The website of the historical fiction writer.

Archive for June, 2014

Portsmouth Fairy Tales for Grown-Ups

(This is being written to the fine music from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Electric Ladyland Album. Listen to the ‘1983’ track in particular while reading this.)

Well the Portsmouth Festivities are in full-swing down in the South with something for everyone: and this weekend some of my scribbling compadres conjured up something rather spectacular.

Saturday Night at the Groundlings Theatre provided a showcase of spellbinding talent from an array of Local Writers, all of which took different approaches to the brief of writing a fairy tale set in Portsmouth.

Today (Sunday) was a Magical Mystery Tour of Portsmouth where last night’s performers discussed how certain objects and locations influenced the stories they wrote in the anthology. If you want to have a look at the map then click here:

And if you want to know where you can get the Anthology then try here (it’s free until Monday!)


May there be More Books

Here’s what I’ve read in May!

1) Macbeth by A. Hartley, D. Hewson and A. Cumming. This is Shakespeare’s play rewritten as a novel. Like the play, this is not an account of the life of the real Macbeth (read Nigel Tranter’s book Macbeth the King if you want something like that.) This is fantastic with brilliant imagery, each character both believable and true to the play. This goes into more detail about the ‘lives’ of the witches and gives an interesting insight into the character of Lady Macbeth.

2) Sharpe’s Regiment by Bernard Cornwell. Sharpe and Harper join the army as recruits to investigate corruption in the regiment. We also meet the Prince Regent (played very well by Julian Fellows in the TV Series.)

3) Hereward by James Wilde. A description of the uncertainty that faced England in the days leading up to and just after the Norman Conquest. Harold II is not portrayed in a good light in this book. This is in contrast to…

4) Harold the King by Helen Hollick. A fantastic tale from the early reign of Edward the Confessor to the Battle of Hastings. If you like family sagas such as I Claudius, I can certainly recommend this.

Alright, so not as many this month but quality is better than quantity and that’s certainly true with this lot.

Weekend of Culchaaaar

While this website is undergoing some redecorating, I thought I’d tell you all how I learned to combine education with exercise without having to go anywhere near a gym.

Last Saturday I took a train to London and went to see the Comics Unmasked exhibition at the British Library. This takes a look at the history of comics and graphic novels on society and how they reflect the times they are made in. Now, I wasn’t really into comics when I was young but, since getting into writing, I have begun to find them to be an interesting way of telling a story. The exhibition shows the earliest forms such as Mr Punch (unless you count cave paintings), who has been shown as either a medieval jester or a Victorian gentleman intent on creating mischief on those who deserve it. As you walk around, watched by hooded dummies in V for Vendetta masks, there are samples from Sandman, Watchmen and Batman along with earlier forms of subversive art that may have inspired them. Have a look for yourself before the 19th August when it finishes.

Later I walked to the National Portrait Gallery where there is a display of The Great War in Portraits. This exhibition shows portraits of the major royals in the build-up to the war, the generals that commanded the armies and those that fought. There are many portraits, both painted and photographed, of both famous and lesser-known figures of the war and their contributions such as soldiers, nurses, journalists, etc. If you want to see this then get there soon as it closes on the 15th!

Walking further on, I went to Apsley House, home of the Duke of Wellington. As I’m nearing the end of the Sharpe series, I thought it would be a good time to go and visit. This has many, many portraits of both Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte and lots of the plate and china that he owned. Again, very interesting.

The following day was a family trip to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. With English Heritage, you can be in some places for about half an hour, others you can spend an entire day there and Osborne House is one of them. First there is the house itself which Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had as a retreat, with the Queen spending much of her later life there. Many of the rooms are still furnished with objects that she owned. There are also portraits of many of the royal families of Europe that her children married into and these are accompanied with family trees that show their descendants and how they are related to our Queen. You can then either walk or take a minibus to the beach where the royal family would go to in the summer before going back up to the Swiss Cottage, which Prince Albert gave as a gift to the children. This house gave an insight into the lives of Victoria and Albert’s children, how they spent their childhoods at the house and what they did when they grew up. All in all very interesting so if you’re on the Isle of Wight, it’s a nice day and you fancy some culture, I can recommend this place for all the family. There’s even a little park for the kids, which kept my little niece happy!