I Do Declare: A good historical work is better than a DeLorean

Did I mention that I love this guy?

I am about to take a trip back in time.

My favorite historical novelist, Ken Follett, has a new book out tomorrow – The Evening and the Morning – and I will be at Barnes & Noble when the doors open so I can purchase it, after which I will be immersed in Medieval England until I turn the last page.

In my opinion, Follett is the perfect storyteller. He has a way of weaving a tapestry of time and place that incorporates all your senses and keeps you on the edge of your seat with anticipation, even if you’re an expert in that period of history and know what’s coming.

I fell under Follett’s spell long ago with The Eye of the Needle, a spy thriller involving a German spy in 1940s England. The book stirred in me a passion for World War II that led (years later) to my writing a historical novel about the German resistance.

Follett also created the world of Kingsbridge and its marvelous cathedral in The Pillars of the Earth and the sequels, World Without End and A Column of Fire, and I was so invested in the stories that I feel like a resident of the town revisiting with each book. His latest book is the prequel to these stories, and I can’t wait to see the origins of “my town.”

There are many other historical novelists who are just as gifted – Herman Wouk immediately comes to mind, as does Anton Myrer (more about both of them in a future post) – but Follett is my favorite.

And it’s not just books. I feel the same about period TV shows and movies that are done well. It’s fascinating how a good historical movie or TV show or book can transform me to a different period and hold me in thrall.

That may sound peculiar, but when it comes to entertainment, in both cinema and literature, I have two great loves: history and time-travel.

Though they’re two sides of the same coin, really.

As much as I love historicals, I adore time travel stories, especially in cinematic form. Whether it’s a fun frolic (Back to the Futureand by that I mean I, II, and III, because they have to be taken as a whole) or a serious narrative (The Final Countdown) or a bizarre travel-industry-turned-dystopia (Thrill Seekers) or a zany yarn (Midnight in Paris) or hundreds of other stories.

TV too. The madcap antics of Quantum Leap or the juvenile capers of Voyagers kept me glued to the set every week.

Does it come as any surprise that the time travel episodes of Star Trek were my favorite? (Apparently I’m not alone. They gathered all those episodes and sold them in one boxed set.)

I don’t even mind the plot holes or conundrums. How did Gil get back to his own time? Why didn’t the time gadget get damaged when Phineas and Jeffrey fell into the next time? Why didn’t Doc and Marty use the undamaged car (which still had gas) that was buried in the cave?

Who cares? If you have people slipping into a different era, I’m there.

I can hand-wave inconsistencies away because it’s all about transporting to another time. Living inside history. Seeing it firsthand.

Which is where I’ll be tomorrow. As soon as Barnes & Noble opens.