Categories
Blog Reviews

Severed Knot : Ingenio – Sugar in 17th Century Barbados

Cryssa fullsizeoutput_5c0

Congratulations to Cryssa Bazos on the release of her romantic thriller, Severed Knot.

The novel is set mostly on a 17th Century sugar plantation in Barbados. Here’s Cryssa to tell us more about what the manufacture of sugar involved.

Ingenio

We have a complicated history with sugar. For some it’s an indulgent weakness while others ruthlessly purge it from their diets. Since the seventeenth century, the demand for sugar has been responsible for expansion and colonization of the West Indies. But where does it come from and how is it produced? There is a science to convert liquid cane juice into sugar. In the seventeenth-century, all the equipment used for sugar production was referred to as the ingenio, which included the crushers and coppers, as well as the buildings where the sugar was processed.

Cutting and Crushing

Through experimentation, seventeenth-century planters found the best yields were achieved by harvesting cane between twelve to fifteen months. Field workers would cut the sugarcane by hand and pile the stalks vertically into ox-drawn carts. Once the wagon arrived at the crushing mill, they tipped back the cart to offload the stalks neatly where they could be quickly gathered and taken to the mill. It was important for the sugarcane to be crushed within hours of being cut in order to maximize the yields. The cane passed through the rollers in the crushing mill and the sap was separated and collected into a series of pipes that ran downward from the crushing house to the boiling house.

cryssa fullsizeoutput_f71Processing

In the boiling house, the juice passed through a series of seven large coppers. As the juice went through a first boiling, it would then pass to a second copper and from there to a third, fourth and fifth. Through each pass, the impurities would be removed and the sap would grow more concentrated. The skimmings from the last three boiling coppers would be diverted to the still house and used to make rum. The last two coppers were used to cool the syrup. The entire process would take about six days, and the furnaces in the boiling house would be working non-stop, day and night.

After the thickened syrup was sufficiently cooled, the mixture would be transferred to clay containers that were stored in the curing house. A large plantation with a couple of hundred acres devoted to sugarcane would need a large enough curing house. Such a structure was designed to hold  approximately eighteen-hundred tapered pots. The shape of the pots allowed the molasses to collect at the bottom of the vessel, making it easy to siphon off.

Curing

Brown muscovado sugar took approximately a month to fully cure, whereas refined white sugar needed four months and additional processing to draw out all the molasses. In order to draw out most of the molasses, a plaster of clay and water would be mixed and poured over the tops of the pots and left to harden. After the four-month curing period, the clay containers would be broken open revealing a sandwich of sugars: top and bottom were muscovado sugar while the middle would be white sugar.

Sugar was an extremely valuable commodity and the refined white sugar even more so. Around mid-seventeenth century, white sugar could fetch about 20 pence per pound in London. To put this in perspective, a labourer’s wages during the Stuart Age this time was approximately 12 pence. A labourer would have had to work a little more than a day and a half to afford one pound of sugar.

Sugar was truly a luxury item.
REVIEW OF SEVERED KNOT

I really enjoyCryssa Severed Knot eBook Cover Largeed this tense and romantic thriller and highly recommend it if you want a page-turning read that will leave you enthralled and breathless. Set in the 17th Century after the King has been exiled, it tells the story of Iain and Mairead, one Scottish, the other Irish, when they are captured, shipped to Barbados, and taken into forced servitude. A bleak and brutal life awaits them on a sugar plantation, where people are expendable and treated as beasts of burden. The plot moves swiftly from one set piece to the next, as the newly-arrived exiles try to find their feet in a horrific new world of slavery and repression. Iain’s clan of supporters are all individuals, and Cryssa Bazos’s gritty dialogue adds to the building tension in this powder-keg of servants versus masters.

