Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Templar Magician - a perfect Autumnal read

I am truly looking forward to the publication of “The Templar Magician” this month. I think the time of the year and the season suits its very dramatic plot about the blackest of witchcraft and the most sinister of murders.

There is something about an English Autumn which recalls the seasons of ghosts and dramatically defines the way life, like the seasons, change. I still dream of that novel, still fascinated by those grisly remains found in that secret Templar holding deep in the heart of England.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Templars and the return of Hugh Corbett!

In December, Headline will be publishing “The Templar Magician” a sequel to “The Templar”.

This is a vividly dramatic plot played out against the bloody background of Palestine and twelfth century England where the dark and deep desires of the power-hungry twist and turn to achieve their ends. A novel based firmly on fact, “The Templar Magician” also speculates on the truth behind the macabre finds in the crypt of the Temple church at Temple Bruer in Lincolnshire and the chilling ghost stories surrounding the manor of Borley in Essex….

In June 2010 – the next Hugh Corbett will appear: “The Mysterium

February 1304, a mysterious, savage assassin has returned to prowl the cold narrow alleyways of both London and Westminster. The Mysterium, a cunning killer, was apparently unmasked many years earlier so, why has he returned? Or is someone else imitating his brutal methods? The Mysterium re-emerges during a time of scandal and crisis. Walter Evesham, Chief Justice in the Court of King’s Bench, has fallen from power accused of bribery and corruption. Evesham has fled for sanctuary to the Abbey of Syon on Thames to live as a recluse and make reparation for his past sins. The Mysterium however, has not forgotten the former Chief Justice. Eudo Longstreet, the Chief Justice’s Clerk is murdered. On his victim’s brow the Mysterium carved his notorious insignia before lashing Longstreet to a corpse cut down from a gibbet and rolling both of them into the Thames. The following morning Evesham is found gruesomely murdered in his cell at Syon Abbey.

Despite all his precautions and protection, Evesham proves to be another victim of the malevolent Mysterium. Sir Hugh Corbett, Keeper of the King’s Secret Seal, together with his clerk Ranulf-atte-Newgate, are ordered to investigate these hideous murders, hunt down the Mysterium and bring him justice. Corbett reluctantly agrees, aware that he is not only to resolve the murderous mayhem of the day but to search out the roots of more ancient sins which have secretly festered over the years before yielding their own heinous fruit. Corbett moves from the grandeur of Westminster and the hallowed serenity of London’s great churches and abbeys to the fetid runnels and sinister sanctuary places of those who constantly hide from the light and cloak their murderous deeds in the deepest darkness.

The Mysterium proves to be a shrewd, cunning adversary. Corbett has to pit all his wit and strength in his deadly confrontation against this most murderous soul.

I hope readers will love each of these novels!

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Looking Ahead

I was in France last July at Bayeux in Normandy for their mediaeval fair and book event. I do recommend it as a lovely place to visit. The mediaeval fair was true to its name, tournaments, pageants and even insight into how stonemasons worked. I did a lot of book signing there and picked up a few new ideas.

Recent publications "Nightshade" and the recent Corbett have been received very well, as has the "Templar" but I am looking forward to new projects.

The next Egyptian is out in December, "The Spies of Sobeck". I hope my readers like it. What is so interesting about the ancient Egyptians is that they loved life and celebrations but the unpleasant side; the murders, the conspiracies, the attempted coups are simply obliterated.

I confront this great mystery in "The Spies of Sobeck". Egypt lived on the Nile but its drew its wealth from Nubia. Pharaohs were always highly sensitive, against dark conspiracy or even the sinister hint of rebellion. Their nightmare was Nubia, with all its riches, cutting itself off from Egypt or worse still, a rebel Nubian army moving up the Nile

"The Spies of Sobeck" is a dramatic and very atmospheric recreation of a hideous conspiracy which manifests itself in eerie disappearances, secret societies and the most gruesome murder. I hope it will be the vehicle to take us all back to that brilliant civilization with its gorgeous court, teaming slums and the lonely, devil-haunted sands of the Redlands.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Murder and Intrigue this Summer!

Kindest regards to all visitors and readers. Summer is here and finally the sunshine has arrived! I'm not a car driver but when I am being driven along the lanes of Essex and stare out at the lonely fields, the dark copses, the soaring hedgerows, I wonder what grisly secrets lie buried there? There is something about dark, green, dripping woods in the middle of rolling fields which conjures up silent murder and treacherous plotting. I always think the English countryside lends itself so well to murder.

In my next novel, Hugh Corbett travels into a snowbound Essex in pursuit of a hideous killer. I hope to deal with a number of themes in Corbett's new adventure "Nightshade"; the robbery of the Crown Jewels at Westminster, those bizarre religious groups who wandered Mediaeval Europe, the dramatic and bloody fall of Acre, the last Western stronghold in Palestine, as well as one other phenomenon which many people think is peculiar to our own age rather than the past. I have previously discussed serial killers, and my belief that they are not simply a manifestation of the 20th or 21st century. Such Sons of Cain must have gone on the rampage in other centuries but got away with it! The other fascinating phenomenon I wish to analyse is that of the lone sniper. An individual who takes a high-powered rifle to kill, without rhyme or reason, anyone who comes into his sight. Quite remarkable, this also happened with a weapon just as deadly in the Middle Ages. Time and again the 'Coroner Rolls of London' describe someone climbing into a church tower or some other high place, armed with long bow and arrows, to loose devastation and death. I touch on this in 'Nightshade' as well as create (what I hope) will be a superb locked room mystery in a lonely house on a snowbound island.

