Riding with the gauchos – Burke in the Land of Silver

Gaucho 6

I’m delighted to welcome Tom Williams to my blog today, to tell us all about riding with the gauchos, and his new book.

Burke in the Land of Silver tells the story of the doomed British invasion of Argentina in 1806 and the role that may well have been played by real-life spy James Burke. There are beautiful women, evil villains, daring deeds and dastardly plots, but the whole thing is based around real events. Burke’s adventures on the pampa and in the Andes drew a lot on my own experience, as well as fascinating descriptions of life on a cattle ranch at the time by, of all people, Charles Darwin. His journey round the world wasn’t all giant tortoises and Galapagos finches!

Most of the action in Burke in the Land of Silver takes place in what is now Argentina. Our hero is spying for the British who are planning to drive the Spanish out of Buenos Aires. Burke discovers that the cattlemen out in the country (the pampa) have no love for their Spanish rulers and he tries to win them over to the British side. In the story, Burke spends some time with the gauchos, as the cattlemen are called. I particularly enjoyed writing this part as I have spent a short time riding with the gauchos of today, whose lives are, in many ways, remarkably unchanged. They are still magnificent horseman, often wearing their traditional dress as workaday garments.

Gaucho 2 Gaucho 3 Gaucho 5






The object above is something that shows the enormous skill of the gaucho on horseback.

The ring is supposed by some people to represent a wedding ring and it is said that Gaucho 4 gauchos used to play this game to win the hands of their sweethearts.

The clip fastens the ring to a rope stretched above the head of a man on horseback. The gaucho rides at the rope holding a cone shaped metal object in his hand which he has to pass through the ring whilst maintaining at least a fast trot. To win the game, you must carry away the ring without dropping it. What is amazing is how often the gauchos are successful. The photographs show how it is done.

The riders stand in the stirrups, well clear of the saddle, his horse moving so smoothly that the rider can catch up the ring as he passes beneath it.

In the third picture above, the young man has passed the ring without catching it. No congratulations from a beautiful Señora for him.

Riding these Argentinian horses was a strange experience for me. I’m not a particularly good horseman and I have only ridden on a European saddle, so first I had to get used to the Western saddle and the different way of using the reins on an Argentine horse. The biggest difference, though, came when I pushed with my heels. The horses at the ranch where I was riding are “cutting out horses” used for moving into a herd of cattle and cutting out the ones that are to be lassoed for whatever reason. The slightest pressure of the heel moves them into a full gallop immediately. When the gauchos aren’t playing the game with the ring, they enjoy racing each other over very short distances, where victory or defeat depends on just how quickly the horse can start its gallop. I’ve seen horses start by jumping into the air and landing immediately into a gallop with no walk or trot or canter.

You’d think that riding horses like this would be a terrifying experience, but I have never felt so safe on a horse of my life. Riding a full gallop across the pampa when some cattle crossed my path and my horse swerved to avoid them should have had me clinging on in terror, but instead I was able to stay comfortably in my seat, absolutely convinced that my mount would do nothing that might throw me off.

My time spent riding on this dude ranch and, later, in the rather more challenging conditions of the Andes above the snow line, was some of the best days of my life. Strangely, I have hardly been in the saddle since I got back to England: it just doesn’t feel the same.

Burke in the Land of Silver has just been republished by Endeavour Press, and is available from Amazon.

Catch Tom on his Blog 


Launch of Shadow on the Highway with Endeavour Ink

Congratulations to all the authors whose books are the first books to be published by Endeavour Press in print. Wishing the imprint and all the authors much success.

Reblogged from the Endeavour Press website:

On the evening of March 15th Endeavour Press officially launched its new print division, Endeavour Ink, with a party at Waterstone’s Piccadilly.

Endeavour Ink is the latest chapter on the story of Endeavour Press. Our aim is to publish a select number of books, in print and ebook, by bestselling authors, writing both fiction and non-fiction.

We have already commissioned a number of projects from new authors and writers on the Endeavour Press list: J D Davies and Richard Woodman will be writing a Tudor naval series and a book on William Marshall respectively; Alison Joseph will be writing a new crime series; David Boyle will be writing a thriller set around Bletchley Park; Michael Arnold will be writing a series of historical novels about Thomas Becket; Sarah Gristwood, Michael Jecks and Imogen Robertson will be writing historical novels.

We are also delighted to announce that we have signed two never-before-published novels from acclaimed authors, H. R. F. Keating and Beryl Kingston.

As well as commissioning new titles Endeavour Ink will also be publishing a number of books which have proved popular on kindle. We are pleased to say that our first batch of books are now out. See links below. Do let us know what you think of the look and feel of the books. We hope you enjoy them!


Forged in Ice – what inspired my new Viking Saga by Ken Hagan


Today I welcome Ken Hagan to tell us what inspired his new novel, the first in a Viking Trilogy.

Ken: My thanks to Deborah for inviting me as guest author. 

Forged in Ice is set in 27829574._UY500_SS500_960AD. It tells the story of a boy and his family who leave the Norse Kingdom to live in the sparsely populated colony of Iceland — risking their lives in a hazardous voyage across the Atlantic.

