Bowles, Colin 1953–
Bowles, Colin 1953–
PERSONAL: Born May 20, 1953, in London, England; emigrated to Australia, c. 1970s; married; children: two daughters. Hobbies and other interests: Scuba diving, travel.
CAREER: Writer. Has worked as a journalist, a writer for radio and television, in advertising, and as an operator of a local ambulance service, trainer of ambulance officers, and first aid instructor; full-time freelance writer, c. 1990–.
NOVELS; UNDER PSEUDONYM COLIN FALCONER
Venom, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1989.
Deathwatch, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1991.
Harem, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1992, published as The Sultan's Harem, Crown (New York, NY), 2004.
Fury, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1993.
Opium, Hodder Headline (London, England), 1994.
Triad, Hodder Headline (London, England), 1995.
Dangerous, Hodder Headline (London, England), 1996.
Angel (in German), Wilhelm Heyne Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1996.
Disappeared, Hodder Headline (London, England), 1997.
Die Aztekin (in German), Wilhelm Heyne Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1997, published in English as Aztec, Bantam Books (Sydney, New South Wales), 2002, published as Feathered Serpent: A Novel of the Mexican Conquest, Crown (New York, NY), 2002.
Die Tochter des Khan (in German), translation of "The Silk Road" from the English by K. Schatzhauser and Helmut Mennicken, Wilhelm Heyne Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1998.
Rough Justice, Hodder Headline (London, England), 1999.
Die Königin vom Nil, translated from the English by Gabriele Weber-Jaric, Wilhelm Heyne Verlag (Munich, Germany), 1999, published in English as When We Were Gods: A Novel of Cleopatra, Crown (New York, NY), 2000.
The Certainty of Doing Evil, Hodder Headline (London, England), 2000.
Zorn der Meere (in German), translation of "The Kingdom" from the English by Gabriele Weber-Jaric, Wilhelm Heyne Verlag (Munich, Germany), 2001.
Anastasia, Bantam Books (Milsons Point, New South Wales, Australia), 2003.
Die Novizin (in German), translation of "The Tomb of God" from the English, Wilhelm Heyne Verlag (Munich, Germany), 2003.
My Beautiful Spy, Bantam Australia (Milsons Point, New South Wales, Australia), 2005.
YOUNG ADULT NOVELS
Surfing Mister Petrovic, Penguin (Melbourne, Australia), 1997.
Going Off, Penguin (Melbourne, Australia), 1999.
Wasted, Penguin (Melbourne, Australia), 2001.
Nights in the Sun, Penguin (Melbourne, Australia), 2003.
The Wit's Dictionary, Angus & Robertson (London, England), 1984.
Teach Yourself Australian, Angus & Robertson (London, England), 1986.
The Cheat's Guide to Golf, Angus & Robertson (London, England), 1989.
The Beginner's Guide to Fatherhood, HarperCollins (London, England), 1992.
The Little Book of (Im)Morals, HarperCollins (London, England), 1996.
Flying Blind (first comic novel in a trilogy), Century (London, England), 1986.
Flying Hazzard (second comic novel in a trilogy), Century (London, England), 1987.
Hazzard in the Air (third comic novel in a trilogy), Century (London, England), 1988.
Heroes and Dragons (for children), Heinemann (Melbourne, Australia), 1995.
The Witch of Endor Street (for children), Heinemann (London, England), 1996.
Contributor to periodicals, including Australian, Playboy, Cosmopolitan, San Francisco Chronicle, Gentleman's Quarterly, and She. Columnist for magazines, including Gourmet Traveller and Ansett Inflight. Falconer's books have been translated and published in France, Spain, Italy, Argentina, Sweden, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Greece, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Korea, and Turkey.
