So yes, I have a new book out. Yes, I’m a slow writer. Yes, I’ve committed a cardinal sin of Historical Fiction Writing, No, I don’t care.
“This, the first in a series of books roughly following the life of 18th Century London’s notorious self styled “Thief-taker General of England” Jonathan Wild, is a blend of fact and fiction. Appointed by London’s Undermarshal Charles Hitchen as thief-taker – tasked with bringing London’s thieves, housebreakers, cutpurses etc to justice and goods returned to their rightful owners – he sets about this task with relish, bringing his own coterie of trusted members of the city’s underworld under his wing, trying to walk the line between both sides of the law, assisted by his partner Mary Molyneux.
His discovery of the body of a young prostitute close to his Cripplegate home sees him unwittingly dragged into a murder investigation, along with the local Beadle William Reeves. Suspects appear almost immediately, the Billingsgate Crime boss Miller and his henchmen, the former lover of the girl, a Dutch merchant, but uppermost in his sights is a half mad preacher who haunts Cripplegate, violently accosting prostitutes and those going about their business alike. As more bodies are discovered, Wild is under pressure to capture the killer, but is the obvious suspect actually guilty of the crimes?”
So, that’s the blurb. A crime fiction novel set in London’s underworld in the early 18th Century. Ready for pre-order for the 20th June. Get it for Kindle Here .
Now for the cardinal sin. Wild is the infamous “Thief-Taker” who rose to prominence in the decade around the early part of George I’s reign, first under the patronage of the then (corrupt) Under-Marshall Charles Hitchen. Aside from once recorded instance in 1715, there is no evidence that he ever worked to solve murders in the capital. So I have taken a historical figure and woven a fiction around him, something that isn’t the done thing.
However in this case, I’m not the first. His contemporary, Daniel Defoe, writing a biography of sorts after his death, sensationalising his career and his famous association with the Highwayman Jack Sheppard, and a couple of decades later Henry Fielding totally fictionalised his life, making him out to be much worse than he actually was. Since then, he has been a romantic figure/ cult bad guy in equal measure up to the modern era (one author even had him as a secret agent alongside Defoe…) .
So, my take to the legend has him as I believe he was in many ways, trying to get by in the beginning of his career, trying to keep things rolling with his friends and associates staying out of the gallows as much as he could. But I have him solving the murders that others in the city would just ignore, writing off as suicide, or as “rough justice”.
So welcome to my London, a place of shadows, a place where there is no black and white, merely several shades of Grey.