My interest in the Viking Age was first aroused during my university days in Dublin, a city steeped in Viking history. The Viking settlement, on which today’s city centre is built, has yielded significant archeological finds, including ankle-fetters and neck-irons that were fastened to slaves. The infamous slave trade centered on Viking Dublin will feature in the second book of the trilogy to be published later this year.   

Reading the Icelandic Family Sagas really got me hooked. In them I discovered a new dimension to the Viking Age. Here was humdrum family life, the struggle of men and women to survive in a hostile climate, petty disputes between neighbours that erupt into feuds, stories of fraud and double-dealing, but also feats of sporting prowess and courage, honest intentions, love and loyalty.

Women are strongly portrayed in the Sagas. We see to what lengths they will go to assert their rights, and what influence womenfolk have on the outcome of events. It is not hard to understand why some commentators have argued that women were the sources for many of the original spoken sagas.       

During 1990s I travelled on business to Sweden and Norway and, while there, I was able to expand my knowledge of Viking culture. Visits to sites of Viking graves revealed sophisticated spiritual constructs of the afterlife. And elsewhere, beautiful full-size replicas of longships demonstrated for me how truly advanced, by comparison with the rest of Europe, was the technology of Viking shipbuilding.

I am indebted to Professor Neil Price, Uppsala University for my understanding of the Viking mind, for my insights into the Viking view of the world, many of which I have tried to weave into the tapestry of my books. Dr. Price is Chair of Archeology at the University of Uppsala, Sweden.  His major work, The Viking Way: sub-titled – “Religion and War in later Iron-age Scandinavia” (ISBN 978184217265) is regarded as an authoritative source of material and provides rare insights in the field of Viking research.

FORGED IN ICE is published by Endeavour Press.

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Where to find Ken: Website Twitter Facebook

Thanks to Ken for stopping by my blog.


Divided Empire by Brian Kitchen

divided empire


Brian Kitchen talks about Divided Empire 

I first became fascinated with the Roman period of British history when I was a child and read the ‘Eagle of the Ninth’ trilogy of novels by Rosemary Sutcliff. When I grew older I studied the period, reading as much as I could about it and also visiting as many sites and museums with collections of Roman artefacts as I was able to. My passion for writing had started at an early age too and fortunately wasn’t deterred when one of my English teachers criticised a composition I’d written saying it showed too much imagination!

The inspiration for ‘Divided Empire’ came back in 1994 when I came across an article in our local newspaper, the Burton Mail, written by a local historian, Dennis Bladon, who theorised that Burton upon Trent where I live, was the lost Roman settlement of Ad Trivonam. At the time Dennis’ theory wasn’t given much credence, but four years later, a Roman road was discovered leading from Leicester in the direction of Burton, which helped to support it. One interpretation of the name Ad Trivonam is ‘the meeting of three roads, by the river’. Well, Burton already had the routes of two Roman roads running through it and this new road was the third. Also Burton is built by the banks of the River Trent. Ad Trivonam as Burton became more of a reality and by coincidence I met Dennis two years ago, at the local hospital that we both volunteer at.  I got to know him and told him that Ad Trivonam would be the home of the main character in the novel I was writing.

Further inspiration for ‘Divided Empire’ came from our local castle at Tutbury, near Burton upon Trent. Although the castle is Norman, it is built within the site of an Iron Age Hill Fort, as is the village itself. When the well in the castle was being cleaned out some years ago, a number of small Roman artefacts were found, including a pair of tweezers and some Samian pottery shards. Also when I visited the castle some years ago, I saw displayed in the tea room at the castle, two stone carvings. Whether they are still there now I don’t know, but mean to find out. One of the stone carvings fascinated me, as it looked very much like stone carvings that I’d seen of the Celtic God Cernunnos. The other stone carvings looked like a Celtic fertility goddess, but obviously I’m not an expert. I learnt however that they had been found in the River Dove, which runs through the valley below the rocky hill the castle stands on, which explained the worn condition of the carvings.

Not far from both Burton upon Trent and Tutbury is the village of Abbots Bromley, where each usually each September, the Horn Dance takes place. Although the present Horn Dance dates from the Middle Ages, there is some belief it has its roots in pagan times. The Celtic tribe which occupied the West Midlands was the Cornovii and it is possible that their boundaries stretched as far as Burton & Tutbury. The meaning of the tribes’ name has long been a matter of conjecture, but Anne Ross thought that the tribes name contained the element meaning ‘horn’ (cornu) and could therefore possibly mean the tribe were worshippers of a horned deity. Cernunnos is one such horned deity and in ‘Divided Empire’  it is the one the Cornovii worship. For my novel the boundaries of the Cornovii in the east stretch as far as the River Dove and Ad Trivonam and Tutbury, which is known as the ‘Lookout fort on the Dufan’ are both within the tribes territory.

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Please visit my website for further information on me & the places in Divided Empire & the Flavius Vitulasius series;

Divided Empire is published by Endeavour Press