Roy M. Griffis’s “By the Hands of Men trilogy” is the most touching as well as the most enjoyable historical fiction I’ve read in quite some time. The first book, “The Old World,” was released to very little fanfare; the second, “Into the Flames,” came out on December 10, 2015—to what I hope will be a response more commensurate with its merit.
"The Old World” opens just behind the English line in France during the First World War. Instead of postmodern screw-ups, Griffis uses believably noble characters to populate this hellish theater; Nurse Charlotte Braninov and Lieutenant Robert Fitzgerald. Through their eyes, the reader watches the Old World crumble in the carnage.
The second volume sees Charlotte wandering back to Russia after the armistice, in an ill-fated attempt to rejoin her family. She believes them to be all she has left on Earth: her beloved mentor and her dream of love are both dead. She’s in a foolish daze, or so it seems to us in hindsight; it would have been hard to predict the sheer brutality of the Russian Revolution, as Griffis depicts it in a long series of gripping and heart-wrenching chapters. Reading this section of the book, it occurred to me that I had never cried so much at work in my life, not even while chopping onions. I have never seen a heroine take so much abuse; Charlotte is not an idealized character, and she nearly flips to the dark side.
Meanwhile, Robert Fitzgerald, broken-hearted, volunteers to work for a shadowy intelligence agency linked to the British crown. While Charlotte wades through rivers of gore in Communist Russia, Robert gets to see China gear up for the same tragedy.
Once you’re caught up in the Old-World culture and fictional logic of this series it becomes physically painful to stop. The pages are relentlessly pithy; no thought or emotion or effort seems to have been spared, and none of the writing rings cheap. If you would like your reading to ennoble your spirit, these books are a treacle-free pleasure
About the Author
Born in Texas City, TX, the son of a career Air Force meteorologist. Attended a variety of schools at all of the hot spots of the nation, such as Abilene, Texas and Bellevue, Nebraska. Sent to my grandparent’s house in Tuscon, Arizona when things were tough at home. I was pretty damn lost, as my grandparents were largely strangers to me. My older brother, a more taciturn type, refused to discuss what was going on. Fortunately, like so many kids before me, I was rescued by literature. Or, at least, by fiction. In a tiny used bookstore that was just one block up from a dirt road, I discovered that some good soul had unloaded his entire collection of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “John Carter of Mars” series in Ballantine Paperback. Moved by some impulse, I spent my RC Cola money on the first book, “A Princess of Mars.” I think what struck me was how these books were possessed of magic: they were able to transport me far from this dusty land of relatives who I didn’t know and relatives pretended not to know me to another dusty land of adventure, heroism, nobility, and even love. It was the first magic I’d encountered that wasn’t a patent fraud, and when I closed the stiff paperback with the lurid images on the cover, I decided it was the kind of magic I wanted to dedicate the rest of my life to mastering. And, thus, I was saved. Since then, I’ve never looked back. I’ve written poems, short stories (twice runner-up in the Playboy college fiction contest), plays (winning some regional awards back East and a collegiate Historical Play-writing Award), and screenplays. I’m a member of the WGAw, with one unproduced screenplay sold to Fox Television. Along the way, I’ve done the usual starving artist jobs. Been a janitor, a waiter, a clerk in a bookstore. I was the 61st Aviation Rescue Swimmer in the Coast Guard (all that Tarzan reading wasn’t wasted). I’m also not a bad cook, come to think of it. Currently, I’m a husband, father, and cat-owner. I’m an avid bicyclist and former EMT. I live in Southern California with my lovely wife. My friends call me “Griff,” my parents call me “Roy,” and my college-age son calls me “Dadman.” It’s a good life. By the Hands of Men, Book Three:
“The Wrath of a Righteous Man” will be released in May, 2016.