Historical Fiction | Los Angeles Public Library

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Historical Fiction

Updated: December 13, 2012

Fiction set in the past, and often inspired by true events and real people.

Atwood, Margaret, 1939-
Atwood's novel is based on the true story of Grace Marks, a Canadian maid accused of murdering her employer and his housekeeper (and mistress) in 1843. Was she guilty? Or herself a victim?

Liss, David, 1966-
Call Number: Ed.a
This financial thriller about the London stock market crash of 1720, also known as the South Sea Bubble, seems especially fresh and relevant today. The story is told through the eyes of Benjamin Weaver, a Jewish ex-boxer who tracks down thieves and debtors for the wealthy. When he begins to investigate the mysterious death of his estranged father, a notorious stockbroker, Weaver finds himself in the middle of a dangerous conspiracy.

Simmons, Dan.
A spooky imagining of Charles Dickens's final years, complete with Egyptian death cults, mesmerism, a laudanum-addicted Wilkie Collins, and a shadowy, wicked figure named Drood.

Lehane, Dennis.
Set at the end of World War I in Boston, the story of two families, one black and one white, is told in epic style. Using some of the most pivotal episodes in our nation's history, Lehane weaves together a violently picturesque history of America that includes the plague, baseball, civil rights, immigrants, and ultimately, the Boston Police strike of 1919.

Faye, Lyndsay.
Call Number: M
The year is 1845, and crime, poverty, and political corruption are rampant in New York City. The potato famine has driven thousands of Irish immigrants into the city's slums, and anti-Catholic sentiment is high. A child killer is on the loose, and New York City's first police department "the copper stars" has just begun to take shape. Timothy Wilde, a former bartender with a sharp eye for details, is assigned to the case knowing that failure to solve the murders will all but doom the nascent police unit. Fans of page-turning historical mysteries like Caleb Carr's The Alienist will enjoy this one.

Brennert, Alan.
Expecting to receive the education she is denied as a female in Korea in 1914, Regret travels to Honolulu as the picture bride for a wealthy Korean man who has established himself in the tropical paradise. Instead she finds herself married to a violent alcoholic who is an impoverished plantation worker.

Atkins, Ace.
This the story of 1930's gangster "Machine Gun" Kelly and his wife Kathryn, who kidnapped oilman Charles Urschel in July, 1933. Period slang and activities of other more notorious gangsters of the time period make for a fast-paced read filled with thrills, if not historical accuracy. An interesting side note is that Ace Atkins was chosen by the heirs of Robert B. Parker to complete Parker's unfinished manuscripts.

Grunwald, Lisa.
An orphan, Henry House begins life as a "practice baby," raised by women studying home economics at a prominent university, and his life will only become more unusual and unlikely from there. If you like books by T.C. Boyle and John Irving, check out this book.

Shaara, Michael.
Call Number: Ed.d
Filmmaker Ken Burns calls this fictional account of the Battle of Gettysburg "a book that changed my life."

Doctorow, E. L., 1931-
With characters including a freed slave girl, an army surgeon, a hapless Confederate soldier, and General William Tecumseh Sherman himself, E.L. Doctorow takes on Sherman's march to the sea in this acclaimed novel.

Brennert, Alan.
Moloka'i tells the haunting story of Rachel Kalama. Contracting leprosy at seven years old, she is sent to the leper colony where she is seemingly doomed to a life of isolation.

Carey, Peter, 1943-
This thinly veiled fictional account of Alexis de Tocqueville's 19th century travels in America is clever, witty, and highly original.

Harris, Robert, 1957-
Historical fiction at its most historic, Pompeii is set in August AD 79 in Campania, Italy. Written like a modern day thriller, the plot centers on an aqueduct engineer, Attilius, who must repair the aqueduct before it runs dry. Amidst the luxuriant wealth and violent corruption of the Roman Empire, Attilius is in a race against time to save the water, unaware of the power of Mt. Vesuvius, where the aqueduct's main line lies.

Alexander, Robert, 1952-
On the eve of the Russian Revolution, Maria Rasputin is swept up in a web of intrigue the week before her father's death. Fast-paced and told in one continuous flashback, Maria must come to grips with conspiracy and betrayal.

Gee, Sophie, 1974-
A racy tale of gossip, scandal, and the rich behaving badly, Gee's novel imagines the historical events that inspired Alexander Pope's mock-epic poem "The Rape of the Lock."

Levy, Andrea, 1956-
Set in 1948 post-war Britain, this story of Jamaican immigrants hoping for a better life focuses on four characters living in the same rooming house. The harsh reality of an immigrant's life is not what they had hoped for but the richness of their relationships gives their lives purpose.

Mitchell, David
Discover the Far East in the year 1799 through the eyes of a young Dutchman as he travels to Japan to make his fortune with the Dutch East Indies Company. Jacob's transformation from timid clerk to honorable adversary is something you won't want to miss.

Mantel, Hilary, 1952-
This very stylized novel takes a look at the life of Thomas Cromwell with a particular emphasis on his machinations in the court of Henry VIII.