Posts Tagged: D.B. Jackson

Tomorrow marks the release of A Plunder of Souls, the third instalment in my historical urban fantasy, the Thieftaker Chronicles. For those who are unfamiliar with the series, the books are set in pre-Revolutionary Boston, and feature a conjuring thieftaker (sort of an eighteenth century private investigator) named Ethan Kaille.

I have a Ph.D. in U.S. History and so I take my historical research seriously; I’ve done my best to portray accurately the real-life events from the 1760s that coincide with my fictional narratives. I have taken care in my portrayal of historical figures, and I have made every effort to create a Boston that is true to its purported time while also being accessible to twenty-first century readers. Read More »

Thieves Quarry by D.B. Jackson
Ideology, Politics, and the Writer

This is a post about writing; it is not a post about politics.

This is a post about writing; it is not a post about politics. I want to make that clear from the outset. I am not trying to write a polemical piece, nor am I looking for a fight. Please, let’s try to keep comments and discussion to the writing issues.

My first series, the LonTobyn Chronicle (which I wrote as David B. Coe), was a fairly straightforward epic fantasy trilogy. But I originally conceived of it as something I called “an ecological fantasy,” because it played on ecological issues. I didn’t worry about putting off readers; in my callow arrogance I just figured that those who were interested in the issues would see what I was doing, and those who didn’t would still enjoy the story. The problem was, I used too heavy a hand in weaving those issues into my narrative. In its review of the final volume of the trilogy, Publisher’s Weekly noted this, saying, “Characterization, although present, plays second fiddle to ideology in this epic. It’s as if Robert Jordan began channeling Will and Ariel Durant.” Read More »

A Spell of Vengeance by D.B. JacksonHot off of yesterday’s review of Thieftaker, I thought I’d point you to a fun short story written by D.B. Jackson and published on that ties into the series and introduces readers to Ethan Kaille, the titular protagonist of the series.

Ethan Kaille is a thieftaker in Colonial Boston, scratching out a living by restoring stolen property to its rightful owners. But unlike others in his profession, Ethan relies on magical spells as well as his wits to track down thieves. Being a conjurer doesn’t make him popular with the law in Boston, so Ethan is taken aback when the sheriff seeks his help in settling a dispute between a pair of wealthy merchants and a ship’s captain who has threatened their lives. Ethan knows the captain can back up his threats with magic of his own. But there is more to this matter than the merchants have let on, and Ethan soon discovers that what he doesn’t know might actually kill him.

You can read D.B. Jackson’s “A Spell of Vengeance” on If you’re interested in more from Jackson, he recently wrote a great guest post here on A Dribble of Ink, What Do Authors of Historical Fiction Owe to History?

Thieftaker by D.B. Jackson


By D.B. Jackson
Pages: 336 pages
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: 07/03/12
ISBN: 0765327619


Prior to reading D.B. Jackson’s (aka: David B. Coe) most recent novel, my only exposure to the idea of a thieftaker, or a private individual hired to capture criminals, was Julian Sandar from Robert Jordan’s iconic Wheel of Time. Interestingly, my only experience with pre-Revolution America in genre fiction also came by way of Robert Jordan in his Fallon Blood series written under the pseudonym Reagan O’Neal. Jackson’s Thieftaker lifts both limitations, deftly blending historical fiction and urban fantasy to create a who-dun-it dressed up with tricorn hats and blood magic.

Set in 1765 in Boston, Massachusetts, during The Stamp Act riots, Thieftaker follows the exploits of Ethan Kaille, Jackson’s protagonist and only point of view character. Making his living finding stolen goods, Ethan is also a speller, capable of turning organic material into magical energy. When he’s asked to recover a necklace worn by the murdered daughter of a prominent royalist, he finds himself in the middle of a conspiracy to upset the delicate balance between Britain and her colonies.

As that summation suggest, Ethan is the narrative impetus, and the vehicle that Jackson uses to snare the reader. His history, power, and moral center held my interest despite a standard crime fiction plot structure that won’t overwhelm anyone with its inventiveness. In particular, it’s Ethan’s back story and how conjurers interact in a world that reviles their existence which gives Thieftaker its unique flavor. Read More »

Thieftaker by D.B. JacksonWriters often draw upon history, be it for inspiration, for setting, for character, for plot ideas, or for some combination of these. Recently, I have embarked on a new phase in my career, turning from epic fantasy to what I call historical urban fantasy. And even as I borrow so many of my ideas from the past, I find myself wondering what I owe history in return.

I have a Ph.D. in U.S. history, and though I have been a refugee from academia for far longer than I was actually a part of it, I still harbor a certain reverence for the study of our past, and a near-obsessive concern for historical accuracy. I also understand that “accuracy” is a term that is both freighted with unintended meanings and nearly impossible to define for more than one person at any given moment. Still, to the extent possible, I want to get the easily-verified stuff right. I want to put the correct people in the correct place at the correct time.

The first thing I owe to history: attention to detail. This is not to say that I can’t bend some “facts” to my own purposes.

That I believe, is the first thing I owe to history: attention to detail. This is not to say that I can’t bend some “facts” to my own purposes. Authors do that all the time. Indeed, often that is the point of our work, whether it’s giving the Confederacy superior weaponry — as Harry Turtledove famously did in The Guns of the South — or having Charles Lindbergh, an anti-Semite and white supremacist, defeat Franklin Roosevelt in the 1940 Presidential election — as Philip Roth did in The Plot Against America. In my new book, Thieftaker, I portray Boston in 1765 as accurately as possible, with two notable exceptions: First, in my book the city’s population includes some people who are conjurers, and second, the city has at least two thieftakers working within its boundaries. I’ll leave a discussion of magic and conjuring for another day, but I will readily admit that thieftakers did not actually appear in any North American city until the early 19th century and then only for a very brief period.

Boston in 1768

Boston, c. 1768

So, one may ask, if we can add thieftakers and conjurers to a city population, or give modern machine guns to the army of the Confederacy, or change the outcome of a Presidential election that occurred over seventy years ago, all in the interests of satisfying our narrative needs, how could it possibly matter what color Samuel Adams’ house was painted? And while I know it’s not a satisfactory answer to the question, I will start by saying “Because it just does.” Read More »