Colleen McCullough (1937 - 2014) has died at age 77, after writing many successful novels, including her most famous, The Thornbirds, which was also a most successful television series.
But the books of hers I admired were those which made up her long narrative histories, the 7-volume series she titled Masters of Rome. The research she did for Masters of Rome was as impressive as any credentialed academic scholar would have. If I have this right, she even learned to read Latin, while being directed in her research by professional academic scholars.
Before she began writing bestsellers, McCollough, an Australian, was a neuroscientist researcher at Yale University.