History is full of colorful characters. As a result, writers have often long made use of real-life figures in their fiction, usually in cameo roles. E.L. Doctorow’s classic historical novel Ragtime (1975), for example, features the real-life anarchist Emma Goldman, among many, many others, and Caleb Carr’s bestselling mystery The Alienist (1994) includes a young Theodore Roosevelt as a secondary character.
Self-published authors have also tried their hands at merging historical reality and fiction—sometimes with quite clever results.
Laurie Lake White’s family saga Play Music (which Kirkus’ reviewer favorably compared to Ragtime) includes cameos from conductor Arturo Toscanini and legendary opera singer Enrico Caruso, both characterized as “incorrigible flirt s.” T. Notch Thomas’ The Cowboys and the Indians, meanwhile, offers a fictionalized version of author Oscar Wilde’s real-life travels across America in the 1880s. Its version of Wilde is a major character, and, unsurprisingly, he’s always quick with a quip: “My friends call me Oscar, my enemies just Wilde. My betrothed doesn’t even call me.”
Chip Wagar’s historical horror novel The Carpathian Assignment was named one of Kirkus’ Best Indie Books of 2014. Kirkus called it an “inventive, delectable take” on Bram Stoker’s 1897 classic Dracula, and it features appearances by famed psychiatrists Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Sigmund Freud. Krafft-Ebing even offers his psychological profiling techniques in a game attempt to help track down a murderer—with mixed results. “Charming man,” he says of Count Dracula. “Unlikely to be your killer, from a purely psychic point of view. No sign of neurosis or psychosis.” —D.R.
David Rapp is an Indie editor.