An exclusive to What Culture guest blog post written by author Jonathan Clements
on writing his new book Spartacus: Swords & Ashes
Ive always been interested in the way a TV show parcels out time. The scripts of E.R. seemed deliberately intended to take place once a week, so that viewers looked in on action at roughly the same pace of events. Downton Abbey looks in on its characters only once or twice a year, causing events to accelerate at a break-neck pace. EastEnders often segues straight from a duff-duff cliff-hanger into the episode that follows, meaning that some days last for weeks, while others skip along in real-time. Since EastEnders often marks real events like Christmas or a cup final, it means that there are often entire months of experience glossed over or discarded. Spartacus: Blood & Sand
had a clever approach to time, only marking its passage where it was relevant to the characters. The first six episodes covered a period from the capture of Spartacus in winter, to early meetings with Batiatus set at the time of the Lupercalia festival (February), to his epic fight with Theokoles before the first showers of autumn. In other words, while many episodes march along in real-time, several of those action-packed montage sequences were designed to compress months and months, possibly even an entire year. Time in the Blood & Sand TV series becomes much more appreciable in the closing episodes, as the pace slows to focus on single, eventful days at the games and evenings of intrigue. As a result, I decided to set my novel Swords & Ashes
in the last available hiatus before events began to build towards the series finale. Surprisingly, thats at the beginning of the sixth episode, before the arrival of Sura galvanises Spartacus into a change in attitude. In other words, it takes place in the nine days likely to have elapsed between the suspicious death of the patrician Ovidius and his subsequent funeral. On the television, its a gap of mere seconds. I stretch it to an entire book. I wanted to make readers feel they had stumbled on a missing hour of footage, explaining some of the gladiators later actions in context, and foreshadowing several sequences coming up in Spartacus: Vengeance. There are elements of the story of Spartacus that are public knowledge, with spoilers written two thousand years ago by those notorious internet trolls Plutarch, Appian, Sallust and Florian. So it was with a degree of pride that word came back from Starz regarding some concerns about how much I seemed to be giving away about episodes to come, when they hadnt even shown me the outline of the new season. To allay the licensors worries, Ive shoved a few of those foreshadowings further into the background, but theyre still there if you want to look for them. Starting with that mountain I keep mentioning, looming high above the sea port of Neapolis J.M. Clements is the author of Spartacus: Swords & Ashes
, available now in the US in paperback and on Kindle, and in the UK on 27th January.