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Literature and Music

Mary Renault | Paul Doherty's trilogy | The Manfedi Books | Other fiction | Poetry | Screenplays | Drama | Essays | Music

Mary Renault

The Greek World of Mary Renault by Ed Stephan. An excellent resource for Renault's Greek novels, a trilogy of which concerned Alexander and his companions. For an introduction check out his The Persian Boy page with a synopsis, list of characters, images, etc. Top 5%

Amazon. The Persian Boy by Mary Renault. Renault's most popular Alexander book, following Alexander through the eyes of Bagoas. Twenty-two customer reviews, all positive. As one states:

"Her Alexander may be nobler than he really was, but her vision is a realistic one and the world she creates is very real and consuming. It is a wonderful story masterfully written."
Renault's Alexander trilogy starts with Amazon. The Fire from Heaven, moves on to The Persian Boy, and ends with Funeral Games (currently out of print). Top 5%

Review of the Trilogy by Jeanne Reames-Zimmerman. The author has read virtually every bit of Alexander-based fiction for her web project "Beyond Renault: Alexander the Great in Fiction ", so she knows what she's talking about when she calls the trilogy the "best thing out there in mainstream fiction on Alexander." Nevertheless she has some qualms and, unexpectedly, picks Funeral Games as the best of the lot. Top 5%

Review of Renault's Alexander trilogy by Paula Greer for Plant's Review of Books

Review of Renault's The Persian Boy by Michael Walker for Oasis Magazine. "Renault, who wrote this novel in 1972, probably never considered it a 'gay novel' at all but a piece of historical fiction where the primary characters happen to be gay."

Review/synopsis of the Alexander Trilogy by Danny Yee.

Amazon. The Nature of Alexander by Mary Renault. Renault's non-fiction Alexander. Her research is somewhat out of date but more thorough than the other popularizers. The real shame, however, is that one can no longer find the large-format coffee table version of Renault's Nature. The version offered here has no such pictures.

Amazon. Mary Renault : A Biography by David Sweetman.

Web Archive: "A Study Guide for Renault's The Nature of Alexander" by John M. McMahon (Le Moyne College) for the NY Council for the Humanities "Lives Worth Knowing" Program. Renault's Nature of Alexander is non-fiction, but Renault's fictional and real Alexanders are intimately related. Includes a bibliography on Renault and Alexander.

Paul Doherty's trilogy

Amazon. The House of Death: A Mystery of Alexander the Great by Paul C. Doherty. First book. Amazon reviewers varies widely, between "excellent" and "ludicrous and ahistorical."

Books I Love: Review of The House of Death. ".. brilliantly intertwines the multi-faceted tactics of war with the slow yet steady unraveling of an exciting whodunit."

Positive capsule review of House of Death by Sarah Weinman (scroll down). It is "almost frightening how prolific Doherty is."

Amazon. The Godless Man: A Mystery of Alexander the Great by Paul Doherty. Second book goes from Granicus to Ephesus, with Aristander as asistant Miss Marple, described by Publisher's Weekly as "a painful presence."

Amazon. The Gates of Hell: A Mystery of Alexander the Great by Paul Doherty. The third volume of the series finds Alexander's army outside... Halicarnassus! (Is he planning on 15 more books!). This selection from the book blurb captures the flavor:

"Scholars race to decipher the enigmatic Pythian Manuscript, which holds the secrets of a fatal weakness in the city's defenses, as well as the location of a fabulous treasure, while spies haunt the Macedonians' camp and counter-spies lurk within the walled fortress. The body of the scribe Pamenes is found on the pavement below his locked room, the so-called ghost-chamber (whose floorboards creak like a ship's rigging when walked upon), and Telamon must decide if his death is accident or murder. Soon other more obvious murders occur, including another body found strangled in the ghost-chamber (even the mysterious death of the villa's cat!)." review of The Gates of Hell by Steve Forbes (yes, that Steve Forbes).

"Spies, treachery, ambushes, venomous snakes, poisoned cheese and bloody battles all mix together to make for a riveting read."

Positive review of The Gates of Hell by Sally Fellows, Mystery Bookstore, Omaha, Nebraska.

The Manfedi Books

Amazon. Alexander : Child of a Dream (first one) by Valerio Massimo Manfredi, translated by Iain Halliday.

Summary/review by Paolo Alessandrini, from Jeanne Reames-Zimmerman's Alexander the Great in Fiction.

Amazon. Alexander : The Sands of Ammon (the second one) by Valerio Massimo Manfredi.

Amazon. Alexander : The Ends of the Earth (the third one) by Valerio Massimo Manfredi.

Amazon. Manfredi's website (all in Italian)

Manfredi's Alessandro Magno: il sogno della grandezza reviewed in Cafe Europa. (Italian) Translate Review of Manfredi and others. Manfredi review is by Janet Fauble.

Other fiction

Word doc: "Modern Themes from Ancient Greatness: Alexander the Great in Fiction, Music and Film" by Eric Hanson (from Michael Arnush's course Alexander the Great). Cover's Iron Maiden, Mary Renault's Alexander trilogy, Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King and the movie of it. Includes a detailed breakdown of the Iron Maiden song.

