Is There Truth in Historical Fiction? The Drama of Unintended Consequences

Is There Truth in Historical Fiction-The Drama of Unintended ConsequencesWriters of historical fiction will offer all sorts of answers to that question. Reviewers will have even more. They will probably all be correct, from their point of view. One perspective is that all history is fiction. We only know of any event from what observers recorded, and historians resolved.  A dictionary will say it is the genre of literature, film, etc. comprising narratives set in the past and characterized chiefly by an imaginative reconstruction of historical events and personages. This is true, too.

I love history and the interesting story in history is, to me, the occurrence of the unintended consequences that so often escape the textbook, or the filmmaker. One of the greatest examples of this is how the world changed after the catastrophic failure of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. The only published record of this is from a member of Napoleon’s army, in the book Campaign in Russia by Eugene Labaume, published in 1814. The last line of this book says much. “These calamities have had one happy result, by putting an end to a despotic influence; they have restored Europe her liberty, and to France her happiness.”

My view is to look for the story behind or between the facts. I want to know everything that is known, and everything that is not known. Then a story might unfold that is enjoyable and enlightening. The facts can be dramatized and connected with creative action. The soul of the characters can be developed for depth, breadth and meaning.

The structure of The Lady with an Ostrich Feather Fan, my dramatic story of the famed Yusupov Rembrandts, is built on this formula.

Russia –“The beginning of the end of autocracy?”


The cover story of a recent Economist magazine, read “The beginning of the end of Putin.” The deeper meaning of those well chosen words might be “The beginning of the end of autocracy.” As always in Russia, there is a third side of the coin. Putin … [Continue reading]



Ronald Moe was a committed seeker for truth. Before Ron’s recent untimely passing he had finished his book on the murder of Rasputin and its meaning in the unraveling events in Russian history. “Prelude to the Revolution, the Murder of Rasputin” is … [Continue reading]


Many are surprised that the Russians like to joke about themselves and their leaders. But I wonder about the February 28, 2011 article in It was titled “Siberia to separate from Russia to become a part of USA” Now is that funny or … [Continue reading]


“Suddenly” is a word used often by the Russians. I remember being told once in a writing workshop never to use the word “suddenly.” Only Dostoevsky can use that word, the teacher said. Writing instructors often say that nothing in fiction happens … [Continue reading]

Coco Chanel and WHO? Rasputin??

Things “happen.” As an “unintended consequence” of the murder of Gregori Rasputin by Prince Felix Yusupov in December 1916 in St. Petersburg, Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich, first cousin of Czar Nicolas II, one of the handful of conspirators, was sent … [Continue reading]

Shirt or No Shirt, it’s Putin.

It is amazing to an American to read the Russian news and hear all the varied opinions about Putin’s decision to run for the Presidency—as if there has already been a campaign and an election. But that’s the way it is in Russia—for now. And it will … [Continue reading]