WHEN a war is over, all sides seize the opportunity to adapt historical records to their cause, beginning a trail of lies that cause damage to others and to themselves.

It is a theme explored by Adam Thorpe, writer of 1992's best-selling Ulverton, who came to the Cheltenham Festival of Literature on Saturday at the request of festival director and fellow explorer of the male psyche, author John Burnside.

During the event, Mr Thorpe gave a fascinating talk about his new novel Nineteen Twenty-One, set in the aftermath of the First World War when people are struggling to recover from a horrific, life-changing event.

He said: "You can't write a book about the First World War. The event was so catastrophic, stretching over four years and killing millions of men. It changed world history for the worse. No doubt about it."

To introduce the novel, the author brought surprised smiles by first reading a brief sex scene before going on to explain how he immersed himself in the years of the early twenties.

"I feel the past is actually present all the time. Not in a literal way but I do feel that, on a philosophical level, the past is with us. I didn't want to make rhetoric points casually in the novel. I turned my back on everything and wrote as if I was in 1921. I wrote it as if I didn't know what happened after."

The methods combined with Thorpe's talents suggest this book will be a extraordinary read demonstrating difficult times through the eyes of a naive young man determined to write a great war novel.

Ally Hardy