Dear readers, tonight with me are two people from the modern-day Roman province of Britannia. They are here to tell us about life as law-enforcement officers in the empire that never collapsed.
An unlikely pair, Dai is a Briton and a hard-working Investigator trying to solve a brutal string of murders and Julia, a Roman Inquisitor, sent to pour oil on troublesome provincial waters when a Roman citizen joins the body count.
They are here to tell us about their adventures.
Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?
Julia: I spent the first five years of my life in the slums that gather around the skirts of Rome. Then my mother died and my grandparents took me in. It still wasn’t a good part of town, but I was loved and I had enough to eat.
Dai: For a Briton, I had it pretty good. My family are well known landowners around Viriconium. No Citizen rights, of course, which meant my education was pretty rustic. But it’s a lovely place when you get out into the hinterland away from the city itself. I did well enough at school to get into the academy in Aqua Sulis – yes, we do have one or two academies in Britannia, even if they are not in the top one hundred recommended.
Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?
Julia: I suppose my favourite thing was my adoptive brother: he’s twenty years older than me and when he was home he would carry me around on his back. And my grandmother had a little dog called Toto. I would spend hours combing his coat
Dai: I loved running and I still pride myself on my physical fitness. As a boy I was a reader and a dreamer, always trying to hide from chores on the family farm. There was a place I used to love going to – a small valley with standing stones. No one ever went there, so I would run there and sit and read with my back to one of the stones.
What do you do now?
Julia: I’m an Inquisitor now, under the aegis of the praetor. I investigate murders. I used to be a customs officer. But investigating murder is slightly less dangerous. I think
Dai: I’m a Vigiles (policeman) pounding the streets of Londinium with my posse at hand – if they are not in some taberna somewhere getting sozzled.
What can you tell us about your latest adventures?
Dai: Well, Julia and I met whilst dealing with a case that involved elite athletes and skuzzy Romans. We had to work out what they had in common and why somebody was killing them off. It got very dangerous though when the murderer realised we were close to exposing them.
Julia: Oh and since people have taken a bit of interest in us recently, you can also now also read about how I met my sidekick, Edbert, and how Dai won the respect of his men.
What did you first think when you realised the depth of the conspiracy?
Julia: I thought we were sunk, to be honest. And we very nearly were.
Dai: It is the kind of thing I’ve been up against a lot in my career. I kind of assumed it would all be swept under the carpet. But I didn’t reckon with Julia…
What was the scariest thing in your adventures?
Julia: I can’t tell you, but it involved weird people with odd perversions
Dai: *laughs* I’m not sure. Maybe the scariest thing was the moment I realised I was going to have to work with Julia.
Julai: *smacks his arm* Spado!
What is the worst thing about your job?
Julia: Finding out just how twisted people are
Dai: For me it’s the feeling that getting justice for someone who’s not a Roman is ten times harder than getting it for someone who is. When I start on a case and realise I’m up against Rome and Roman privilege, it always knots up my guts.
What is the best thing about it?
Julia: Pitting your wits against the bad guys and coming out on top. That’s what I call ‘justice’.
Dai: That is a tough question, but it’s about justice for me too. I was determined from the time I left education that I wanted to be a Vigiles. I wanted to be the one making a difference, no matter how small. I mean, my decanus – Bryn – thinks me a dreamer, but if I can get justice for just one person who would otherwise not have got any, then I feel I have achieved.
Tell us a little about your friends.
Julia: I don’t have many friends. Edbert and Canis and Lupo are closest even if one is a man mountain from the wilds of Scandiwegia and the other two are dogs. And a couple of big Roman guys who rose from the slums with me. But they are stratospheric now, so although I love them both we aren’t as close as we were in the Suburra.
Dai: I guess my Decanus, Bryn, is one of my best friends. He’s got me out of a few scrapes and has my back. I don’t know how he does it, but he manages to keep calm and smile sweetly even when some Roman bastard is abusing him to his face. Things that would make me see red, he just brushes off.
Any romantic involvement?
Julia: I wish. But he’s a touchy Celt and he may not want to play
Dai: Not so far. I’ve not really had much time for such things. Also the job means I have to keep pretty odd hours and not many women are willing to put up with that kind of thing. There has been the odd relationship, of course, but they never last.
Whom (or what) do you really hate?
Julia: I hate liars and cheats. And killers
Dai: Ditto that. I hate all criminals and Romans, just about equally. Interestingly enough, the two categories often coincide which makes things easier.
What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?
Julia: Red wine. Blue (especially when it comes to eyes). Playing with my dogs
Dai: Red wine. Brown (also eyes). I don’t have much time for relaxing but if I do, I’ll be out jogging or maybe with Bryn and the team having a drink in the Taberna Rosso – a great place that. Quiet times, maybe that glass of red wine and a good book.
Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?
Julia: I like to sing. And it’s very possible that I’m infertile because of what was done to me when I was twelve.
Dai: I think I’m in love with a Roman…
Jane Jago, a genre-hopping maniac, who could no more stop writing than she could stop breathing. Her current obsession is dragons. But who knows what next week will bring. For the full list of her published writings see HERE.
E.M. Swift-Hook, author of ‘Fortune’s Fools‘ series of books, whose favourite quote on writing is one Robert Heinlein put into the mouth of Lazarus Long: ‘Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.‘ Having tried a number of different careers, before settling in the North-East of England with family, three dogs, cats and a small flock of rescued chickens, she now spends a lot of time in private and has very clean hands. (We’ve previously interviewed Jaz from Trust A Few – part of the Fortune’s Fools series!)
We’ll be taking a break next week, but join us in the first Friday of January to meet a man born in space, one of the first colonisers of an alien world. Please follow the site by (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.