The Dead do Speak to the Living

9th March 2012

Lord how time flies! We are in March and soon we will be celebrating the rites of Spring. The Ides of March are also fast approaching: the season for murder. ‘Bloodstone’ has been out for months and done very well. Many thanks for your kind comments. ‘The Midnight Man’, the Physician’s tale as he goes on pilgrimage to venerate Becket’s blissful bones at Canterbury is to be published soon. The Canterbury Tales cover a wide range of themes. Some are murder mysteries, others are historical mysteries and a third strain is what I would call Gothic. The ‘Midnight Man’ firmly belongs to this last category. You can’t blame me, the medieval period is ideal for the Gothic! I mean pinched white faces peering out form black cowls in candlelit choir stalls under the arching roof of some sombre cathedral! Statues, gargoyles and babewyns staring stonily down at you from some shadowy recess or niche. Castle towers rising up against gathering storm clouds. Dark garbed riders, cloaks billowing out, thundering along some moonlit road. Ghostly ships battling against swelling seas. The ‘Midnight Man’ is a true recreation of all these great Gothic images. Yet in other ways it also reflects ordinary medieval life and attitudes. Our brothers and sisters down the long, dusty passage of the years were very much like us with their loves and hates, likes and dislikes, fears and phobias. Of course there are the accidental differences. The vast array of modern communication was not available to them, yet they could plot and murder with as much relish as we do today. There was one great difference. For medieval man and woman the line between the visible and invisible was very thin. Sometimes it disappeared all together. Devils and demons roamed the spiritual wastelands but they could also easily cross into our reality. The ‘Midnight Man’ explores this against a background of macabre murder. On a more historical basis the story is also rooted in the Great Crown Jewels Robbery of 1303 when an enterprising London gang broke into the royal treasure house in the great fortified crypt of Westminster Abbey. Now that is a genuine spine-tingling tale, but it will be the subject of the next blog……

For the rest I am still working on the last days of Henry VIII. I’ve come across some very interesting facts.

  • Henry VIII’s corpse was certainly rushed to the grave at Westminster. Did you know, following a friar’s curse, that Henry’s body burst in its coffin at Syon-on-Thames and dogs came to lick up the juices?!
  • Did you know his death was kept secret for three days?
  • Isn’t it strange that all Henry’s physicians and apothecaries were richly rewarded afterwards?
  • Did you know that Henry’s signature was being forged on whatever documents were necessary?
  • Did you know Henry spent his final days surrounded by the forfeited possessions of all those he executed? He even gave his fool, Will Somers, Cromwell’s purse.
  • Did you know that there are two versions of his death, a Catholic version and a Protestant one? I shall also return to this next time.

Kind regards, good reading.

Paul Doherty