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Black & White seizes O’Neill’s ‘thrilling’ Roman historical fiction

Black & White Publishing, an imprint of Bonnier Books UK, is to publish Circus Maximus by A.D. O’Neill.

Campbell Brown, executive publisher at Black & White, acquired world rights from David Forrer at InkWell Management.

Circus Maximus is part saga and part race-against-time adventure, weaved around historical fact, and centred on the splendour and intrigue of the Circus Maximus, the greatest sporting arena in history.

The somber and stoical Corax of Campania (“the Raven”) and the flamboyant and cocksure Alector of Arcadia (“the Rooster”) are two champion charioteers for the Green Faction in Imperial Rome. The first half of the book charts their rise to prominence, their unlikely friendship, their falling out over the sublime Greek slave girl Xenia, and their banishment from Rome for refusing to lose an exhibition race against the emperor Caligula.

The second part is set against the chaos of the Year of the Four Emperors (A.D. 69). In a symbolic bid to shore up his power, the tyrannical new emperor Vitellius seeks to annihilate the Green Faction in the Circus Maximus. Corax, now a fifty-five-year-old horse breeder in Spain, and Alector, a trainer of charioteers in Syria, have just 28 days in which to transport four champion chariot horses to Rome — braving earthquakes, blizzards, storms at sea, military engagements and attacks by assassins.

Blending history, imagination and pure adrenaline, Circus Maximus is an epic adventure. Fans of Robert Harris’s Cicero Trilogy will love it.  

A. D. O’Neill said: “I’ve been fascinated by chariot racing since seeing Ben-Hur as a child. The sport was much bigger and more spectacular than anything in the Colosseum but doesn’t seem to have achieved the same prominence in the popular imagination. Hopefully my novel – which took years to get right – will go some way towards changing that.”

Campbell Brown said: “We are very excited to be back working with A.D. O’Neill to publish his thrilling new historical fiction. He is a master of creating intense stories that keep you hooked. Readers will feel the heat on their face and the noise of the arena as they are transported back to Ancient Rome in this epic story.”

A.D. O’Neill is the author of seven novels that altogether have been published in seventeen languages: Scheherazade (a revisionist Arabian Nights epic); The Lamplighter (a tale of the macabre set in 1886 Edinburgh); The Empire of Eternity (a history-mystery featuring Napoleon Bonaparte and the early years of archaeology); The Unscratchables (a Swiftian satire featuring anthropomorphic dog and cat detectives); The Dark Side (a lunar detective story); Dr Jekyll & Mr Seek (a sequel to Stevenson’s classic tale); and The Devil Upstairs (a satanic mystery set in modern day Edinburgh). Three of his books have been optioned by Hollywood. He was born in Melbourne and lives in Edinburgh.

Circus Maximus will be published on 14 March 2024.