Pax et Bonum to all my gentle readers.

I do hope this finds you and yours in the best of health despite the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.  Covid-19 reminds me of the Great Mortality of 1348 though of course the bubonic plague was even nastier.  Plagues in history have always fascinated me.  Quirks like there was a great plague in 1720, another in 1820 and the more recent Spanish Flu in 1920.  Some historians argue that humanity’s last great war will be between us, or rather our descendants, and some truly hideous virus.  The pessimist claim we will lose.  However, I am a Christian and I believe in the Resurrection and I trust that in the end God will have his way.  My fascination for plagues was a theme of a novel that I wrote many years ago, called “The Plague Lord” based around the life and adventures of Marco Polo.  The novel is not just historical but a foray into the intervention of the devil in human history and its manifestation in some great plague brought from China to the West.  I am sorry if this sounds rather dark and sinister but we are all children of what we read!  I loved Milton’s depiction of hell in “Paradise Lost” whilst Dante also makes a most powerful contribution.  Of course if you really what to be frightened, study the writings of the great Celtic saints and the visions they claim to have had.  Medieval versions of the Hell-Fire sermons!

I have two novels in for publication, “Dark Queen Watching” is the third in the Margaret Beaufort series and is due out later this year.  Margaret still faces deadly challenges and sinister confrontations.  I bring into this novel ‘The Garduna’, a guild of specialist assassins who were in fact not wiped out until the 1820’s.  I enjoyed writing it.  I think it’s one of the most ‘Gothic’ in the series.

Hugh Corbett, of course, will also emerge to confront Mother Midnight, a truly dark soul.  We have many reports today of modern slavery, of young women particularly, being brutally sold like some commodity.  Of course wickedness is never new and the slave trade in the medieval period was as rife and as prosperous as it is today.

At the moment I am working on a new Athelstan “The Gallows Tree” and this centres around a great robbery and an almost impossible murder.  The low life of London emerges.  I love writing about them.  Such characters very rarely appear in the light.  They make their emergence in the record of trials, be it Westminster, the Guild Hall, the great commissions of Oyer et Terminer and gaol delivery.  Such creatures of the night have strange names like Thomas the Toad, or Norbert No Nose.  They have all seen the inside of Newgate or the Fleet, quite a few of them being hanged only to be cut down by their friends in the nick of time and revived to robust health for more mischief.  Apparently, such escapes from hanging became so common it led to the introduction of that sombre phrase “you will be hanged until you are dead”.  The medieval underworld was a truly gothic, highly colourful scene: the ‘utlegati’ had the cheek of the devil and, to quote scripture, “feared neither God nor man.”  I mean for sheer impudence how can you get a relic-seller claiming to have the severed head of John the Baptist when indeed he had six!  Of course there were other popular scams such as the disabled beggar who hid behind crude make-up, false limbs but in fact was as hale and hearty as any spring hare.  I have one small problem; I am not too sure where to send Hugh Corbett on his next venture.  I would certainly appreciate suggestions.  One thing I have noticed about my novels is that the sea is playing an increasingly important role, be it the Channel, the North Sea or the great surge of the western approaches.  I suppose this is a reflection of medieval life.  Every revolution in medieval England originated in some landing from the sea.  William the Conqueror in 1066, Isabella and Mortimer in 1326, Henry the IV in 1399, the different landings of Edward IV and his brothers and, of course, Henry Tudor’s dramatic invasion of 1485.

On a personal note, I do hope you have escaped Covid-19 and had your vaccine.  I did have the dreaded disease, but, thank God, I got off lightly whilst I have had my two jabs of Pfizer.

Many thanks to those readers who wrote to me.

Keep reading, keep safe and keep close to those you love.

My best regards to you and yours.