However, although the central lynchpin of the plot is the unfolding relationship between Mairead and Iain, this is not just a romance, the history is extremely well-researched, and the author gives us authentic detail about sugar manufacture, the war with the Dutch, the plight of the Irish under the Commonwealth, and much more besides. The writing is smooth, with plenty of historical references to keep the reader anchored in the past, and there are enough battles to make this a story to be savoured by those who like plenty of action. Mairead is a character  you’ll love to root for – determined and stubborn, she never gives up on her quest for freedom and the man she loves.

A brilliant book, well worth your time and money.

More about Cryssa Bazos:

Cryssa Bazos is an award-winning historical fiction author and 17th-century enthusiast with a particular interest in the English Civil War. Her debut novel, Traitor’s Knot, was the Medalist winner of the 2017 New Apple Award (historical fiction), a finalist for the 2018 EPIC eBook Awards (historical romance) and the RNA Joan Hessayon Award. Her second novel, Severed Knot, was longlisted for the Historical Novel Society 2018 New Novel Award.

Website Facebook Twitter

Buy The Books : Traitor’s Knot  Severed Knot 

About Severed Knot

Barbados 1652. In the aftermath of the English Civil War, the vanquished are uprooted and scattered to the ends of the earth.

When marauding English soldiers descend on Mairead O’Coneill’s family farm, she is sold into slavery. After surviving a harrowing voyage, the young Irish woman is auctioned off to a Barbados sugar plantation where she is thrust into a hostile world of depravation and heartbreak. Though stripped of her freedom, Mairead refuses to surrender her dignity.

Scottish prisoner of war Iain Johnstone has descended into hell. Under a blazing sun thousands of miles from home, he endures forced indentured labour in the unforgiving cane fields. As Iain plots his escape to save his men, his loyalties are tested by his yearning for Mairead and his desire to protect her.

With their future stolen, Mairead and Iain discover passion and freedom in each other’s arms.  Until one fateful night, a dramatic chain of events turns them into fugitives.

Together they fight to survive; together they are determined to escape.

Categories
Blog Reviews Seventeenth Century Life

The appeal of the 17th Century to a novelist by Jemahl Evans

this_Deceitful_Light (2)

Today I’m pleased to welcome Jemahl Evans  to my blog to tell us why he’s chosen to write three novels set in the 17th Century. Over to Jemahl.

I’ve always been fascinated by the Seventeenth Century; it is the great turning point in British history. The divisions of the civil war got fixed into our politics: royalist or roundhead; Tory or Whig; Conservative and Liberal (later labour). Our political parties and system is the product of the period. When I looked at a map of the areas that voted leave and remain in the brexit referendum, there is a remarkable correlation between the areas that declared for the king or parliament. Correlation is not causation, of course, but it does make you think about history’s long claws.

The initial spark for writing about the Civil War and its impact was a very bored Year 8 class on a wet Friday afternoon. I ended up telling them the story of William Hiseland (the last cavalier) who fought at Edgehill and then served the colours for the next sixty or so years, even serving under Marlborough at Malplaquet in 1709. Hiseland lived to the grand old age of 113, dying in 1733 as one of the first Chelsea pensioners. His life was feted and he had been granted pensions and awards for his service to the crown.

JemahlThe last roundheads were not so fortunate: pensions promised by the commonwealth were rarely honoured, estates were confiscated (or returned to their rightful owners depending on your point of view), and whilst the restored royal regime was not overly vindictive in 1660, political careers were finished and fortunes lost, at least in the short term. When I remembered that Hudibras, a satirical poem by Samuel Butler, was about Parliament’s Scoutmaster General the story all sort of fell into place – a bitter old man, mocked by the poets of the age, decides to get his version of events down.

By 1719-20, when Blandford is writing his fictional memoir, there was a massive trend for looking back to the civil war. It was just falling out of living memory (much like world war two is for us today) but the impact was still close enough to touch. There was a plethora of memoirs and recollections in the first couple of decades of the eighteenth century (and books like Defoe’s Memoirs of a Cavalier or De Sandras’s D’Artagnan). I really wanted to capture that longer view of the events and the passing of an age. It was trying to find that genuine Seventeenth Century voice and make it accessible and appealing to readers. Although saying all that, there is a lot of my grandfather’s humour in the irascible old man. One of my cousins pointed that out to me the other day.