My other passion at the moment is studying the Death of Kings. Recently I came across some remarkable new evidence that Henry VIII on his death bed expressed deep contrition about the lies he had spread about Anne Boleyn. A great surprise, bearing in mind that Henry VIII rarely apologised for anything! However, what I find truly dramatic is the death of Elizabeth in 1603, definitely full of mystery and intrigue. And, of course, of Edward IV, the news of whose death was published a day early in York! This undergrowth of history really does fascinate me. Plenty of food for thought in the coming summer months, and for now I must get back to studying once again the delicate art of murder. Thanks for reading!

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

Murder's Immortal Mask

In April, the paperback edition of "The Templar" will be published along with "Murder's Immortal Mask" in hardback. The latter takes us back to 4th Century Rome and the court of Constantine. The root cause of the plot is hideous murder.

When I was composing the novel I recalled two salient facts in the history of murder. The first was an essay by Freud in the 19th Century, he argued that human beings are killers. He was following Hobbes who believed that our society is red in tooth and claw. I am not saying I fully accept that but Freud posted a very simple test, he claims we all kill each other in our thoughts whilst only some of us put that into action. I found it a chilling concept. It certainly influenced me. Do we all carry the mark of Cain in us? Is it in our DNA and yet, at the same time, we also have a deep repulsion for murder, for assassins, for anyone who takes human life.

My second consideration was serial killers. Naturally these figure prominently in the history and analysis of modern crime. They tend to be regarded as a recent development, to be found in a certain gender and age group but, of course, we only know about serial killers because of computers and the considerable advances in the collection and analysis of data. Yet, surely, serial killers must have operated at various times and different places in history. For them it must have been easier to hide their bloody handywork in a society bereft of our technology.

Moreover, more opportunities existed for such deviants to channel their murderous energy. One example are the "Ecorcheurs", bands of mercenaries who terrorised Normandy after Henry V's victory at Agincourt. According to one historian, their occupation of France, 1420 – 1430s, was worse than the Nazis between 1940-1944. Warfare was not their only 'disguise'. In mediaeval England certain people could travel the length and breadth of the kingdom. Surely, amongst the lambs there must have been prowling wolves? "Murder's Immortal Mask" explores the possibility of such a killer in Imperial Rome and the dramatic hunt which ensues to bring him to justice.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Merry Christmas - Past and Present

Christmas 1307 and Christmas 2007 how life very rarely changes! In December 1307 Edward II was keeping court in and around Westminster where he and his council were facing a crisis. He had signed a treaty to go to France and marry Isabella daughter of Philip IV. Edward did not wish to go and he had no real desire to marry Isabella, much preferring to stay at home with his good friend Peter Gaveston.

Bearing in mind my recent publication of 'The Templar', Edward of England was resisting attempts by France and the Papacy to force him to arrest all Templars in England. If only Edward had held his ground that great mysterious order might never have been extinguished…. It's lovely to ruminate about the past and ask, "what if?"

In the meantime, I wish all my readers and those who visit this site a very Happy Christmas and all the best for 2008.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Templars - a lifelong fascination!

At the end of November I am bringing out a new book "The Templar" a story which has haunted my imagination since childhood. I have always been fascinated by the First Crusade, a movement of literally tens of thousands of people from Western Europe who simply "downed tools" and marched east to free Jerusalem . It's one of the most incredible journeys I have ever read, evoking comparison with the Long March in China.

What strikes me as both compelling and fascinating about the march is the absolute heroism, courage and ferocious bravery of both sides in the ensuing conflict. What is equally fascinating is that there were as many reasons for the Crusade as there were crusaders, reflecting the best and worst in humanity. All in all a truly gripping story.

What attracted me as a historian is that quite a few of those who went on the crusade kept diaries and journals, so its almost like watching a film when you study them. Another intriguing aspect of the crusade was that many women also marched and later displayed the most remarkable courage and stamina.

The story of "The Templar" is told through the eyes of one such woman, Eleanor de Payens, the sister of Hugh de Payens, the founder of the Templar Order. This brings me to my second fascination. The Templar Order were a very mysterious group, [they had female members during the early years!]

There have been countless stories about the Templars and the curse levelled against those who destroyed the order. Was there such a curse? I used to disbelieve this until I did my doctorate on Isabella, daughter of Philip IV of France, the King who destroyed the Templars, and I found the curse! Within fourteen years of the Templars' destruction the following happened:
  • All three wives of Philip IV sons committed adultery and were removed.
  • All three sons married again – not one of them beget a healthy living male heir.
  • Isabella, Philip's daughter, married the King of England to bring peace between England and France. The reverse happened, because all of Philip's sons died without a male heir, Isabella's child [Edward III] claimed the throne of France and plunged both countries into the bitter Hundred Year War.
  • Pope Clement V, who sanctioned the end of the Templars, died of bowel cancer and his corpse burst into flames.
  • De Marigny – Philip's first minister fell from power and was hanged…
I could go on and on. Basically, most of those involved in the death of the Grand Master Jacques de Molay died horrible deaths. The Templars do fascinate me. I hope, if you read "The Templar" out this November, you'll find the same!

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