February 2015
To All My Readers
The festive season has come and gone; I hope for all of you it was a time of rejoicing, merriment and happiness. I certainly looked forward to this wonderful time spent with our every increasing family, as I do to quiet hours at my desk plotting murder, mystery and mayhem! The next Athelstan book, THE HERALD OF HELL is now finished with its sequel, THE EARTHWORMS, well on its way. The Great Peasants Revolt of 1381 is about to break out and engulf London in a frenzy of arson, robbery and murder. Athelstan however, keeps to his task, his single-minded hunt for murderers and assassins, those sons and daughters of Cain who believe they can wipe out lives, loudly protest their innocence whilst they hide their hands stained with their victims’ blood. Murder, like charity, is common to all ages and cultures; it can set up tent anywhere, be it behind the grim walls of the Tower of London, the austere, sanctified precincts of Blackfriars or the opulent luxury of Southwark’s leading brothel, “The Golden Oliphant.” Sir John Cranston, Lord High Coroner of London and his faithful Dominican secretarius Athelstan, have to enter the meadows of murder but keep a very wary eye on equally sinister developments in and around the court of the young boy king, Richard II.
The Peasants Revolt of 1381 is shrouded in mystery. Every school boy knows about Wat Tyler, one of the rebel leaders. Generations of history books have presented him as a real historical figure. Undoubtedly he existed. However, when you do research, Tyler appears to have no substance, no background. Historians have scoured the varied records of Essex and Kent but they can find no reference to him anywhere in sheriff returns, court lists, tax rolls, army musters etc. Oh, the chroniclers of the time paint their picture but there is nothing objective or empirical about Tyler. Who was this man? Where did he come from? Who supported him? How did he, this complete stranger, rise so swiftly through the ranks to command the rebel armies and so dictate terms to both King and Council? The other great mystery is John of Gaunt, self-styled Regent, uncle of the king and keeper of the kingdom. Why did Gaunt, when the revolt was about to break out, decide to launch a military campaign against the Scots? Our brethren north of the border were posing no real threat and, if they did, the powerful Percy family of Northumberland would only be too willing to check them. Indeed, when Gaunt went north and the revolt erupted in London and the surrounding shires, Gaunt was not really involved in fighting the Scots but busy in a futile quarrel with the powerful Percy lord over who was actually in charge of England’s northern march. Moreover, behind all this lies the question I posed above. Why did Gaunt leave London and his 14-year- old nephew at such a critical time? Why take much needed troops north for a shadow war? Read THE HERALD OF HELL and EARTHWORMS for my solution to all these murderous mysteries, and others!

I have now moved on to writing a sequel to DARKNESS, a Gothic novel set in ancient Rome. This macabre tale begins with the destruction of Quintilius Varus and his three legions in the Black Forest of Germany (AD 9) and the story sweeps to its climax with the siege of Masada in the Judean Desert in AD 73. I recently gave a lecture on this which fired my interest even more. The novel is gothic but is based within a historical framework as it moves from the reign of Augustus through that of Tiberius and the mad man Caligula. A haunting, gripping, truly terrifying story played out against a vivid panorama of legions massacred in a forest, the decadent luxury of the Imperial Court, battles on the sea and elsewhere, the luxurious villas of the rich and the hideous mines and haunted tombs of the Egyptian desert. I will tell you more about this next time, when once again my mind will turn to devious plots. I do hope you are all well. I truly appreciate your support. I wish you and yours every happiness and all the best for the New Year.
Kindest regards,
Dr P.C. Doherty OBE