Thanks for this insight Jemahl.

Of_Blood_Exhausted (3)Of Blood Exhausted

Having read the other two books I knew I was in for a treat, and a total immersion in another age, but you don’t need to have read the other books to enjoy this. One of the things I loved about this book is its sheer complexity; it has been lovingly and exhaustively researched. Now don’t let that put you off, because the plot is easy to follow, and it’s a cracking good read. The main protagonist, the rogue Sir Blandford ‘Sugar’ Candy has an impressive network of contacts; he is well-travelled, well-connected, and has his finger in any number of pies. A somewhat unlikely spy, he is after an assassin called the Black Bear, and this leads to all sorts of shenanigans – rooftop chases, toll-gate fights and desperate duels on the stairs. Although I still have a soft spot for the Parliamentarian Candy, it is the minor characters that I loved;  The redoubtable Sarah Churchill, Candy’s Wapping-born black servant, John, the strangely likeable Thurloe the spymaster, Candy’s love-interest Meg (not above a fight with a whip herself) – and there are warm portraits of Prince Karl Ludwig and Princess Sophia and even the sword-wielding d’Artagnan (of Three Musketeers fame).

‘The rage of a victorious army is a terrifying sight to behold’  the novel says, and the scenes at the Battle of Naseby are gut-wrenching and real. This is the climax of the book and is well-handled giving weight to both sides. The fate of the Royalist baggage train is covered in this book, but I won’t reveal more because of spoilers.

There are footnotes in the text leading to copious amounts of information at the end of the novel for those wishing more detail. There are also appendixes on things like money, and the religious factions of the English Civil War.

A novel that both informs and keeps you on the edge of your seat. If you love this period of history, I can’t recommend it highly enough.

You can buy Of Blood Exhausted in the UK here or in the US here.

Jemahl Evans’s website

Read more about Jemahl in this interview in Historia.

Categories
Blog

This Deceitful light by Jemahl Evans #HistFic

61-HYgY6URL._SX300_BO1,204,203,200_Having read The Last Roundhead, I didn’t think Jemahl Evans could produce a better book, but This Deceitful Light is a tour-de-force. His character Blandford ‘Sugar’ Candy sits right up there with Rose Tremain’s Merivel as one of the great creations of a seventeenth century man. Opinionated and rascally, Candy gives us his take on the chaos of the English Civil War. In the process he gives us a realistic portrait of Cromwell and his unfortunate teenage son, the state of the English Theatre, and the battle of Marston Moor.

The story revolves around a murdered actor, and so involves a chase after the perpetrator as well as English Civil War skulduggery. As with the previous book, the footnotes are fascinating but distracting. I found the best way to read this book was to temporarily ignore them, but then go back to the beginning and savour each one. They are well worth reading and emphasize the amount of scholarship and research involved in producing the novel.

Here are a couple of Candy’s opinions to give you a flavour:

Most servants are mercenary sycophants. Keep them happy, pay them well, and they will desert you when a wealthier patron appears — I do not pay mine well.

‘Torture is a peculiarly continental affectation. The Ottomans are masters of the art – as I know to my cost – but it has never much taken hold in England. We have juries and common law – they have despots.’

‘Three hundred dead; ’tis what the newsbooks proclaimed after our victory. I told Mabbot ’twas drivel – there were at least five thousand naked corpses on the field the next day. I would wager more than a thousand were ours.’

This is a true treasure for fans of the seventeenth century or the English Civil War. I have no hesitation in telling you to go and buy it!

This Deceitful Light is due for release on 20th September. You can pre-order it HERE.

Categories
Blog

Two contrasting novels of the 17th century #HistFic

I am always fascinated by the different writing styles that conjure an era, and these two contrasting books prove that there is no one style to bring an era to life. Both books are great reads and I recommend them.

