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Researching The Loyal Centurion by Jacquie Rogers

I am pleased to welcome my friend and fellow author, Jacquie Rogers, to the blog today to discuss how she researched her new historical fiction novel, The Loyal Centurion. Thank you for your time today, Jacquie. Over to you.

It’s a pleasure to be a guest on adoptive Scotswoman and fellow crime writer Val’s blog, particularly as my latest Roman Britain mystery, The Loyal Centurion, is largely set in Scotland. But I’m not sure I’d describe the research process for this new book an unalloyed pleasure.

That wasn’t the fault either of Scotland, a beguilingly beautiful country, or the Scots, a most hospitable and helpful people. It has more to do with the relative paucity of historical information relating to my period (early 3rd century, the tail end of the Severan dynasty in Roman terms). Once the Romans had withdrawn their final attempt to conquer Scotland in AD211, almost nothing was written about the country or its inhabitants till the end of the century, when the much-maligned Picts came onto the scene.

So my usual primary sources for AD 224 were no help when it came to picturing my heroes encountering the natives of Scotland. I turned to Scottish archaeology, finding it, relatively speaking, in its infancy. However, magnificent efforts are being made in recent years, and I received willing and knowledgeable help from experts, from Edinburgh as far north as Dundee.

Plus, not having much historical evidence does mean you can make a lot up.

So, onto research logistics. The book begins on the road in West Yorkshire, then comes swift travel by my two imperial military investigators Quintus Valerius and Tiro, on the trail of murders in Castleford, York and beyond Hadrian’s Wall. Their investigations take them to Trimontium in the Borders, on to Cramond (now Edinburgh), and across Fife to the Tay, alternating with more action in York (where the third of my sleuths, Julia, the wife of Quintus, is based.)

I went to York twice during autumn 2022/April 2023, fairly manageably by train. In August 2022, which you will remember as famously hot, we made the ill-judged decision to go to research Hadrian’s Wall and Vindolanda by motorbike. In 37 degrees, in leathers, on our faithful Triumph Tiger. From our home in Worcestershire. We did survive, and managed wonderful research at the stunning Roman army museum near Vindolanda (such a wonderful site I added it into the plot, as Magna Fort.) In Vindolanda itself we met worried archaeologists struggling against climate change to dig and conserve important artefacts from the fast-drying soil, on limited funds. (Vindolanda has since received substantial extra funding — much needed as the artefacts being uncovered, organic ones made of leather, fabrics, and of course the globally-important wooden tablets, are unique in the Roman world.) At the Wall itself, where I set a major scene, the hot winds were so intrusive that the video we shot was useless. (To see the video clips we did successfully film for the book, go to my Youtube Channel, and scroll to The Loyal Centurion.)

Bare weeks later, we booked a further research trip to Scotland, based at Leith — highly recommended — in early December. Train strikes intervened, and the interviews I had arranged with curators and archaeologists at various museums had to be cancelled. In January we tried again. This time the trains ran, and we arrived in Edinburgh, visited the National Museum, then continued north by car. Only one of my planned interviews could be rescued — I did the others by email/zoom — and we drove to Abernethy Museum on Tayside, and on to the McManus in Dundee in bitter weather. We filmed the Carpow footage in hail and sleet, standing in freezing boggy fields. My obliging cameraman got quite ratty, and told me if I ever want to go to Scotland again, I go alone.

No stamina, some people.

I’ll leave you to judge whether the research efforts were worthwhile; I certainly think so. If you do read the resulting book, The Loyal Centurion, let me know what you think!

The Author

Jacquie Rogers was a childhood ten-pound Pom, who came back to England just in time for the three-day week. She had careers in advertising and university teaching before realising that writing suited her best. Her short stories have been published in several countries. In 2020 and 2021 she was Runner Up in the Lincoln Book Festival story competition.

Jacquie is the author of the Quintus Valerius series of Roman Britain mysteries. The Governor’s Man was published by Sharpe Books in May 2021, followed by The Carnelian Phoenix in summer 2022, and The Loyal Centurion in August 2023.

Jacquie lives in Malvern, where she walks the hills daily with her husband and Staffie-cross, Peggy. Jacquie loves long-distance travel by motorbike, and discussing politics, travel and books with friends. She spends a lot of time in cafés and pubs.

Jacquie blogs at You can find all her contact information, including social media, book links and Youtube channel at

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