buds like the rising tide on a dry shore. Not as good as he’d produced at home, but not bad. Given time, this Gaulish wine might win favor. Now all he needed was someone to share it with, someone to engage his rusting mind.

He laughed. Of all the people he’d met, it was the barbarian who came most often into his thoughts at times like this. Attila, King of the Huns. The empire viewed Attila as a sub-human warmonger who lived only to murder, pillage and rape, a hideously ugly creature with a deformed skull, flat nose and eyes that could see into your bones. A killing machine, without even a hint of intellect.

Livianus rose, sipped his wine, and strode to the end of the terrace. How wrong they were. When he’d been sent by Theodosius and Valentinian to meet with the Huns, Livianus imagined that he might never return. He’d heard the stories of outsiders being impaled, a horrific reprisal the Huns had perfected that involved the careful insertion of a sharpened stake up the rectum and through the body without damage to the internal organs. The spike would exit through the chest, just below the collarbone, and the victim’s legs and arms were then lashed to the stake to prevent slippage when it was erected in the ground. Death, they said, could take three days. If they felt kindly, they crucified you.

Livianus winced and rested against the balustrade. His worries had proved unfounded. Although he’d been met by a fearsome barbarian horde that showed little kindness as he was led to their leader, Attila himself disproved all that Livianus had been taught.

Taller than legend said and with a strange, uneven beard, Attila had a face that, though scarred, was a match for any Roman noble’s. His nose had been broken, yet this somehow lent a sculptural air to his whole appearance. But the eyes captivated Livianus on that first meeting, as green as precious stones and with a depth that betrayed a soul such as no animal on earth could possess. Livianus liked the barbarian leader instantly, and something in those eyes seemed to reciprocate.

Livianus sighed. Attila would liven this place up. He smiled at the impossible thought and drained his goblet. As he turned to reach for the jug, a blur caught his attention far away beyond the orchards at the limit of his estate. He leaned on the balustrade and raised a hand to shield his eyes from the glare of the sun. A dust cloud rose in the still air. Ahead of it, something approached at great speed. As it grew nearer, the unmistakable thunder of horse’s hooves announced a visitor.

You can buy The Hun & The General here:

AMAZON UK    AMAZON US   AMAZON GERMANY   B&N   ALL ROMANCE EBOOKS

Check out Tristram’s other titles:

You can find Tristram at:

Website: http://tristramlaroche.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/TristramLaRoche

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tristram-La-Roche/198191080213824

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4917230.Tristram_La_Roche

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Tristram-La-Roche/e/B0054U5A2E/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

Queer Magazine Online: http://www.queermagazineonline.com/book-stuff/author-pages/item/6157-tristram-la-roche

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  1. #1 by Tristram La Roche on 2011/12/02 - 17:59

    Thanks for having me, Kiran. And for letting me go again 😉

  2. #2 by Catherine Cavendish on 2011/12/02 - 18:54

    Love it!

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