Traitor’s Knot by Cryssa Bazos

traitors_knot_4

This is a wonderful novel – richly detailed and full of the jargon and phraseology of the period. Set just as Prince Charles (later to be Charles II) is making his escape during the English Civil Wars, it centres around the difficult choices and strained allegiances that marked the tension of the Interregnum.

“Are we then to bow and scrape before these turncoats?”

“There is no other viable choice,” Piers said. “Ireland is being carved up by Cromwell while France offers nothing more than sympathy. Clearly, this marks our monarch as pragmatic, a trait sadly missing in his sire. We all must agree this is an improvement.”

“Why? Because he is willing to negotiate his morals?” Blount said.

“Life is a negotiation, death is not,” Piers snapped.

James Hart, a highwayman, (modelled on the real-life Royalist highwaymen of the day such as Hind) is defying Cromwell’s Oath of Allegiance, and making his own rules by not only robbing the rich to feed the poor, but by continuing to support the Crown against the Commonwealth. He falls for Elizabeth Seton, a herbalist and healer, who has chosen to leave her family for a distant aunt, rather than be condemned to life in her sister’s staunchly Puritanical household. When the two characters meet, they find they have much in common, and the romance soon grows wings. Elizabeth’s aunt is a supporter of the Knot, a fictional organisation that gives safe houses to Catholic recusants, and Elizabeth is drawn into helping them. However, The King needs James’s assistance, and our highwayman hero must leave Elizabeth prey to another suitor – the preacher who will show no mercy if he were to uncover a royalist, and a woman who supports papists, in their midst.

Cryssa Bazos is equally at home writing battle scenes as writing romance, and the pace keeps the reader turning the pages. The book is chock-full of historical facts, and these are seamlessly woven into the plot. Fans of English Civil War fiction will lap this up, and it would also suit readers who enjoy classic historical fiction by for example Kathleen Winsor, Georgette Heyer, Michael Arnold or Pamela Belle.

The Witchfinder’s Siser by Beth Underdown

Witchfinders Sister

“For it is a choice, I think, to close the heart, just as it is a choice to open it. It is a choice to look at what distresses you, and a choice to shut your eyes. It is a choice to hold tight your pain, or else let it slip your grasp, set it free to make its mark upon the world.”

Set in 1645, this is a story based on the real events surrounding the Witchfinder General, Matthew Hopkins, and his fictional half-sister Alice. After her husband’s death, Alice returns home to Manningtree after many years absence, and hopes to find a good home with her brother. Her position in the household is precarious, but worse, Matthew has changed from the boy she remembers, and what she encounters now is a zealot, hell-bent on ridding the county of witches.

Beth Underdown succeeds in putting us in Alice’s shoes; we feel her discomfort that she must be witness to her brother’s manipulation of the evidence and his tortures of the women in his enthusiasm to get a confession. Alice is a believable character – she is not a modern woman, she too is fearful of the devil and sensitive to the unseen, and this makes her complicity with events more likely. Matthew was burned in a childhood accident, and Alice loves her brother and wants some sort of redemption for this oddly scarred human-being she remembers. Instead, she finds herself caught in his powerful world-view, which sounds plausible but which feels so wrong. In this isolated community, gossip, suspicions and accusations soon spread, with chilling results.

“The number of women my brother Matthew killed, as far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six.”

The writing style is simple and sparse, but each word is carefully chosen. The reader has to think carefully about the ramifications of the revelations in each scene, and this makes the pace a leisurely one, but one to savour. The slow build of suspense is masterfully done. This novel will appeal to those fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials, who can find parallels in the English equivalent, and would suit fans of Geraldine Brooks, Tracy Chevalier, or Rose Tremain.

Categories
Blog Seventeenth Century Life

A Seventeenth Century Quaker Character

One of the main characters in The Lady’s Slipper which has just been re-released, is Richard Wheeler.
Like all my favourite characters he is determined, strong and capable, but unlike most other heroes when the novel opens he has just become a “seeker after Truth” or a Quaker. Today we tend to view the Quakers as quite conservative, but in the 1650’s when the movement began they were seen as dangerous, radical, even insane. Through the latter half of the 17th century and beyond they were persecuted for their beliefs which were seen as challenging the stranglehold supremacy of the church. Even when they fled to what was then called the New World, the persecution continued.

