Desolation, bodies from river

Vann Turner: Novels of Late Antiquity

Desolation, bodies from river Desolation, bodies from river

To Forestall the Darkness:
A Novel of Ancient Rome


Italy in the Sixth Century was a land of utter devastation. The plague had depopulated it and decades of war had destroyed it. Industry, agriculture, commerce and city life had stopped. The ruination was so complete that it could have been the template for the film, Mad Max. But imagine a man in that apocalypse, not attempting merely to survive and seek revenge, as Mel Gibson did, but one determined to restore what had been lost. That is the scenario and thrust of To Forestall the Darkness.


To Forestall the Darkness is set in AD 589, Verona, where the Germanic Lombards held power. The Lombards were so brutal that Pope Gregory often railed against their cruelty: They were unusually fond of castration. Through this world moves Titus Tribonius, a man of emotional and moral strength.


Titus Tribonius

From the barbarity he faces—decapitated heads adorning Hadrian’s Gate, burning of hamlets in the adjoining district, enslavement of freeborn Romans, murder of a woman while in his custody, a man’s castration on the Cathedral steps—he flees to the shrine of his household gods, where he stands for hours, his arms raised in supplication, his head covered with his toga. Dozens gather in the peristylum, where—silent and expectant—they watch him pray. Finally he turns and announces in measured voice, “It shall not stand.” One in the crowd asks him to clarify and he shouts, “Our subjugation shall not stand!”


Romans as captives

Amid the desolation the characters in this richly textured novel teem with life:

With some aiding him, some opposing, and some even betraying him, Titus will struggle to restore what has been lost.


To Forestall the Darkness is a serious historical novel for a mature audience, like Gary Jennings’ Raptor or Steven Saylor’s Roman Blood.


Click here to read the first 40 pages.


cover, To Forestall the Darkness


cover, To Abandon Rome, AD 593

Publication date: November 13, 2017
Kindle edition available for

A wife snatched from him by his banishment.
Another woman who loves him.
A rage he keeps caged until the moment comes to release it.

This is the story of Titus Tribonius, former Chief Jurist for Roman Matters in the Lombard Kingdom, reduced to baking clay and lime in furnaces, then elevated to Consul with Plenary Powers.

The Pope assigns him a task--defeat the Lombard King besieging Rome.

To confront the King who stripped him of everything he knew and loved? That King?!

His need is a personal one--somehow survive it with the woman he loves.

To Abandon Rome is a literary novel of drama, passion and depth. It mingles tears with shouts of joy and suggests a closer look into the nature of things.

The Prologue of To Abandon Rome:

Agents of the Lombard King intercepted this letter in April, 593.

From Stola to Titus, her wedded husband.

You will have difficulty in reading this, beloved. I apologize. I cannot dictate it, but must write it the best I can myself.

First, I pray Lucius can deliver this letter into your hands. I also pray he finds you well in the great City. Are you still laboring with clay and lime and furnaces? I hope that is not the case. If he manages to return I will pry from him all the particulars of your life there.

cover, To Abandon Rome, AD 593

I must unveil two losses, one widely known, the other veiled in shame. First, our loyal overseer, Demetrius, took to his bed at the end of winter and never arose again. He now awaits the Resurrection on the hill next to your brother.

To utter the second shreds my heart. You carried me into your home a chaste maiden, though perhaps now you ought to return me to my father's house a soiled woman.

I have been defiled, Titus.

No one on the estate knows except my maid and Anna the healer. I had her concoct herbs so that I might not humiliate you by bearing a bastard in your absence.

It was Ratold, our Duke. He forced himself into me.

I am so sorry. I am ashamed.

Send word back with Lucius whether I should stay or return to my father's house. Again, I am so ashamed.

I will obey you in all things, husband.


There are no sex scenes in To Abandon Rome. None. But there is physical attraction and building sexual tension.

The novel is intended for adult readers, not children: There are two reports of rape and extreme violence in the climatic chapter.

324 pages, 85,000 words.

Map of Rome

Map of Rome's Northern Regions


Artwork used on this page:

Top: Charles Le Brun (1619 – 1690), French. A portion of Mucius Scaevola devant Porsenna.
Middle: Cesare Maccari (1840 - 1919), Italian. A portion of  Cicerone denuncia Catalina of 1888.
Bottom: Charles Gleyre (1806-1874), Swiss. A portion of  Les Romans passant sous le joug of 1858.
To Forestall cover: Gustave Dore (1832 - 1883), French. A portion of The Clash of the Titans of 1868.
To Abandon Rome: Etienne-Jules Ramey (1796 - 1852), French.Thesee combattant le Minotaure of 1821. Photograph by Lucian Milasan.
Photograph of Colosseum by Phil Good.


Keywords as listed in the META tags: historical fiction, ancient rome, roman fiction, historical novel, roman novel, to forestall the darkness, to abandon rome, vann turner, late antiquity, medieval fiction, historical romance


© 2017 by Vann Turner