Newsletter March 2021

Pax et Bonum to all my readers.
I do apologise for the long break in service but let me explain….
My darling wife Carla died in December 2016 and that really threw me. I intended to restore the newsletter but of course COVID-19 hit us. I am a Head Teacher of a large mixed comprehensive school in East London so you can imagine I had my work really cut out for me. It would seem that matters are beginning to improve slowly. My school opens on Monday 8th March and we will get back to some sort of normalcy. I did keep my hand in when it comes to writing, in fact I found it both a relief and a very powerful distraction from ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune’.
The Corbett series continues to flourish. Sir Hugh has been very busy, be it on the Welsh March or the edges of Dartmoor (‘Death’s Dark Valley’ and ‘Hymn to Murder’). I think my novels have become darker. Sir Hugh is emerging as a man who cannot be corrupted but has become increasingly ruthless in dealing with those who break the King’s peace in any way. I don’t think this is inaccurate. Royal justiciars were greatly feared and their powers were wide sweeping. Both of the above novels end in fairly violent circumstances. Sir Hugh hunts the murderer then shows no mercy to the sons and daughters of Cain whom he traps in their sin. I thoroughly enjoyed writing both novels and I have recently submitted another, ‘Mother Midnight’. Again I think this is darker, perhaps more sombre and certainly brutal in its climax. However, Corbett is dealing with real evil, the kidnap and the abuse of young women. He has every compassion for the victims but the novel has a fairly ruthless, searing conclusion for the dark-dwellers.
Brother Athelstan is also prospering. The Great Revolt is over. Athelstan’s parishioners may have escaped the repression which followed that revolt. However, although they are Athelstan’s flock, not all of them are the lambs they appear to be. Many of the men in Athelstan’s parish fought abroad in England’s national hobby of invading France and sacking its cities for plunder. The war in France was particularly brutal and those who fought there came back with all sorts of secrets. ‘The Godless’ explores this theme and develops the line that all-out war in France afforded the psychopath/serial-killer with every opportunity to satisfy his murderous inclinations. Of course no sin escapes justice and ‘The Godless’ emphasises how the mills of God may grind exceedingly slow but they do grind exceedingly small. Indeed, a number of my novels explore the possibility of the serial-killer. I do not believe this is just a phenomenon of our modern age. Computers are, and they have been, vital in establishing a pattern of murder across a specific region or nation. I do maintain these same killers prowled the mediaeval world. Can you imagine such a stealthy assassin moving from village to village under the guise of a journeyman, a pilgrim or even a priest? As we drive across the lonely fields and desolate copses of Essex, I do wonder how many secrets that haunted landscape houses! The most recent Athelstan novel ‘The Stone of Destiny’ also explores the world of the assassin but it revolves around a sacred icon of Scottish nationalism, the Stone of Scone, on which Scottish King’s would stand when they were crowned. In his wars against the scots Edward I seized it and sent it south to Westminster Abbey. The stone had a remarkable history and it also serves as a connection between ourselves and the parish of St. Erconwald in the last few months of 1381.
I have also started a new series based on the life of Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond and mother of King Henry VII of England. I have always been fascinated by her. A most remarkable woman, a scholar as well as a truly cunning and resolute politician. Margaret, daughter of John Beaufort first Duke of Somerset, was married to Edmund Tudor, (hence Henry) and then Sir Henry Stafford and lastly Lord Thomas Stanley. She was a patron of the arts and provided Oxford and Cambridge with the most generous endowments. She also proved to be the dark nemesis of the House of York. Let me explain. In the early summer of 1471, Edward of York, together with his brothers Richard of Gloucester and George of Clarence totally annihilated the armies of Lancaster at the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury. Edward’s victory was complete. The only real survivor of the House of Lancaster was Margaret Beaufort’s son Henry Tudor. In 1471, matters looked very dire for Henry, who had been forced to shelter in Brittany. However, within fourteen years the power of York was severely weakened and eventually destroyed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. The years preceding this saw the House of York slowly disintegrate. I believe this was no accident or mere chance. Someone deep in the shadows lured York into one trap after another. I believe this was Margaret Beaufort. Ever so shy, ever so courteous, ever so mild, yet in truth a superb politician who weakened her opponents and provided her son with the opportunity to seize the crown. ‘Dark Queen Rising’, Dark Queen Waiting’ and ‘Dark Queen Watching’ chronicles Margaret Beaufort’s total commitment to the utter destruction of her enemies and the exaltation of her own beloved son. Margaret, of course, has the help of two redoubtable henchmen (real historical characters) Reginald Bray her steward and Christopher Urswicke her chancery clerk. Urswicke in particular is most skilled, in fact he is credited as one of the founders of the English Secret Service. I do urge you to read this new series, I am sure you will find it most enjoyable. For the rest, I have ideas about another Corbett and plans for a fresh venture by Brother Athelstan. However, I am also attracted to the possibility of writing a book about a man who speaks to ghosts, but perhaps that is a matter for the next newsletter.
I do hope you and your families are well. Stay happy, stay safe and, if you’re ever in London, give me a buzz. When this nonsense is over it would be lovely to sit in an English tavern and toast the ghosts who gather around us.
Happy reading.
My best regards to you and yours.