I was tempted to write this as a recipe, take a tablespoon of history and add a dash of fiction, heat while stirring, that sort of stuff.
But then I thought that might trivialise what is a wonderful thing and I’ve come to enjoy creating so much. I started writing other genres and still do – alternative history, thrillers, even a crime novel, albeit somewhat different in that the crime happened, conviction and all, some thirty years earlier (Life, the first in a new series, should be out later this year). Then I visited my cousin, the best-selling author, James Oswald (https://jamesoswald.co.uk) and he suggested writing a series and writing about a locality I knew well.
Brilliant advice! Thank you, James.
My choice was Dorset and the series became the Dorset Chronicles. Being historical fiction, I could also choose a period and I went for the tail end of the 17thCentury.
Why the end when so much happened in the middle? The killing of a king is about as momentous as it gets, isn’t it? Ask the French, although in truth we got there first.
The answer is, I believe the late 17thCentury is a totally underappreciated period. It’s when we set up a constitutional monarchy, it’s the last time we fought a battle in England (we have to wait for Culloden to say the same of the whole of Britain). It’s when we created the Bank of England, when the Royal Society really started flourishing, Isaac Newton was in his element and this period marginally predates the union that created, for better or worse, Great Britain.
It’s when we started looking outward rather than inward. It’s when our modern nation came about.
But I digress. The reason for this post was to rant about the beauty of historical fiction, whether written by me or some other bod. It’s the wonderful combination of fact and fiction that boosts a story, adding spice and adventure to the actual events. And because the actual events are often thrilling in themselves, you get a crescendo of action and suspense, while also staying (somewhat) true to history.
For more of my own brand of historical fiction, please go to https://chrisoswaldbooks.com/books/
All to the Sword
Book 5 in the Dorset Chronicles
Release Date: Tuesday 25thMay
A letter comes for Henry, Earl of Sherborne. It contains an invitation. Grace, the countess, takes it upon herself to extend that invitation to her wider family. The party take ship from Southampton in the summer of 1691, bound for the beautiful coastal strip of North East Scotland.
Little did they know that it would be eight months before they returned to their homes in Dorset.
And in that time that they would witness one of the most shameful massacres seen in Britain. Shameful, not only for the murder of their hosts, or the way women and children had to flee out into the snowbound mountains that frown upon the glens below. But doubly so, for the government stood squarely but secretly behind the murders.
“You are hereby ordered to fall upon the rebels, the MacDonalds of Glencoe, and put all to the sword under seventy. You are to have special care that the old fox and his sons do upon no account escape your hands. You are to secure all the avenues that no man escape.”
Some MacDonalds did escape and lived to tell a tale of wickedness and hate. But equally, some of the Davenport Clan from Dorset found themselves in the deepest of danger, fleeing for their lives, condemned by the authorities as murderers themselves.
Will they escape or will they be massacred like the MacDonalds?
And who will bring to light the government’s heinous crimes, thus forcing a reckoning?
Book cover to follow soon
It’s been a little quiet in recent months but all that’s about to change. In between various business activities I’ve been writing and writing and writing some more. Now I’m getting ready for a spate of releases in 2021. Here they are:
- Every Male Under Seventy – Dorset Chronicles 5th in the series sees the expanded Davenport family make a visit to Scotland in 1691-2, just in time to get involved in the infamous Glen Coe Massacre where MacDonald after MacDonald were slaughtered by government troops. As well as a ripping good story, Every Male Under Seventy goes into some of the background of the savage killings led by the Campbells but authorised far higher up the chain. And, you’ll be pleased to know, the arch-baddie, Parchman, is working behind the scenes to wreak his own type of misery.
Every Male Under Seventy will be released in May 2021.
2. The Battle of Brittany – like many of my stand alone books, this deals with two time periods. A cashiered Royal Navy commander finds himself in small town Brittany in the mid-eighties, shortly after the Falklands War saw his first command go down. He doesn’t know why he’s there, other than his dying father sent him. But what he unearths is a series of dark secrets from long ago, when the Germans moved in and brought grave dilemma to the Breton nationalists. It’s thriller, romance and history all rolled into one great big ride of adventure.
The Battle of Brittany is planned for September 2021.
3. Life – a new type of book for me, Life is a crime novel with a difference. It’s also written in the first person and that first person happens to be a young woman making her way in the world. After university, Sam Hornbeam takes the only job offered to her, in a prison. There she uncovers evidence of grave injustice that leads her and others to dig and dig, revealing an incredible story of hope, suffering and redemption. Sam will be coming back for this book looks very much like the start of a series.
Life will be released later this year.
And, lastly, I have not forgotten The Semblance of Order trilogy. The Stuff of Heroes was released a couple of years ago. The second book, The Agent Within, is well under way and will be ready for publication later this year.
Delighted to get the following review for A New Lease on Freedom, first in the Dorset Chronicles Series. Here goes:
This is a lovely historical novel set in Dorset’s intimate geography which the author is obviously very familiar. The evocation of place makes you want to visit and soak up the atmosphere of 17th Dorset.
A New Lease on Freedom is the opener for a delightful series that take us from Charles II through to William of Orange via the turbulence of the Monmouth Rebellion and The Glorious Revolution. There are glimpses at Judge Jefferies’ Bloody Assize, near-executions and several unspeakable events. Many of the narrative threads are drawn together but many remain, reflecting the intrigue of the times, for the story to twist and turn.
National events punctuate a plot that sees the principal players – the four Davenport children, Grace, Elizabeth and twins Thomas and Mathew – make their way through a revolutionary period. Their motto is one of “going different ways but always sticking together.
There is a wide supporting cast, led by Lady Merriman aka Glenda Awkright, Amelia and her rotten husband Simon Taylor together with a variety of heroes and villains. Baddies such as Sergeant Roakes and Parchman orbit the narrative like comets returning to the centre of the fray, as their nefarious associations unfold. The Dickensian Big Jim, Plain Jane and the two Bees ensure a gentler sense of humour to leaven the serious moments.
The story is one of opposing forces being played out by, for the most part, ordinary people living their lives: pragmatism and ideology, puritanism and Catholicism, rich and poor, lucky and not. Deep secrets, illegitimacy, intrigue and espionage weave the characters together as the plot develops.
The Duke of Monmouth seems ill-fated from the start, unlike his counterpart William of Orange but the crucial role of City financiers (today’s hedge fund managers?) is also strongly hinted at.
The bite-sized chapters provide a momentum and variation in rhythm works well with sedate, character-building alternated by fast-paced action.
The final third underlines religion as a theme through the use of Biblical homilies to summarise the interpretation of unfolding events.
Completion of the bridge at Sturminster Newton is a fitting metaphor for the resolution and reconciliation of most of the tensions that the book explores and it is interesting to count just how many characters win their new lease.
Tuesday 8th December
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception
launch day for my new book
You are invited to join me at 5.30pm on Zoom
If you have a question about the book or my writing that you’d like to ask during the session,
please let me know when you RSVP.
RSVP by Thursday 3rd December to
If you are able to join me, the link to Zoom will be emailed on the day.
No Zoom account? A basic package is free at https://zoom.us
Tuesday 8th December
God Was Bored
Can a young Jesuit priest with two
doctorates in the theology of celibacy, save
the Catholic Church from those that would
change it beyond recognition…the victims?
Does religion, as we know it, end in 2034 or
will those looking back see it as just one
more hurdle in the creation of eternity?