Richard Wheeler was brought up as the wealthy son of a landowner, but his life changed when he followed Cromwell and his parliamentary troops in the War against the King. Richard saw this as a battle for the common man and democracy, so that ordinary people could have more control over their land and property. During The Civil War the English nation tore at its own throat and the battle of brother against brother claimed thousands of lives.
cromwell-at-siege-of-basing-house
Richard fought for Cromwell against his own ruling class, but the horrific bloodshed he witnessed made him vow never to take up arms again, and led him to join the fledgling Quaker movement which had made a pledge for peace. Quaker meetings are a “sitting in silence” – but the restless man-of-action Richard finds the silent reflection both refreshing and difficult.

Above is a painting of Basing House, which  was attacked by Parliamentary troops on three occasions. The final assault came in August 1645 when 800 men took up position around the walls. Between forty and a hundred people were killed. Parliamentary troops were given leave to pillage the house and a fire finally destroyed the building. Richard Wheeeler remembers his part in the atrocities of war and wrestles with his conscience, particularly as he finds he is attracted by Alice, his artist neighbour. Not only does she have radically different religious and political views from his own, but also she is a married woman.

Becoming a Quaker – giving up his fine things to live a simpler life – leaving behind his luxurious lifestyle and fine clothes, is not nearly as easy as Richard anticipates, but harder still for an active man is the idea of “turning the other cheek” when threatened or challenged. The seventeenth century was a violent and bloodthirsty period, a period in which hangings and burnings were commonplace entertainment, and Richard is trained as a swordsman in an era where to be manly is to be able to handle oneself well in a fight. So what happens when Richard becomes locked in a bitter battle against his former childhood friend, and worse, when the life of the woman he loves is in danger? Will Richard fight to defend her, or will he stick to his Quaker vow of non-violence?

My research for Richard Wheeler took me to fields where the Civil War was fought, to the Armouries Museum at Leeds, and to libraries where I looked at Quaker journals and George Fox’s diary. Richard Wheeler’s House was based on Townend in Troutbeck, Cumbria which was built in 1645. See the picture below. Weirdly enough, after I was almost finished with the book, and thinking of writing a follow-up, I found a real Quaker called Richard Wheeler in the 17th century archive at my local library. Moments like that are spooky, and bring the past alarmingly alive in the present.

townend-4
Inside Townend, Cumbria

This post first appeared at Historical Tapestry, why not visit them to see what’s new .

Pictures from wikicommons, unless linked.

Categories
Blog Seventeenth Century Life

Recommended Research – Eyewitness books on the Stuart Period

Just found this great little hardback book whilst browsing Carnforth Bookshop (which has more than 10,000 second hand books!). Also in this series by A F Scott are titles ‘The Plantagenet Age’, ‘The Tudor Age’ and ‘The Georgian Age.’ Compiled as a series of quotations, each book contains observations about every part of the lifestyle and social concerns of the era, drawn from eyewitness accounts.

DSCN0791

Here’s a flavour from Thomas Dekker’s description of London in 1606;

‘In every street carts and coaches make such a thundering as if the world ran on wheels. At every corner men, women and children meet in such shoals, that posts are set up on purpose to strengthen the houses, lest with jostling one another they should shoulder them down. Besides, hammers are beating in one place, tubs hooping in another, pots clanking in a third, water tankards running at tilt in a fourth. Here are porters sweating under burdens, there merchants’ men bearing bags of money. Chapmen (as if they were at leap-frog) skip out of one shop into another. Tradesmen (as if they were dancing galliards) are lusty at legs and never stand still. All are as busy as country attorneys at an assizes.’

