Guest Column: Three Books You Need To Read By Gloom’s Bill Calomiris

Lead singer of blackened death metal band offers up some tomes to pass the time

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In our undying efforts to bring you engaging columns you won’t find anywhere else, we’ve reached out to the metal world seeking submissions for a new subject: Three amazing books you have to pick up and devour.

Seeing as you read this blog everyday, we went out on a limb and assumed you’d maybe want to get some decent book suggestions from some of your favorite bands, too. So today, we continue this series on rad, must-reads with an entry written by Gloom’s Bill Calomiris, a recent guest on our podcast.

Since I was a kid, I’ve always been a bit obsessed with ancient cultures, warfare and archaeology (I watched “Indiana Jones” a few too many times). The following three books are all works of historical fiction I’ve really enjoyed; hopefully you do too!

“Gates of Fire” by Steven Pressfield
Like most Americans, I’m a mutt: ½ Greek and ½ German. My Greek ancestry has its roots on the island Naxos and a small village in Sparta called Vordonia. As any Greek-American will tell you, there’s no way to escape dinner table history lessons and, in my case, stories about King Leonidas and the 300 Spartans who kept the entire Persian army at bay in order to buy the rest of Greece enough time to ready their forces. My dad gave me this book in high school and I read it every few years.

It’s a brutal and historically accurate (…as accurate as you can get, a few thousand years ex post facto) accounting of Spartan training and the actual battle of Thermopylae told through the eyes of the sole survivor. This isn’t dry history, mind you — this is the most intense, bloody and realistic depiction of ancient battle you could ever lay your hands on.

If you liked the movie “300,” READ THIS BOOK! No glistening abs, no stylized blood spatters — only the stark and glorious reality of hacking your way through an ancient Spartan battlefield: guts spilling, terror-piss, the blood curdling screams of Persian men cut short as their limbs, heads and hearts are sliced open and disarticulated by the mighty Spartan xyphos and spear-wielding phalanx. The Spartans had no mercy and neither did Steven Pressfield when he wrote “Gates of Fire.”

“Caligula” by Douglas Jackson
I’m a pretty huge fanboy of the “History of Rome” podcast by Mike Duncan, so this next book was an easy one for me to get into: it’s the story of a slave who ended up in the court of the Emperor Caligula. In case you don’t already know, Caligula was the most hated and feared of all Roman Emperors. He’s infamous for his executions, torture, incest, self-indulgences and the general havoc he wreaked upon the empire he had at his fingertips.

As far as I can tell, all the details are there: how the Romans lived, how they died, what life as a gladiator in the Coliseum was like and how, why and by whom Caligula was murdered. The emperor himself is described in great detail as is his family and unappetizing taste for the macabre. This book is full of blood, carnage, political intrigue, scandal and moral quandaries. I finished it a few weeks ago and immediately picked up the second in his trilogy entitled “Claudius: Emperor of Rome, Conqueror of Britain.” Both are great reads!

“Thunderhead” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
If you like “Indiana Jones,” this novel will definitely appeal to you and have you hooked from the beginning! The Anasazi, an ancient and mysterious civilization localized in America’s Southwest, famous for their cave cities, still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

Basically, it’s a mystery/thriller/action that revolves around dark magic, murder and ancient traditions. I don’t want to give too much away in case someone decides to pick it up, but let’s just say that the story involves a treasure map, a lost city, the dark arts and the mass extinction of a civilization. Still need something else to get hooked on? OK, fine… there’s some sex mixed in there too.

While all these books definitely make me nostalgic for the ancient world, they also make me appreciate the world we live in today. Life was so brutal back in the day!… and not the Dying Fetus or Suffo kind of ‘br00tal,’ but bloody, messy and downright dangerous.

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