Beyond Renault: Alexander the Great in Fiction, by Jeanne Reames-Zimmerman. Comprehensive, multilingual list with reviews. Reames-Zimmerman reviews are well written and frequently hilarious. I particularly enjoyed her review of David Gemmell's Lion of Macedon and Dark Prince , wretched Alexander fantasies. Top 5%

Amazon. A Murder in Macedon by Anna Apostolou. Murder of Philip mystery. Apostolou followed with A Murder in Thebes.

Scorching review by Jeanne Reames-Zimmerman. Everything is wrong with the book, even loony spelling conventions. In Reames-Zimmerman's words:

A Murder in Macedon "is the sort of historical novel which one wishes had not been written at all, and so news of a sequel is disconcerting."

Romantic Times has an Alexander booklist, recommending, among others, Roxana (Playboy Paperbacks, 1977). has a great review of Roxana.

"There seemed to be so much twisting of history to fit the plot that I lost all connection to what I thought I was originally reading and all I could think was 'I don't care what happens to anybody.'" Review of Roxane and Charles Lamb's Alexander the Great.

Amazon. In the Shadow of Alexander: A Soldier's Tale by G. A. Hauser (2003)

Young Macedonian solider "begins the long march with his young king to Persia, and on to India, hoping for a night alone with his beloved ruler. Alexander's first wife, Roxane of Persia, is portrayed as his murderer."
May I hazard that a real "gay" Alexander requires Roxane—often presented as his great love—be marginalized or demonized? But, of course, Roxane was eventually murdered. Without Alexander, she was more marginal than ever.

Author's website includes an excerpt.

"Command Performance" by Michael Wilson. Told from Callisthenes' perspective. Jeanne Reames-Zimmerman calls it "interesting but amateur fiction." I find the character of the augur Dra irritating; his job was, in reality, filed by Aristander.

"Medicine" by Ramu Pyreddy. Short story about Alexander and Indian medicine.

Web Archive: "The God at Midnight" by Thomas E. Fuller and Brad Strickland from Realms of Fantasy, May/June 1996. My informant said it was "good little fiction piece on Alexander, vampires and immortality with nifty ending." The page is now only available on Web Archive; Strickland is dead. (Here's the obituary.)

Web Archive: "The Dulcamara" Historical fiction centering around the death of Alexander. I haven't read it but my source calls it "real bad fiction."

The Bend Sinister. No not Nabokov but a mystery by T.J. Doyle. "Was it the 'Casket of Alexander' (containing Alexander the Great's copy of the Iliad with annotations by his tutor, Aristotle) that was discovered in the crypt of a Norman Crusader in an Irish Monastery?

Web Archive: "A Place in the Race." Inspirational science fiction involving Alexander.

"The Alexander Conspiracy" (Elizabeth Collins). Details on buying this historical exploration of Alexander as an "Avatar of Life."

"Key players in the drama from Hadrian to Velikovsky have been invalidated along the way."
I can't wait.

Alexander and Lovecraft. Search for Alexander. The author takes a story in al-Mas'udi (and Khaldun) about Alexander preventing underwater creatures from destroying Alexandria and links it to horror-writer Lovecraft's Deep Ones. What a find!


Dryden, "Alexander's Feast" Great stuff.

"Alexander the Great" by Christa Wehner Radeburg (trans. from German)

Amazon. C.P. Cavafy: Collected Poems translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard.


Web Archive: [Way back] The Long Lost Tale of Alexander and the Amazon Queen... (from a scroll found in Thessaly a la Dictys of Crete and the Chanson of Bilitis)


Jean Racine, Alexandre le Grand (in French).

From "The Tragedy of Philotas" Samuel Daniel (1605).


The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli (trans. W. K. Marriott). "Why The Kingdon Of Darius, Conquered By Alexander, Did Not Rebel Against The Successors Of Alexander At His Death"


Amazon. Mozart, Il rè pastore "The Shepherd King," libretto by Pietro Metastasio, starring Alexander and various Sidonians. This version is conducted by Denis Vaughan for BMG/RCA Victor. The Amazon page includes trial audio downloads and a review. They also offers versions conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Sir Neville Marriner .

List of operas about Alexander from The A to Z of Opera. Also see the blurb on Handel's Alessandroand Handel's Poro, re dell'lndie.

Page on Mozart's opera Il rè pastore, Plot summary and two RealAudio clips provided by Steve Boerner for the Mozart Project (a wonderful site).

Web Archive: [Way back] G.F. Handel's "Das Alexanderfest".

Amazon. Iron Maiden, "Alexander the Great," from the album Somewhere in Time. A cheesy metal epic with surprisingly prosaic lyrics.

"By the Tigris river, he met King Darius again,
And crushed him again in the battle of Arbela,
Entering Babylon and Susa, treasures he found,
Took Persepolis, the capital of Persia."

Web Archive: Commentary on Iron Maiden's Song (Baeleron's Iron Maiden Rant #11).

"In this age where the past is considered increasingly irrelevant and History's extinction is hastened by the proliferation of false revisionism in the service of extremist ideologies, efforts such as Iron Maiden's Alexander the Great underscore the importance of popular culture in involving and educating the world's youth about history, its relevance to our own time, and its significance for our future."
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