SIDELIGHTS: Colin Bowles has written humorous books for adults and fiction for children and young adults, but he is best known for his historical novels for adults written under the pen name Colin Falconer. His typical approach is to take a well-known figure from history and shed new light on him or her through a fictional story that seeks to brush away the dust of time and reveal the true person behind the name. For example, Bowles once told CA that When We Were Gods: A Novel of Cleopatra "is my take on one of history's most enduring—but least known—characters, Cleopatra. I thought I would never do a Cleopatra, because there has been so much written about her, but when I started researching, I discovered that almost every popular image of her is wrong." In Bowles' version, the Egyptian queen is portrayed as a "vulnerable, intelligent and liberated [woman], defined by her wit as much as by her beauty," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. Other reviewers also appreciated the author's well-rounded characterization of this much-mythologized historical figure, with a Booklist reviewer calling the book "an enthralling fictional portrait," and Jane Baird, writing in the Library Journal, similarly attesting that Bowles shows Cleopatra as being "far more than a woman of mere physical passion."
In other novels, Bowles has portrayed some less-well-known historical people who have, nevertheless, made their mark on history. The Sultan's Harem, for example, is set during the sixteenth-century reign of Suleyman the Just over the Ottoman Empire. Though not as well known in the United States, Suleyman is an important figure in Middle Eastern and European history. Bowles paints him as a realistic human being who actually preferred poetry over battle. The author then proceeds to create a tragic tale of how Suleyman's love for a slave woman causes his downfall. Although a Publishers Weekly critic felt that Bowles had unfortunately created an "epic soap opera" about Suleyman, Library Journal contributor Baird described the book as "a gripping novel of intrigue, power brokering, obsession, and sensuality."
Feathered Serpent: A Novel of the Mexican Conquest features a much more shadowy figure in history—one about whom almost nothing is known. Malinali was born an Aztec princess; however, resentful of being sold into slavery, she betrayed her people to help the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes. "While taking care not to deviate from the actual events," wrote Baird in another Library Journal article, Bowles "dramatically interprets the motives and characteristics" of the people in his story. Margaret Flanagan, writing in Booklist, similarly asserted that the author "has embellished a sketchy legend, reimagining a tragic tale of power, greed, and destruction."
Bowles once told CA: "I started writing when my wife was two months pregnant and we had just arrived in a new city with nowhere to live. It helped focus my mind. I worked as a freelance journalist, along with writing for radio and television, while working on my first novel, which was eventually five years in the making. I am now a full-time novelist, with my work published widely in Europe and the United Kingdom and translated into fourteen languages. These days I concentrate on what I love most, which is writing historical fiction. History can be fifty years ago, or five thousand. What is important is bringing another era to life, researching it, imagining it, then seeing it through the eyes of the people who were there. When I was at school, history was dull and tedious. History should be enthralling.
"Alfred Hitchcock said that drama is life with the dull bits cut out. I aim to write history with the dull bits cut out. First and foremost I see myself as a storyteller; I look for great characters, compelling stories, timeless themes, rich fabrics. The history of human civilization has wonderful, wonderful stories, as Shakespeare well knew. I often write to feed my own curiosity. Fury was inspired when I realized that I did not know how the Middle East conflict, which fills our contemporary newspapers every day, really began. Opium was the story of how the drug trade took hold of the western world in the fifties and sixties. History is not just a genre. It excites me not because of its great stories—it also tells us who we are, and how we got here. That's why I believe that yesterday still has a huge future in publishing."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 15, 2000, Margaret Flanagan, review of When We Were Gods: A Novel of Cleopatra, p. 785; November 1, 2002, Margaret Flanagan, review of Feathered Serpent: A Novel of the Mexican Conquest, p. 473; May 15, 2004, Mary Ellen Quinn, review of The Sultan's Harem, p. 1607.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2002, review of Feathered Serpent, p. 1335; May 15, 2004, review of The Sultan's Harem, p. 471.
Library Journal, October 1, 2000, Jane Baird, review of When We Were Gods, p. 147; October 1, 2002, Jane Baird, review of Feathered Serpent, p. 126; June 1, 2004, Jane Baird, review of The Sultan's Harem, p. 120.
Publishers Weekly, October 23, 2000, review of When We Were Gods, p. 58; September 16, 2002, review of Feathered Serpent, p. 48; May 31, 2004, review of The Sultan's Harem, p. 46.
All about Romance, http://www.likesbooks.com/ (December 6, 2005), Heidi L. Haglin, review of Feathered Serpent.
BookReporter.com, http://www.bookreporter.com/ (December 6, 2005), Laura Carter, review of When We Were Gods.