The Seven Deadly Sinnes of London

from The Stuart Age

Other books with eyewitness accounts I can recommend are:

Going to the Wars by Charles Carlton (English Civil Wars)

Voices from the World of Samuel Pepys – Jonathan Bastable (Restoration)

And talking of the Seven Deadly Sins, you might like my Seven Deadly Sins of Historical Fiction.

Categories
Blog Seventeenth Century Life

17th Century Research Find of the Week

My local bookshop has 100,000 second hand books. It’s a five minute drive, or a brisk half hour walk along country lanes. I always think I must have exhausted their supply oDSCN0739f Tudor and Stuart gems, but they keep getting more stock, and this week I was lucky.

Here is my find – ‘Rude Forefathers’ by F H West. The title doesn’t give much away, but the subtitle , ‘the story of an English Village 1600-1666’ made it well worth my £2.50. Since then, I’ve looked, and the book is also available on various online sites such as Abebooks.

First published in 1949, its chapters are focused mainly on the Churchwarden and the Constable and their role in village society, as gleaned from account books of the time. The study was undertaken by Francis West, the Archdeacon of Newark who collated the information from the Churchwarden’s book which dates from 1601-42, and from the Constable’s book from 1642-1666.

Nearby, Newark was under siege during the English Civil Wars for much of that time, so these records of one of the outlying villages make for great reading. ‘Rude Forefathers’ also has chapters on the English Civil War and the Plague. Although this is a slim volume, (90 pages) and somewhat knackered, it was a great find, and will be of interest to anyone who studies the late Elizabethan, Jacobean or Stuart period.

And talking of the Plague, which I am researching right now – I recommend Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of The Plague Year. Written only sixty years after the event, it is full of facts and figures of the weekly death toll, as well as being a wonderful (if gruesome) description of events.

More reading? A controversial Historical Fiction article that might be of interest is here.

 

 

 

Categories
Blog Seventeenth Century Life

Fascinating old words for the historical novelist: ‘posnet’.

Whilst investigating something else entirely, I came upon an article in our local paper about the ‘Carnforth Posnet’. This apparently was a rare bronze vessel dating from medieval times. Amazing what sidetracks I end up on, when I get to our local library’s archives. (Side plea – save our local libraries!)

Carnforth Posnet

This particular object was found when a local woman was metal-detecting in a field close to Carnforth. Imagine that – digging up something so large and interesting, instead of the usual bottle tops and ring pulls. (Anyone watched The Detectorists?)

So what is a posnet? The word is first recorded in 1327 and derives from the old french ‘poçonet’ which means pot or vase. It is a cooking vessel with legs to stand over a fire, and a long handle, supported by a smaller hand grip. Ceramic versions of the same design become more common from the 14th century, and the word continued in use until the 16th century, disappearing by the Victorian era. So – early medieval until late Tudor.

The vessel is made from cast copper alloy and appears to have few signs of wear, so was probably buried new. (Why, one asks?) Apparently this is the second find of a metal cooking vessel from this area, as another metal cauldron was found in Skelton, Cumbria in 1999.

More information and original article here

The subject I was actually researching was about how the “Old Army” of the Commonwealth proved to be a sensitive issue even after King Charles II had been restored, and where demobilised veterans, injured and disabled soldiers and war widows (both Royalist and Parliamentarian) had  become a huge source of economic and cultural tension. My post on this will be later in the month on English Historical Fiction Authors blog. Meanwhile, you might like this:

The English Cavalier and His Stomach (food in the English Civil War)

Medieval Life in Pictures

Categories
Blog

New Anthology of Historical Essays

My post at English Historical fiction Authors this month is on the plunder of Basing House in the English Civil War. Read the post here.

The Plundering of Basing House exhibited 1836 Charles Landseer 1799-1879 Bequeathed by Jacob Bell 1859 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/N00612

Basing House inspired some of the events in the Highway Trilogy where I imagined the occupants of Markyate Manor might have suffered a similar fate. The painting above is The Plundering of Basing House by Charles Landseer, 1836, courtesy of the Tate.

