Brandon Marlon


20th Century Masters of Historical Fiction

Posted on August 9, 2010 at 1:00 PM
Over the course of the last century a number of exceptional novelists emerged who distinguished themselves in the genre of historical fiction, including:


    • Lion Feuchtwanger (1884-1958)
    • Joseph Opatoshu (1886-1954)
    • Leon Kolb (1890-1977)
    • Milton Steinberg (1903-1950)
    • Ernest K. Gann (1910-1991)
    • Patrick O’Brian (1914-2000)
    • Howard Fast (1914-2003)
    • Moshe Shamir (1921-2004)
    • Chayym Zeldis (1927-)
    • Marek Halter (1936-)
    • Margaret George (1943-)
    • Anita Diamant (1951-)


  • Feuchtwanger: The Josephus trilogy: Josephus (1932); The Jew of Rome (1935); Josephus and the Emperor (1942); Jephta and his Daughter (1957)
  • Opatoshu: The Last Revolt (1952)
  • Kolb: Moses, The Near Easterner (1956); Berenice, Princess of Judea (1959); Mission to Claudius: Emperor of Rome (1963); The Sage: Father of Generations to Come (1965)
  • Steinberg: As a Driven Leaf (1939)
  • Gann: The Antagonists (1971); The Triumph (1986)
  • O’Brian: Master and Commander (1969); The Far Side of the World (1984)
  • Fast: My Glorious Brothers (1948); Spartacus (1951); Moses, Prince of Egypt (1958); Agrippa’s Daughter (1964)
  • Shamir: King of Flesh and Blood (1954)
  • Zeldis: Brothers (1976)
  • Halter: The Messiah (1998); The Book of Abraham (1999); The Wind of the Khazars (2003); Canaan trilogy: Sarah (2004); Zipporah, Wife of Moses (2005); Lilah (2006); Mary of Nazareth (2008)
  • George: The Autobiography of Henry VIII (1986); Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles (1992); The Memoirs of Cleopatra (1997); Mary Called Magdalene (2002); Helen of Troy (2006)
  • Diamant: The Red Tent (1997)

Feuchtwanger was a trailblazing publisher and journalist, and later collaborated with a young Bertolt Brecht. Opatoshu descended from a Polish Hassidic family, studied in Russia and France, then eventually moved to New York where he wrote numerous short stories in Yiddish which were later translated into English and Hebrew. A doctor and professor emeritus in pharmacology and therapeutics at Stanford School of Medicine, Kolb was also a respected collector of books, paintings, engravings, etchings and fine objects of art. Steinberg was a rabbi who studied at a Conservative seminary, considered himself a Reconstructionist, but headed a Reform congregation. A renaissance man, Gann led a fascinating life as a war aviator, commercial airline pilot and prolific novelist, and the epic television production Masada was based on his The Antagonists.

A resident of Wales and France, the productive O’Brian is best known for his expansive 21-volume series of British naval novels set in the Napoleonic era. A former Communist, the remarkable Fast wrote scores of novels as well as an insightful history of the Jews, and his Spartacus spawned the famous Kirk Douglas epic film (his Maccabees novel My Glorious Brothers has long been in development with Icon Productions). Shamir was a kibbutznik poet, playwright and novelist who became literature editor at the Maariv newspaper and later a member of the Knesset parliament. Born in Buffalo, Zeldis served in the 1956 Sinai Campaign and later moved to Israel where he and his wife teach at Tel Aviv University. Halter is a renowned intellectual French writer who is often politically active. Daughter of a diplomat, George moved internationally from a young age and went on to study ecology, eventually becoming a science writer before shifting to historical matter. Diamant is an award-winning, widely-published journalist who ventured into fiction late in her writing career, yet spurred a renewal of the historical fiction genre by the turn of the century.

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