Dear Antony Beevor,
I would like to make some points in your article in the Guardian 25 July 2009; I like your work especially your book on the Spanish Civil War. Your article in the Guardian is worth reading and should provoke some discussion. I have not read the novel The Mistress of Nothing. Therefore, I cannot comment on the merit of the book.
My first point would be to concur the great Irish Poet, writer and socialist Oscar Wilde who said that “Books are well written, or badly written" which was a rant against people not being able to draw a proper distinction between a good and a bad book. For thousands of years writers have been writing Faction, your invocation of William Shakespeare is one case in point. Having done my history degree using some of his works it can be infuriating when you check some of the histories, and it turns out to be entirely different from real historical facts. But to my knowledge, no one has criticized Shakespeare as an evil writer wrong historian maybe.
While you will get people that will read poorly written books and take them as historical fact I tend to believe that the majority of people are intelligent and curious enough to check the history for themselves. While it is well within your right to attack the dumbing down and fictionalization of history maybe your beautiful writing may be put to better use especially when history has come under such attack in schools by the current labour government.
Lastly, I must take exception to the following extract from your article “It may well stem from an obsessive person who, over the Internet, makes their suspicion sound plausible to tens of thousands, even to millions of others who also have grievances and are eager to believe the worst. Examples include the notion that Aids was created in a CIA laboratory that Princess Diana was murdered by the intelligence services and that 9/11 was orchestrated by the Bush administration.
The last point on 9/11 should be clarified while Bush did not pull the trigger so to speak substantial evidence has led to a significant government collaboration in allowing the attack to happen. After all, the FBI had allowed these people into the country and after spying on them for months enabled them to take one-way flying lessons. This I might add is not fantasy but historical fact. By shooting wide of the mark, you sometimes not only miss the target but give the real historical fantasists more credence.