Another related post which features in their new anthology, Castles Customs and Kings Volume II, is about what happened when soldiers came to stay. Find the original blog post here. During this period, if soldiers were billeted on you, you had little choice in the matter, and their stay could be dangerous and destructive. The new anthology features several more articles from me, and also others by all your favourite historical fiction authors. Whether you like Romans, The Wars of the Roses, the Tudor Court, or Victoriana, there’ll be something in here to tempt you, and much food for thought.

Castles Customs Kings II

Categories
Blog

The Smoke of her Burning by M C Logue

The Smoke of her Burning 

Smoke

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to one Captain – Colonel, now – Holofernes Babbitt.  Hollie to his friends. A man who begins the Uncivil Wars series as a disaffected mercenary cavalry captain in the Army of Parliament, and ends up by 1649 as a husband, father, Leveller, and political menace.

The new book, “The Smoke of Her Burning” is something of the book that shouldn’t have been.

The second, “Command the Raven”, is set in 1643, when for reasons many and various Hollie and his rebel rabble end up detached to Yorkshire under Thomas Fairfax’s command. The new one begins in early 1644. – And, of course, 1644, this was going to be Marston Moor, and the Bolton massacre, and the siege of Lathom House, and all those other great Northern events in Fairfax’s year of wonders.

Except, of course, it isn’t. Because Marston Moor doesn’t happen until the summer, and although Hollie Babbitt’s company are fictional, they are a fictionalised company in a real campaign, and I’m very proud of their being “not real but could have been”. So I got to wondering where a troop of cavalry would have been, had they rejoined Fairfax in the spring of 1644.
It was just out of interest, of course, because that’s how I research the books. I’ve got a little mental map of Fairfax’s campaigns, and I plot when Hollie might have been able to slip off home, and what that might mean for his family arrangements. How old his children might be when daddy comes home – old enough to recognise him from his last home leave, or old enough to be afraid of the strange man in the buffcoat, or so new as that he didn’t even know they were on the way?
And it was never meant that the battle at Selby should have a book in its own right. It was meant that it was going to be a tiny hiccup on the march to York, a little diversion before Marston Moor. And then, as ever in my books, the people got involved in the action – mad Puritan lieutenant Thankful Russell, and the very mysterious Gray, and cork-brained romantic posh poet Luce Pettitt. The odd ones out: Russell who’s an officer in his head, always and ever, but who can’t always manage to stay on the straight and narrow sufficient to retain his commission. Gray, who wants to be a fierce warrior, one of the boys. Which isn’t ever going to happen, for a very real and practical reason. And Luce, who’s committed to the noble ideals of the Parliamentarian cause, but who’s better at healing people than hurting them.

Really, what inspired “The Smoke of Her Burning” was those three, and their odd dynamic, both within the troop and with each other. And Hollie trying to get his head round the idea that as a captain he could please himself, but now he’s a full colonel and expected to toe the party line, and he’s really not very good at that. And set that against Selby, which was a fierce battle, and one which isn’t known as well as perhaps it ought to be. And then of course I stumble across a group on Twitter who are trying to get the Abbot’s Staith in Selby taken on as a community space, the Staith being one of the monastic warehouses in Selby, on the edge of the Ouse. And, you know, I’m passionate about local history, communities owning their own past, so I contact the people who run this group asking about the Staith and of course the next thing you know I’m getting maps of 17th century Selby and discussing whether or not Belasyse might have used the monastic warehouses as a powder store. (Which, in the book, is what he does!) And then I published an excerpt from the new book on a review site and was contacted by one of the local librarians, and we’ve been chatting about stabling horses in the Abbey and whether there were cobbles in the streets and how deep the fields flood round those parts…

So “The Smoke of Her Burning” is out on October 12, and all the royalties for the first month are going to the Abbot’s Staith community fund for the upkeep of the medieval warehouse,

uncivilwars.blogspot.co.uk

Author.to/MJLogue
www.facebook.com/pages/MJLogue/1653750564845159