“The Puritan’s Son”

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.

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How to Fold An Aardvark

All your aardvark needs solved

K. A. Laity

Few problems disrupt modern life more than what to do with your aardvark when you are short of space. Folding your aardvark will not only help you master a valuable skill but also create more room for your pencils, ottomans and toadstools.

  1. Grasp your aardvark by the collar. If it does not have a collar, see if it has a cravat.
  2.  Locate the central area of the beast by poking it gently in the nether regions.
  3. Draw a dotted line to give yourself a visual reference for the folding motion.
  4. Warm up your arm for the folding action by hoisting a few glasses of gin, but not more than three.
  5. Gently take hold of the opposite end of the aardvark.
  6. Fold the opposite end toward the collar/cravat end.
  7. Repeat as needed and then file the folded aardvark under the appropriate letter or in some out of the way crevice.

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Bewilderbeast

A lot has been made of dog attacks in the Media recently – and a lot of those who have known me for a while will know that 1) I am passionate about dogs, and 2) and totally convinced that the laws we have now solve nothing, causing more problems than they solve. The Breed ban we have in force today succeeds in criminalising the innocent far more than it solves the problem of poor ownership and management of Dogs.

This is a departure for me, a contemporary short story that first appeared in Luca Vesta’s Guilty Conscience blog a couple of years ago, re-edited here.

Bewilderbeast

 

Sunday

Dean Coleman knelt down as he watched the ring being set up, fussing his dog, Marley,as he gazed at the preparations. The pair of them made an imposing site, both in the ring and walking through the streets of Battle, where he lived with his girlfriend and daughter. Dean, the 6ft dreadlocked Rastafarian, dressed usually in jogging bottoms and a bomber jacket walking with the powerful American Bulldog cross Boxer by his side, with a large harness and strong, chain type lead to combat the physical strength of the dog. Many people, reading the constant media outpourings about so called “status dogs” avoided the pair, crossing the road when the saw them walking down the street, fearing that they were involved in dog fighting, and that the dog would attack their animals, children or themselves.

“Hey man” Dean called out to another dog owner walking near to him. Marley squirmed in an attempt to get close to the other dog but dean swiftly brought him under control with a simple command.  When he was calm again, he bent down and stroked Marley’s head. “Easy boy, you will have your chance soon enough,” he whispered into the dog’s ear.

“Deano, my man” the other man replied, holding his dog away from the pair, as it too tried to get closer to Marley. “Eager buggers aren’t they!” he stated, watching both dogs pulling to get to each other. They had started barking now, such was their eagerness to be free of the leash and just do what they were here for. “When you up?” he asked.

“Marley drew the first slot, so I guess he will have to be good, everyone after will be trying to beat him, he needs to be tough and focused out there if he has a chance to survive,” Dean said, again fussing Marley. “What about you?” he asked.

“Kaiser here” he motioned his dog; a Staffordshire mix, excitedly pulling on the lead,” is near the end, and I will guarantee he will kick Marley’s arse!”

“Yeah, we’ll see,” laughed Dean. “I think Marley will be unbeatable today.” he listened sharply to an announcement, and then stood up. “That’s my call, it’s showtime!” he said, and walked off to the ring.

Standing in the ring, Dean removed the lead from Marley, making the dog sit and stay, looking across at the competition with a taste of victory in his eyes. He waited for the signal to be given, then yelled “go!” at Marley, who took off, launching himself into the ring. The first jumps he did with ease, clearing all three without touching the poles. flying up and then down the see saw, followed swiftly by another couple of jumps. “Weave weave” encouraged Dean, running alongside his dog, as Marley wove through the poles, then into the tunnel. Emerging, the dog leapt up onto the box, obeying the command to lay down, holding the position for the required time, before hurtling off the box, over another hurdle and then on to the balance beam. Making his way down, he then ran towards the final couple of hurdles, before heading to the finish line, his tail wagging from the enjoyment of it all. Dean smartly put the dog on the lead, revelling in the applause of the crowd before hearing his time. Two minutes and 12 seconds, he knew from his training sessions at the club that it was a good time; he hoped it would be unbeatable, now the pair just had to wait.

As the afternoon wore on, it was clear to Dean that the time Marley had set was proving unbeatable. By the end of the competition; the south-east regional finals, Marley was declared the winner, which meant a trip to the national finals in a few months time. Dean was over the moon, though he knew he would face stiffer competition, and would have to work Marley hard to maintain, and improve, that performance.  As he walked up to the centre of the arena to collect his award and rosette for Marley, he revelled in the applause of the crowd once again. Indeed, he felt a sense of personal pride and achievement, as well as helping to disprove the myth that that bull breed type of dogs were inherently dangerous and all who own them did so purely because they were.

