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News & Views

Column of Fire

My medical research

Medical emergencies are wonderfully dramatic, but you have to get the facts right.

World Without End in particular has several hospital scenes. The story is about the Black Death, a medieval plague that killed at least one in three people in Europe and North Africa, and led to the beginnings of modern medicine.

I also think the birth of a child is one of the most emotional and scary events in anyone’s life. It’s normally painful, sometimes dangerous, often joyous, and I’ve written each kind of scene.

You don’t just need a doctor, you need one who can explain the facts and procedures in clear language and help you to write the kind of scene you want without making mistakes. I rely on my stepdaughter Kim Turner, who is thanked on the acknowledgements pages of most of my books. She’s an obstetrician, so my childbirth scenes should be very accurate; but like all doctors she’s able to deal with every kind of crisis.

In my new book A Column of Fire, out in September 2017, the queen of France has trouble getting pregnant. The historians don’t actually know why, so I made something up — with Dr Kim’s help.

As well as working with me she acts as a consultant on television dramas. She sometimes gets paid more for helping actors pretend to be doctors than she does for saving the lives of mothers and babies in real life. There’s an irony.


A Column of Fire will be published in September 2017

Ken's next novel, A Column of Fire, will form one of the 'Kingsbridge' series, with The Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. It will be published in September 2017.

"It is a spy story set in the sixteenth century, during the reign of Elizabeth I of England." Ken says." There were many assassination plots against the Queen, so the people around her set up an espionage system to foil those sixteenth century terrorists. This was the beginning of the British secret service that eventually gave us James Bond."

A master storyteller renowned for his meticulous research, Ken delved deep into the history books when writing his latest work.“I used 228 books in my research for A Column of Fire. From the rigid framework of names and dates, battles and assassinations and massacres to details of underwear, cutlery, coins, toilets, hairdressing, shops and booze – they were vital for getting the details right.”

Ken Follett and research for A Column of Fire

“How far can a horse go in a day? I found out from Horse & Man in Early Modern England. What were guns like in the sixteenth century? See Firearms: A Global History to 1700. Had forks been invented then? I found a French book Festins de la Renaissance: Cuisine et Tresors de la table with lots of pictures.”

Ken also turned to Shakespeare, who was writing during the time of A Column of Fire, for some of the more specific details in the book, such the various illness’ of horses (a useful list in The Taming of the Shrew) and sixteenth century food (Falstaff’s gargantuan appetites).

“Readers enjoy interesting background detail, but it has to be accurate, and I couldn’t manage that without history books," Ken added. Hundreds of historians have toiled all their lives to make it easier for me, and I raise a glass to them in gratitude for their work.”

A Column of Fire begins in 1558 where the ancient stones of Kingsbridge Cathedral look down on a city torn apart by religious conflict. As power in England shifts precariously between Catholics and Protestants, high principles clash bloodily with friendship, loyalty, and love.

Ned Willard wants nothing more than to marry Margery Fitzgerald. But when the lovers find themselves on opposing sides of the religious divide sweeping across the country, Ned goes to work for Princess Elizabeth. When she becomes queen, all Europe turns against England.

The shrewd, determined young monarch sets up the country’s first secret service, to give her early warning of assassination plots, rebellions and invasion plans. Over a turbulent half-century, the love between Ned and Margery seems doomed, as extremism sparks violence from Edinburgh to Geneva. Elizabeth clings precariously to her throne and her principles, protected by a small, dedicated group of resourceful spies and courageous secret agents.

The real enemies, then as now, are not the rival religions. The true battle pitches those who believe in tolerance and compromise against the tyrants who would impose their ideas on everyone else—no matter what the cost.

Set during one of the most turbulent and revolutionary times in history, A Column of Fire is one of Ken’s most exciting and ambitious works yet, and is perfect both for long-time fans of the Kingsbridge series as well as new readers.

A Column of Fire will be published in the United States and Canada in September 2017 by Viking Books, a Penguin Random House imprint, and in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth by Pan Macmillan. It will be published in Spanish in the autumn of 2017 by Plaza & Janés, an imprint of Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial.

Much of the novel is set in Kingsbridge, but part of the action takes place in Seville, Spain.


Bastei Lübbe signs long-term collaboration with Ken

Ken has signed a two-book contract with Bastei Lübbe AG, for novels due in 2020 and 2023.

“We are proud and happy to have this opportunity to continue working with Ken Follett, with whom we have enjoyed a friendly relationship for many years. He is more than just a world-class writer. For decades now he has also been one of the Bastei Lübbe Group’s most successful and notable authors”, says CEO Thomas Schierack.

The Cologne media conglomerate has a long history with Ken. Since 1979, all German-language editions of his novels have been published by Bastei Lübbe, including classics such as Eye of the Needle, The Pillars of the Earth and the Century Trilogy.


‘Pillars’ video game announced

The Pillars of the Earth will be published as a computer game by Daedalic Entertainment, part of Bastei Lübbe, publishers of the German editions of Ken’s books. The game will be released in 2017 on all established platforms. At the Frankfurt Book Fair 2015, Ken Follett, Felix Rudloff (Bastei Lübbe CCO) and Carsten Fichtelmann (Daedalic Managing Director) introduced the game and explained the motivation behind the graphic style and art direction.


A Dangerous Fortune mini-series

A Dangerous Fortune, a saga of love, power and revenge set amid the wealth and decadence of Victorian England, has been filmed as a two-part series.

The 180-minute drama is directed by Christian Schwochow (West, Open the Wall, The Tower), and stars Dominic Thorburn, Laura de Boer, Jeanette Hain (The Reader), Maria Dragus (The White Ribbon), Luca Marinelli (The Great Beauty) and David Bennent (Tin Drum). It is produced by Constantin Television for ZDF.

It was aired at Mipcom, the TV market that took place in Cannes between 5 and 8 October.

Watch a trailer at Variety magazine


Fall of Giants TV mini-series

The ABC network and Sony Pictures Television are developing a ten-hour TV series based on Fall of Giants. The script will be developed by Ann Peacock (The Dovekeepers, Chronicles of Narnia). The executive producers are Michael De Luca (Fifty Shades of Grey, The Social Network) and Stephanie Germain (The Day After Tomorrow, Lifetime’s Nora Roberts movies).

Read more at The Hollywood Reporter