In my opinion the greatest writer of historical fiction in the past century was Robert Graves. I doubt that Graves would ever have claimed that what he wrote was the way things actually did happen, but certainly what he wrote was the way things might well have happened. Graves based his writing on as much documentation as possible and then filled in the gaps with what he called "the poetic imagination." That was my goal also in the two historical novels I have published. "Sweet Betsy from Pike," about the California gold rush, was based of course on the song of the same name, but also on dozens of gold rush diaries and journals. "The Robin Hood Chronicles," a half-serious attempt to re-create in fiction what might actually have been the basis for the Robin Hood legend, was based on the eight earliest Robin Hood ballads and what is known of the Robyn or Robert or Robertus Hod or Hood whose life story touches the story told in the ballads at one significant point. The gaps in both stories were filled in by use of "the poetic imagination."

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January 2011

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