Monday

Gail Merchant woke suddenly to teh sound of  loud hammering on the front door of the rented house she shared with Dean. Trying to shake the sleep off, she glanced at her mobile phone for the time, and groaned when she saw it was only six thirty in the morning. Wincing with the hangover from Marley’s victory celebrations the previous night, she sat up in bed, ”Bloody hell Deano,“ she mumbled under her breath. ”Forgot your bloody keys and lunch box again.” She sat up in bed,  pulling on her dressing gown, and stepped out to walk down the stairs. “I swear I’ll nail ‘em to your….” She got no further as with a loud crash, the front door flew open, and the downstairs room was filled with six large policemen in what appeared to be body Armour.

The noise woke Teena, her nine-year-old daughter up, and set Marley off from his usual place on her bed. He started barking and scrabbling at the closed bedroom door.  Gail rushed down the stairs “What the fuck is this?” She yelled at the policemen.

“Police, Now where’s your dog?” the lead officer yelled, and Gail, still half asleep, took in the scene in front of her. Two of the police officers had large poles with nooses on the end, and they all were dressed in clothing that she had only seen on images of riots on the television.  The men looked like they were holding gas canisters, and a couple of them were carrying fire extinguishers. Bewildered, Gail just froze.

“I said where’s the fucking dog?.” The lead officer yelled again, this time pushing Gail against the wall, and holding the CS canister aimed right at her face. The shock of what was going on seemed to paralyse the woman, and she stood there, her mouth flapping as she tried to speak.

“Mummy!” yelled Teena opening the door, and Marley flew down the stairs, barking and snarling at the officers. Time seemed to slow down at that point for Gail, everything seemed to happen at once, the noise, the yelling of the police, her daughters crying and Marley’s barking. Instinctively pushing at the policeman, she was rewarded with a spray from the gas canister straight in her face and recoiled from the stinging sensation, her eyes immediately blurred as she blinked against the caustic affects of the spray.

“Grab the kid!” the lead officer called, and one of the others, dodging the now frantic dog,  grabbed Teena in his arms, and bundled her against the wall, next to her choking mother. The other members of the team swung into immediate action, two of them letting off blasts of the powder filled extinguishers straight at the dog, in an attempt to corral the dog towards the catchpoles. All the while, Marley, getting more confused, frightened and wound up by the attacks, was snarling and barking fiercely at the officers, lunging towards the two with the poles, in an attempt to get away from the blasts from the extinguishers.

“I hate these fucking things” one of the men said “These fuckin Chav’s know they are illegal, that is why they get ‘em. Lock the fuckers up I say. We should be in here with a gun, not this fucking thing” He gestured at the catchpoles. “Shoot the bloody thing, job done.”

The other two men nodded, and expertly lassoed the dog with the catchpoles, a procedure they had both practiced and used many times before. As the poles went over Marley’s head, the dog snapped and thrashed about, trying to escape, he tried to flatten himself to the floor, but his head went rigid with the effects of the nooses around his neck being pulled tight. Marley’s barks turned to screams,  screams of real terror, indistinguishable from a child’s screams as fear took over,  his bowels opened, covering the nearest policeman’s feet in urine and faeces. “Bloody thing,” yelled the officer as he kicked the dog in retaliation, Marley tried to escape the kick, but was held tight by the catchpoles, and took the full force of the officers boot along his side, causing him to scream in pain once more.

On hearing the ethereal screams, Gail looked across at Teena; still being held against the wall with a canister of CS gas aimed at her face, but she could see that her daughter was crying too much for it to be her. Through still blurry eyes, she looked straight at Marley, knowing that the screams were coming from him. “Bastards. Fucking bastards” she yelled at the officer, still holding her.

He looked at her, totally unmoved. “Miss Gail Marchant” he intoned, his voice now calm and official. “We have a warrant to enter these premises under the dangerous dogs act and seize this dog here as a prohibited type, namely a Pit Bull Terrier….” The full force of Gails temper cut him off.

“Dangerous, Marley!” she shouted. “He fuckin’ well won an agility competition yesterday. Dean’s been training him…”
“Don’t insult my intelligence Ms Marchant.” The officer snapped back. “He may have told YOU it was agility, but this is Dean Coleman we are talking about. I have pulled him for everything from possession to carrying offensive weapons in the past. Look at the animal will you?” he gesticulated to the frantic dog, still furiously struggling. “He fights with him I’m…”this time, Teena cut him off.

