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The Fascinating Facts about Smugglers by @HelenHollick

!Helen BlueBorder Blogs (1)I’m delighted to welcome Helen Hollick to the blog today to tell us a little about her new book. Helen is a great champion of historical fiction, and now has turned her researcher’s eye to bring us two great non-fiction books – one on Pirates, and the  latest on Smugglers. Over to Helen!

THE FASCINATING FACTS ABOUT SMUGGLERS by Helen Hollick

What comes to mind when you think of an eighteenth or nineteenth century  smuggler? A Ross Poldark-type figure, dashing and handsome, carrying a keg of brandy on his muscled shoulder across a wide, secluded beach, or storing contraband in a secret cache beneath the floor of the parlour? Or do you think of gangs of rough, tough, men hauling barrels of contraband ashore, and eager for a fight with the Customs and Excise if they dared to intervene?

Depending on where the smugglers operated would depend on which one of the above is more accurate. The quiet coves of Cornwall and Devon did indeed have a more laid-back approach to smuggling: probably the most well-known smugglers’ inn, Jamaica Inn, is on Bodmin Moor, Cornwall –  made famous by Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name. But for Kent, Sussex and Dorset, smuggling was Big Business and gangs, sometimes of more than 100 men, were responsible for ensuring the illicit cargo was brought safely ashore – and woe betide anyone who stepped in their way!

Lyme Bay Dorset - familiar to many smugglers! © Tony SmithWe only know about the smugglers who got caught, the ones who were tried and sentenced to either hang or to transportation – to the American Colonies as indentured slaves until Australia was discovered. Except, prior to the early 1800s many a smuggler who was caught was released to smuggle again another day.  Several escaped prison, most were ‘let off’ … why? Because the constables and magistrates relied on the smuggled goods, the cheap brandy and tobacco!

Other commodities were also highly taxed so were enthusiastically smuggled (for a profit, of course). Lace, wool, tin, salt, leather, spices, tea… when the tax was eventually dropped on tea the smuggling of it ceased almost overnight.

There were several pre-arranged cunning ways to alert an incoming boat that the ‘coast was clear’. (Yes, the saying comes from smuggling!) A lamp glowing in a seaward-facing window, cows grazing in a certain field, laundry spread to dry on bushes, a small boat up-turned on a beach. And if the Excise men were spotted? Quick! Hide the goods – and the quickest, easiest way to do so was to drop the cargo overboard then come back to collect it later.  ‘Sowing the crop’ as it was called.

There was one gang who outsmarted the Revenue by sailing their boat through shallow water over some shoals, their boat being not as large as that of the King’s Men. As the smugglers sailed cheekily away one of the crew dropped his breeches and exposed his bare backside to the pursuers who were stuck fast.

Adds a whole new meaning to ‘moonlighting’ doesn’t it?

© Helen Hollick

feature_2019_02Read more about the fascinating exploits of smugglers in Helen’s new book:17394

Life Of A Smuggler: Fact and Fiction

Available from bookshops, online and Amazon mybook.to/Smugglers

Website: www.helenhollick.net  Newsletter   Blog

Twitter: @HelenHollick
Are you a writer? Do submit your book to Helen’s Discovering Diamonds Historical Fiction Review Blog 
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Stolen by Sheila Dalton

Stolen1

Stolen came about after two trips: one to Devon, England, and one to Morocco. The book is dedicated to my husband, who traveled with me. He died suddenly in 2012, before the book was published, but I wanted to include him somehow, because he loved the story and, without him, I would not have visited the places I did.

In Morocco, we saw the underground dungeons where Christian slaves were once kept chained to the walls, until they were brought outdoors into the blazing heat to work on the palaces and temples of Meknes. In Devon, a friend showed us the caves and coves where British pirates operated  in the 17th century.

When I discovered that the white slave trade and the Golden Age of Piracy were of the same era, I was intrigued; even more so when I read that the Barbary Corsairs made their raids along the British coast, including Devon, during that age. Soon a character – Lizbet Warren – came into my head — a young woman who loses her parents to the corsairs, who carry them off to the Moroccan slave markets.

I began to wonder what it would be like to be a sheltered young person coming face to face with cruelty both at home and at sea. Britain in the 17th century had incredibly stringent vagrancy laws that meant a homeless person or beggar could be arrested and sent overseas as an indentured servant – in effect, a slave. An indentured servant received no wages, was not free to leave, and often died because of ill treatment. As soon as Lizbet is left on her own, she is in danger of ending up disenfranchised in ‘the colonies’.

Lizbet is a complex young woman, but I suspect no more so than many of us today. She is faced with hard choices, and is troubled by them. She encounters dominant men  in her quest to help her parents, and is simultaneously attracted to, and repelled by them. She herself is kept under lock and key for a time, at the mercy of a French privateer and her own emotions.

As I was writing her story, I thought how I wanted readers to enjoy the narrative, despite its darker aspects.  To that end, I tried to concoct a plot full of suspense and adventure and triumph over adversity, as well as hard truths. I hope I have succeeded.

Stolen eBook: Sheila Dalton: Amazon.co.uk: Books

Sheila Dalton (@Sheladee) | Twitter

Want to contribute to Royalty Fee Fiction? mail me at authordeborahswift at gmail dot com  (Remember, historical fiction with no Kings and Queens!)