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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hint of History - To Kill a King

Thank you to everyone who called past and downloaded THE KING'S MAN. I hope you enjoy the read and I hope you will find the time to leave a rating and/or review on KINDLE and/or GOODREADS .

So often truth is stranger than fiction, coincidence happens every day in real life but put it in fiction and it looks contrived and sometimes as a writer you come across real events and people that you couldn't have dreamed up in your wildest imagination.

Oliver Cromwell
This was the case when I was writing THE KING'S MAN. What began as a single paragraph in Antonia Fraser's excellent biography of Cromwell, became the basis for a whole story. In February 1654 Oliver Cromwell, on his way to dine with the Lord Mayor of London, in much state (and wearing a "musk" coloured suit) had his grand parade halted when a brick bat was thrown at his coach by a "Miss Granville". I never discovered who the real Miss Granville was or why she hurled a brick bat at Oliver Cromwell's coach but I had fun writing a story about her.

As I started to read more about the events of 1654, I uncovered a nest of plots against the life of Oliver Cromwell. 

In February, the same month as Miss Granville was hurling brickbats at the Lord Protector, a small group of disaffected royalists were meeting in the Ship Tavern in the Old Bailey, hatching a plot to seize Whitehall, St. James and the Tower and the guards about the city. Captain Dutton was dispatched to garner support from known Royalists in the country and it was decided Colonel Whiteley should go to France to get the support of the King in exile. An argument about payment of his expenses ensued with none of his co-conspirators willing to pay a farthing. One of their number (I won't say who) betrayed the plot to Thurloe and the conspirators were arrested at the Ship Inn. None of those concerned were ever brought to trial.

However during the course of examining the conspirators the existence of a more serious organisation, apparently holding the King's Commission, was revealed. Known as "The Sealed Knot", it had been formed some time in 1653. This was the only group of plotters who were to be any real threat to the Protectorate and when they eventually rose in 1655, were swiftly subdued. Charles II himself appeared to be ambivalent to much of the plotting. He did not believe that the assassination of Cromwell would necessarily result in his return to the throne and in that he was probably correct. At that time Cromwell was at the height of his power and he had able Lieutenants who would have stepped into his place. 

In May of 1654 another plot headed by John Gerard was hatched. The plan was to seize Cromwell as he travelled between Whitehall and Hampton Court. Fortunately for Cromwell, his ever efficient Secretary of State, John Thurloe (see my blog on John Thurloe on Hoydens and Firebrands) through his efficient penetration of such enterprises foiled the plot. The conspirators were tried, three were transported and two executed.

Implicated in "Gerard's Plot" (as it came to be known) was an absurd character, a French emissary sent by Cardinal Mazarin to aid the French Ambassador, Bordeaux, in diplomatic negotiations with the English. De Baas was a Gascon whose brother Charles adopted his mother's name D'Artagnan and was  the protoype of Dumas' hero (yes really!). De Baas was brash and overconfident and with little understanding of the English decided that Cromwell's regime was of no importance and could easily be overthrown.  His arrogance was manifest in his refusal to uncover his head in the presence of the Lord Protector and his assertion that the soldiers who supported the regime were "feeble and dissipated". His grounds for this assertion? The sentinels on duty wore "nightcaps under their hats". On the discovery of the plot the arrogant Frenchman was given three days to leave the country.

With such a bizarre cast of characters, THE KING'S MAN practically wrote itself. 

John Thurloe
One of my favourite characters remains John Thurloe. I own a rather fine print of him that hangs on my staircase. Someone recently asked me if I felt I was being true to John Thurloe in my books. I think the key to the man is in the famous words of Richard Cromwell who once  famously remarked “Thurloe has the ability to find the key to unlock wicked mens’ hearts”.  While the tactics my fictional Thurloe may employ are entirely figments of my own imagination, I think they are consistent with his modus operandi. He had the ability to exploit a man's weakness which he tries and fails with Jonathan Thornton in BY THE SWORD and succeeds with Kit Lovell in THE KING'S MAN.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Paws for Reflection...Introduction

Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.  Anatole France

I cannot imagine a life lived without animals. 
Suzi, the faithful corgi who guarded my pram

Ever since I was a baby there has always been an animal's beating heart in our household. As a child in Kenya, Suzi the corgi dog guarded my pram. After her untimely death (snake bite, my parents said) she was followed by the terminally stupid "guard dog", Corrie, who only barked at white police men (it was colonial days) and had her blanket stolen from underneath her, a miniature dachshund (who thought he was a rottweiler) called Tinker and overseeing them all was the supercilious Siamese cat, Peta, who loathed my mother and adored my father.
Peta, the supercilious Siamese

When I was ten the family moved to Australia and our first Christmas my well meaning aunt, who had not read the terms of our flat lease, presented my brother and I with a small grey and white kitten, who was given the Swahili name Simba (meaning lion). Simba survived a terrible car accident that had him holed up in the living room of our tiny flat with a broken leg for months. Despite a limp and a stiff left leg "Simmie" lived to a great old age. My parents one attempt to bring a dog back into their lives, the little corgi puppy called Rufus ended in his early death due to a hereditary problem. Heartbroken they never tried with a dog again.

Simba, with his stiff left leg
Marriage brought a succession of cats beginning with Shasta the black rescue cat who was a wedding present and unfortunately disliked small children and could no longer stay with us after babies came along. Lizzie, the strange little cat who lived in our back yard and had a terror of interiors, Ginger Meggs, the big bad tom who moved in on Lizzie's food bowl and into our hearts, Winston, another rescue, the laid back ginger cat who never learned to cross roads.

Sarah, the neurotic tortoiseshell, and Wingco, the found Russian Blue, were the resident felines when we moved to Singapore. They relocated to my parents, who were at that time mourning the violent death of their dear little cat in a dog attack. They never moved back.
Max, the cat with attitude, none of it good

In Singapore we rescued Max, the tailless black and white drain kitten with attitude (none of it good). At vast expense Max moved back to Melbourne with us but his attitude did not improve. The arrival of the Kat brothers, Oliver and Toby, was too much for Max who packed his bags and left home.

The Kat brothers now rule our lives.

The Kat brothers - Toby and Oliver as kittens
The dear man I have been married to for 28 years does not like dogs...not at all. If you were to meet him you would think "Now there's a dog man", but (my darling husband...DH) DH is a cat man through and through. I have threatened to replace him with a dog on many occasions but despite a family propensity for cat allergies, he adores his cats.

Of course I had two sons and in among the cats, there were fish and mice. Give an animal a name and it binds the animal to you. I have wept buckets over mice!

Family tradition continues and my youngest son and his partner now have a dear little rescue cat who is affectionately referred to (at least by me) as the "grandkitten".

Each animal brought their own personality and their own brand of affection into our lives (even Max...the cat with attitude...had his moments) and over the next few months I would like to share some of their stories with you and I also hope to bring stories from guest bloggers about the animals in their lives in a regular monthly column called "Paws for Reflection"...Please feel free to share your thoughts about significant animals in your lives.