“What are you doing to my Marley?” She shrieked between sobs. “Leave him alone!“
The officer looked at her dispassionately for a moment, and then turned to his men. “Right, get that bloody thing out of here. “ he said, and the four of the men strode out of the room, Marley still screaming, still trying in vain to fight and protest the catchpoles as the officers struggled to hold it. “Don’t you see, if my men there,” he indicated the struggling officers, “Who are trained police dog handlers, can’t control the bloody thing, I don’t see how you and Coleman have managed. Still, at least we have got it now, before it hurts her!” He pointed at the sobbing nine year old on the sofa. “Agility my arse,” he laughed as he left the house, leaving a distraught and bewildered mother and daughter sobbing on the sofa.
Marley was half dragged towards the waiting van, where one of the policemen opened a large cage, setting it down on the ground. The Officer holding the dog forced it into the cage, closing the door as much as he could before snapping the noose off of the dogs head, and quickly forcing the door closed. Marley sat there, the fight gone out of him, and the officers were able to load the cage into the van with no issues.  The rear doors of the van closed shutting Marley into darkness and as it pulled away the dog started shaking and whining, confused and terrified by his ordeal.

So, I have realised that I haven’t blogged anything for a long time.  This is not because I have given up , rather I have been rather busy. Day Job (that cursed think that I need to do as the Missus won’t let me sell the kids for food) has been very busy, I have also been hard at work with articles for MetalTalk including a 45 minute Inverview with H from Bristish Thrash Legends Acid Reign to transcribe this week!

Also, the New Project is taking shape, “The Puritan’s Son” is halfway through, and research and writing are intertwining, which doesn’t leave much time for blogging, which is a bugger.

So, not much to say for now, BUT I will try and visit here with some new reading matter soonish. I pwomise.

 

 

John Strype, Clergyman, Historian & Biographer

220px-John_Strype

Following on from my wee post yesterday  , today I look at John Strype, who wrote the Survey I am relying on so much. So, who was he?

John was born the son of a Huguenot immigrant on November 1st 1643. His father, John Van Stryp (who anglicanised his name to Strype)  fled religious persecution in Brabant, and set up in Petticoat lane as a merchant (yes, Strype Street in Shoreditch is named after our lad. He was educated at St Paul’s School, and Jesus college and Catharine hall at Cambridge, gaining an MA . He went on to become perpetual curate of Theydon Bois, and curate and lecturer of Leyton.

Alongside his duties within the Parish, he maintained a firm interest in History, particularly that of the Protestant  Reformation. Through contacts, he was able to access documents which he transcribed, using them as the basis for many of his works.  His first published work was in 1694 – The Memorials of Thomas Cramner , Archbishop of Canterbury .  

This was followed four years later by the Life of the learned Sir Thomas Smith ; in 1701 he wrote Life and Acts of John Aylmer, Lord Bishop of London . Four more biographical works were written: Life of the learned Sir John Cheke with his Treatise on Superstition (1705);  Life and Acts of Edmund Grindal, Archbishop of Canterbury (1710);  Life and Acts of Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury (1711) and Life and Acts of John Whitgift,  Archbishop of Canterbury (1718) . One of the biggest of his works was Annals of the Reformation in England a four volume history which had a final edition published in 1738 . All these books have been great sources for Historians since those times.  (He had other written works, sermons and collections thereof also Published)

But, what interests me most (because of its descriptions of the city’s layout is “A survey of the cities of London and Westminster (1720) . This really wasn’t an original work by Strype, he merely updated an earlier work written in 1598 by John Stowe . Since Stowe’s work was published, Tudor London had been built on, expanded, filled in, burned down, and rebuilt and expanded and filled in. This meant that Stowe’s survey was in dire need of an update. responding to this need, Strype commenced the project.

The survey is contained within two volumes, and from the title page, Strype remains humble, stating that all he is doing is updating Stowes work.  It is an invaluable source for anyone interested in London History, and contains some maps and illustrations alongside the written survey. It is the detail that brings the areas to life more than anything.

The online version I have linked to was produced by: The Stuart London Project, Humanities Research Institute, The University of Sheffield.

Oh, Strype Died in 1738, aged Ninety-four, while living with his widowed granddaughter, in case you are interested.

Research and stuff

I have spent much of this evening on research for the WIP . It is set in 1713 in London, and more Crime thriller than the biographical fiction of Staymaker .

So, I have spent much of the evening pouring over two fabulous references – both available online. The first is John Stripe’s survey of London  which provides detail of the various wards and places in London in the early 18th Century. The second is John Roques‘ Map dated 1746 . Both are contemporary sources.

The action, which is based in part on real historical characters, has to take place in real locations, and each location has to be easily travelled between  on foot – as this was the style most of London’s poor travelled. So, this distance defines where the action takes place. This also defines other information – for example different wharves took different goods and so  give the back story of a couple of Characters is based on a wharf’s distance from Cripplegate.

No cars, no tube and no phones means that the action has to take place over a smaller distance – or a longer time frame.  I need to bring the London of 1713 alive, just as I did with the Hawkhurst of 1748. To do that, I need to get the locations bang on as much as I need the background hubbub of the city to be painted in. The devil is indeed in the detail.