Robert Low, a burly man with steely eyes, pushed a Viking sword in my hand, a rusted Gjermundbu helmet on my head, and said with a rich Highland brogue "Consider yourself volunteered". As I fastened my gear, he slapped my shoulder with a big calloused hand and led me towards a hundred or so battle ready warriors who were working themselves up into a frenzy. With a cheer they greeted their fighting companion, then with flags held high and robust singing, we marched to the battlefield to defend Scotland against the invading army from the far north.
I had travelled to Largs to meet this celebrated Scottish journalist, author and Viking re-enactor, to ask him about his much acclaimed Oathsworn novels. I literally had to fight for the interview.
Police and health and safety workers ensured the thousand or more eager spectators were safely behind a large roped off area. The spectators cheered as we aproached the battlefield where the oppposing army waited, ready with swords, shields, axes and taunts. An announcer's voice came over the loud speaker to repeat what Robert had told me just a few hours earlier, that this was to be a reenactment of the Battle of Largs, which took place on the 2nd of October in 1263, between the kingdoms of Norway and Scotland. This battle was part of the Norwegian expedition against Scotland, in which King Haakon Haakonarson of Norway attempted to reassert Norwegian sovereignty over the western part of Scotland.
After some fanfare, the two armies collided with ferocity. Skilled reenactors yelled and swung their weapons at each other with flare, much to the appreciation of the audience. Fist one side won, then the opposite side, then the first side again. At the end of the final clash, all reeanactors were miraculously brought back to life so they could wave to the cheering spectators.
(Photo of battle and flaming boat)
It was beginning to get dark, and as all the warriors sat down, Robert led me to a taped off area near an old boat that had been fixed up to look like a Viking Longship. Someone hoisted a striped square sail on the boat, then several archers appeared, lit thier arrows, fit them to thier longbows, took aim and fired. The flaming arrows arched through the air then struck the boat. Within minutes, the boat was engulfed in flames, rockets shot up, burst in the air, and the spectators cheered with delight.
As we sat on the grass, watching the boat burn, I asked Robert about the historical accuracy, level of detail and graphic fight scenes in his Oathsworn novels. His answers were as compelling as the books themselves.
When he was still a teenager, Robert was a war correspondent in Vietnam. Later he covered the fighting in Sarajevo, Romania and Kosova. After his stint as war correspondant, Robert moved to an area rich in Viking tradition, took up riding, taught himself horse archery, took up re-enactment and joined The Vikings group.
After witnessing and reporting real warfare from the trenches, and then immersing himself in everything Viking, Robert had the ability to write about Viking life and battles with gritty understanding. There is an assured and convincing tone to Robert's writing, and there is a rough realism to his Oathsworn Saga.
The Oatshworn series, that includes the Whale Road, Wolf Sea, White Raven, Prow Beast and Crowbone, are engaging, authentic, violent and extremely readable adventures. Robert transports us on to a raiding Viking Longship with a sense of realism that draws you in and keeps you hooked.
(photo of Robert and I)
To this day Robert still turns up with sword and shield to participate in steel weapon battles at festivals.
The Kingdom Series, deals with the Scottish Wars of Independence - the era of Wallace, Bruce and Edward Longshanks. It starts with The Lion Wakes.