Dear Gentle Reader,

I hope this newsletter finds you well as we hopefully approach the general easing of the Covid restrictions.  I certainly won’t weep to see them go.  It’s been rather tough hasn’t it?  As you may know, I am headmaster of a large comprehensive school and it has been trying.  We virtually had to run the GCSE and A Levels ourselves and this created a vast amount of hard work.  Of course, the people I really feel for are the students.  Anyway, the sun is breaking through and perhaps we may have a good summer.

My next Hugh Corbett book ‘Mother Midnight’ has now been published.  I do recommend it, I thoroughly enjoyed writing it and the themes it develops be it slavery or the gangs of London.  These gangs, or rifflers as they were called, were a common feature and they are certainly not the creation of my imagination.  The gang system in London was a powerful, political force.  One example of this may well suffice.  In September 1326, Isabella the estranged wife of Edward II, invaded England along with her lover Roger Mortimer and other refugees from Edward’s oppression.  Mortimer had very powerful friends in London.  Merchants, aldermen, who could whistle up their gangs and, on this occasion, they certainly did.  The uprising was so swift and so dangerous, it caught the authorities on the hop.  Walter Stapleton, Bishop of Exeter and treasurer of the Kingdom (the equivalent of our Chancellor of the Exchequer) was glimpsed riding by St. Pauls with a military escort of two squires.  A gang trapped and killed him.  They also slaughtered his squires.  Not satisfied with murder, the rifflers degraded Stapleton even more.  They cut off his head and sent it as a gift to Isabella, who had the sense not to accept it.  Another feature of my novels is sometimes the summary nature of justice.  To quote the old saying ‘crime at eight, caught at nine, hanged at ten’.  Again this is not a figment of my imagination.  Indeed, it was enshrined in a legal principle of ‘infangenthef’ which is summary justice carried out on a felon caught red-handed.  For example, 2nd February 1337, John White of Cambridge was put on trial for breaking into a shop by night.  He was immediately tried before a jury, found guilty and hanged.  Justice was certainly swift.  The great lords were no exception to this.  During the Wars of the Roses, execution of leaders following their defeat was both immediate and commonplace as at Tewkesbury in 1471 when the market place there ran with blood.

At the moment I am busy with a new Athelstan novel, ‘The Hanging Tree’.  I do enjoy developing plot lines and doing my very best to create something unique and original in each novel.  The Hanging Tree, I hope, proves this and centres around a great robbery at Westminster where treasury is taken from a fortified chamber with reinforced doors and no sign of how the thieves could enter and leave carrying such a heavy load and how the five clerks who were appointed to manage and defend the treasure were found garrotted in their chairs.  I do look forward to resolving this and to sharing the mystery with you.

I hope this newsletter finds you and yours well.

Take care.  Happy reading.

My best regards,

Paul Doherty.