BEN Kane's transition from vet to best-selling author has provoked a wave of appreciation among avid readers of historical fiction. Despite qualifying as a veterinary surgeon at University College Dublin and working with animals for several years, Ben's fascination with Roman military history became an overwhelming passion.
So much so, that his determination to write started to emerge after he had taken three years off to travel the world. Visiting seven continents and more than 65 countries fuelled his love of ancient history.
But on his return to the UK in 2001 he put writing on hold when he volunteered to help out in Northumberland during the Foot and Mouth outbreak. The wholesale slaughter of livestock was depressing but at least Ben was able to visit nearby Roman sites, museums and, more importantly, Hadrian's Wall.
It reactivated his creative instinct. Initially, he combined his veterinary work with writing as he focused on producing a Roman-based novel. His hobby became an obsession but when asked if he had known when he was studying as a vet that one day he would be such a successful writer, he replied: "I had no idea!"
But success, of course, eventually arrived when his novel The Forgotten Legion was published. A trilogy was completed with The Silver Eagle and Road to Rome and then followed Spartacus: The Gladiator and Spartacus: Rebellion. Ideas abounded for new subjects and Ben also launched Hannibal: Enemy Of Rome and Hannibal: The Patrol.
It led to legions of fans being attracted to his vivid prose and meticulous research but his love of Hadrian's Wall remained undiminished.
Earlier this year, along with fellow historian authors Anthony Riches and Russell Whitefield, he walked the length of it in full authentic Roman dress to raise money for the charities Combat Stress and Medecins Sans Frontieres.
Ben said: "I trained for three months beforehand, walking three times a week all round where I live, in the kit.
"Physically, I was fine – it was hard on a couple of the days but all the training meant that I was able to do it OK. A couple of toenails are re-growing, however!
"In total, including more than £2,000 in Gift Aid, and more than £3,000 that BP donated, we raised about £18,945 … not a shabby amount."
Now Ben is planning another walk and he revealed: "Three of the walkers from this year are intending to repeat our walk next year – but in Italy, from Pompeii to Rome.
"That's a distance of more than 150 miles. We're intending to have the walk filmed as well, in an amusing documentary style. Instead of Three Men In A Boat, think Three Men March In Roman Kit."
But before that, Ben has an important date at the Appledore Book Festival on Wednesday, October 2 when he returns to talk about walking Hadrian's Wall and his new book Hannibal: Fields Of Blood.
He added: "I'll be doing about half the talk on each, using a Powerpoint presentation to show some of the funny and less funny moments of the walk. I'm really looking forward to it. Everyone was so welcoming last year (in Appledore) and the location is just wonderful."
The festival's history theme is maintained by Andrew Miller, who will talk about his 2012 Costa Book of the Year, Pure – a story which takes place in the run-up to the French Revolution.
The Second World War will be the subject when Westward Ho! writer Michael Henderson joins fellow evacuee, Iris Jones Simantel, in conversation with Julie Summers.
Historian Peter Christie adds to the mix with an insight into the letters written to the North Devon Journal over the last 120 years while husband and wife historians Roy and Leslie Adkins will focus on their book Eavesdropping On Jane Austen's England.
Once again the popular Appledorian Day will highlight facets of local maritime history with photographs, displays and presentations.
The Military Wives Choir and Appledore Silver Band launch the festival with a concert tomorrow at St Mary's Church, Appledore.
Tickets for the Festival, which runs from September 27 to October 6, can be bought at the ABF Box Office, Docton Court Gallery, 2, Myrtle Street, Appledore, EX39 1PH. Phone: 01237 424949 or visit www.appledorebookfestival. co.uk.