Press Release

Everything Old is New Again
Historical novels put a different spin on the past

(ARA) — Ego-maniacal and self-serving politicians. Back-stabbing "friends" and shifting alliances. Escalating political tension and civil war. Extra-marital affairs among the rich and powerful. These topics could have been ripped from today's newspaper headlines or they could be the titillating plotline of the latest tawdry "movie-of-the-week." But they are actually the exploits of real-life historical characters of ancient Rome, the time of Julius Caesar, Cicero and Pompey the Great, the shapers of our own Western civilization and the so-called "preservers" of the Graeco-Roman culture.

If this all sounds a lot more interesting than you remember from history class, you're not alone. More and more people are discovering the pleasures of learning about the past through the increasingly popular genre of historical fiction. Characters are brought to life in a way they never were in textbooks. These novels are well-researched and well-written, allowing readers to gain greater understanding of the historical period, more insight into the accomplishments of these energetic and creative geniuses, and a greater mastery of a complex web of details than they could through a "just-the-facts" approach.

Benita Kane Jaro is one of a small group of authors who specialize in historical fiction set in ancient Rome. "These books are not just the history of a culture, a society, but a reflection of our contemporary current: a world also rife with political machinations, maneuvers and corruption," she says. "We are all prisoners of our culture; we read into history what our own experience allows us." Rome was a superpower whose leaders were energetic, creative, even high-minded, but they were in all things like us, including sin, the badge or our humanness. There is much to learn, lest we make the same mistakes they did.

Jaro has written a trilogy based on the collapsing Roman society of the late Republic — "The Key," "The Lock" and "The Door in the Wall." These are fictionalized memoirs of a real-life young Roman, Marcus Caelius Rufus (the defendant for whom Cicero's "Pro Caelio" was written), born in 82 B.C., who becomes the protégé of Julius Caesar. "The Lock" has just been released in paperback by Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc. The other two are paperback reprints of earlier editions.

"I wrote the trilogy out of a deep fascination for this exciting period in Western history — the foundation of so much of our own culture and so astonishing in its own right. Full of dramatic incident and startlingly individual characters, the collapse of the Roman Republic and the rise of the dictatorships of the Caesars is the best documented period of history until the 18th century. We have every kind of information — political, cultural, even the most intimate details."

Though it is a completely independent novel, "The Lock" continues the portrait of the Republic so compellingly depicted in "The Key" and culminating in "The Door in the Wall." The principal figures of the age all make their appearance and play out their fateful struggle. The lives of poets, scholars, soldiers, politicians, powerful political women, even slaves are portrayed in fascinating detail.

"The Key" is centered on the love poet Catullus; "The Door in the Wall" examines Julius Caesar's rise to power. "The Lock," written last, though chronologically second in the trilogy, is built around the letters and speeches of Cicero, many of which appear in the novel in new and lively translations by the author. The book provides a deep rethinking of the character of Marcus Tullius Cicero and a reassessment of his life and work. "His warmth and wit, his intelligence, his integrity and his courage make him a hero for our time as well as his own," says Jaro.

All three books feature maps of Rome and the Empire specially drawn for the novel. They also include reader-friendly lists of principal characters and chronologies of events.

Benita Kane Jaro studied painting at The Art Student's League and classics at Stanford University. She holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from California State University at Northridge and an MFA in creative writing from The American University in Washington, D.C. The author has studied and taught in Mexico, California, Washington and Maryland, and for three years in Provence, where she also showed her paintings. She is currently working on a novel about Ovid.

Visit Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers at for more information on this historical trilogy: "The Key," "The Door in the Wall," and "The Lock." Books are available at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores.

Content Review copies of "The Lock" are available; to request one, or to arrange an interview with the author, contact Marie Bolchazy at or (847) 526-4344, Ext. 22.

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