The Perfect Blend: Coffee and Kane


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Ask a writer: Robin of Sherwood

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the Hooded Man Event in Gloucester. This gathering was for fans of the 1980’s television show Robin of Sherwood – a show that I have recently written three brand new audio scripts for.

While I was in Gloucester I was busy selling my novels, so I didn’t get to talk to as many people as I would have liked. Since my return to Devon, I’ve been asked a number of questions relating to the writing of those three scripts – The Waterford BoyMathilda’s Legacy – The Baron’s Daughter.

Today, I’m going to attempt to answer those questions. Obviously the answers I give are from my angle only. I don’t work for Spiteful Puppet or ITV- so I have no knowledge as to what the future holds for RoS.

So- in no particular order….

How difficult is it to switch from writing books to script writing for audio?

Script writing is a whole new world. I had never written a script before, so I was learning fast when I wrote The Waterford Boy. I was kindly lent a couple of scripts that Iain Meadows (The Blood that Binds and The Templar’s Promise) had written in the past, so I knew how to format my work, but beyond that I felt my way along. (With help from Iain and Barnaby)

I’ve been a novelist for 12 years, so it was quite a challenge suddenly writing something where I couldn’t describe a scene properly with words. Everything has to be displayed via dialogue and background sound. This meant that writing about someone’s appearance, for example, has to be done via the comments of other characters. The scene in The Waterford Boy, where Robin, Will and Nasir disguise themselves to blend into Nottingham market, was particularly tricky to put together for that very reason.

It was slightly easier writing the two narrated stories- The forthcoming The Baron’s Daughter however, is a full cast reading…so that needed everything explaining via conversation and sound effects. You’ll find out if I managed that in a few months time!

Although writing scripts is a very different skill to writing a novel- I loved it! Let’s hope I get to do some more one day.

Will Robin of Sherwood audio do anything like prequels or sequels for example prequel Rebels of Loxley or the daughters (sons) of Sherwood? Any plans to expand the Robin of Sherwood universe further?

I’d have to say ‘no’ to that. The licence for what Spiteful Puppet can do is strict- plus, there isn’t the mega multi-national audience that you have for other popular shows such as Doctor Who or Star Trek. The prequel angle has been explored a little bit with Mathilda’s Legacy (the story of how the Earl of Huntington met Robert of Huntington’s mother).

However, if you enjoy all stories Robin Hood, then there are many writers who have been inspired by Robin of Sherwood and have expanded into many other directions, from fantasy to comics to legend redevelopment. You only have to look at my fellow audio script writers Paul Kane (The Red Lord) and Tony Lees (The Trial of John Little– coming soon) to find a collection of Robin Hood stories to keep you going for ages.

Do you make drawings to picture parts of your audio-book stories?

The only art work associated with the audio books is the brilliant cover showing both Robin’s.  I am not responsible for that thankfully – which is probably just as well as I have no artistic skill at all! I wish I did.

Once you knew you were doing more than one audio story, did you put your own returning characters (other than the obvious) into the stories, or was that a temptation too far (against the canon)?

It would be so tempting to do that. I would love to write more about Mathilda of Huntington if the chance ever arose. (Unlikely!) However, the answer to the question is ‘no’. The stories are slotted into the ready made framework of the existing episodes, and so any onward play with my own invented characters wouldn’t be practical – although it would be fun for me as writer.

However, I have enjoyed making reference to the characters we know and love. I took great pleasure, for example, in referencing Lord Edgar in Mathilda’s Legacy– Robert’s mother clearly had very little time for her future brother-in-law….

It is wonderful to be able to play with the nostalgia we all feel for the characters we loved – and the ones we loved to hate.

Which was your favourite of the audio scripts you’ve written?

Tricky one.

The Waterford Boy will always be special because it was my first script- and it made a dream come true. Never did I think I’d write for the best TV show of all time (to me anyway!) Judi Trott read it so beautifully as well. I have to confess to listening to it often just to hear her lovely voice.

The Baron’s Daughter was also special because it was my first full cast script. I got to put words into Michal Praed’s mouth – and who wouldn’t want to do that???

However- if pushed- I think Mathilda’s Legacy is my favourite. Partly because it was the first one I heard as a completed audio. The second I heard Michael Craig read my words- and then the famous theme music burst into life- I was a star struck 14 year old unable to believe that  I was listening to a story I’d created.

It was also quite something being given the responsibility of inventing (to some extent- David of Huntington was married to Mathilda) Robert of Huntingdon’s mother. I hope you all like the woman I created to be a future heroes mother.

Which was your favourite RoS episode?

That is an impossible question. I love them all. To narrow it down – it was either Adam Bell (first one I ever saw) or Herne’s Son parts one and two or The Prisoner…or…..

Many thanks to everyone who has sent questions to me since the HM3. I have been overwhelmed by the kindness showed to me after I fiddled with your favourite stories. I promise, if I am ever lucky enough to write more, I will continue to try as hard as I can to be true to the Robin of Sherwood ethos, and write stories to make you feel as though you have been transported back to 5.35 on a Saturday afternoon in the 1980’s. Well – I’ll try anyway!

Nothing’s forgotten,

Jennifer x


Paul Kane: Living and Breathing Robin Hood

Robin Hood obsessive alert!!!!

You’ve been warned…

I’m delighted to welcome Paul Kane to my place today. Fellow Robin Hood fan, writer of an audio script for Robin of Sherwood- and author of very much more.

Over to you Paul…

When Jen very kindly asked me to contribute a blog to her site regarding my connection with the Robin Hood legend, I started to think about how long he’s been in my life. From an early age, bank holidays were very often spent at Sherwood Forest – we lived about 20 minutes away from it. So, as well as learning about the legend – about Robin and Marion, Little John and Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet – I was breathing the same air they did back then, soaking up the atmosphere.

Then along came Richard Carpenter’s Robin of Sherwood, which I would sit and watch religiously with my dad, and Saturday teatimes would never really be the same. Of course, back then I had no idea it had been created by the same man who came up with the wonderful Catweazle, I just knew that this was a version of Hood I could get behind. As well as having all the traditional elements to it, the robbing the rich to give to the poor and so on, it also had a supernatural slant: I mean, come on, the very first episode was called ‘Robin Hood and the Sorcerer’… doesn’t get any better than that! Except, actually, it did – and as we tuned in every week we would marvel at witches, demons, Satanic cults and woodland gods. I was in seventh heaven!

Even when it came time for Michael Praed to step down from the title role, the changeover to Jason Connery was handled seamlessly. In fact, I loved it even more not knowing what was going on at the end of ‘The Greatest Enemy’. Had Robin come back from the dead, was he a ghost? No, in fact what had happened was a clever segue into that other origins story, Robert of Huntingdon taking over the mantle from Robin of Loxley – but both of them Herne’s sons. Wonderful stuff!

Then, sadly, the show finished and I mourned its passing. I watched all the other adaptations over the years – some of which even included elements that Richard had invented, like the Saracen – but none ever came close for me. Only repeated viewings of his series, when it became available, would do. At the same time, my own writing career had started to take off, moving on from journalism to short stories and finally novels and scripts, as well as taking on the job of Special Publications Editor for the British Fantasy Society and helping to run their yearly convention, FantasyCon. It was around 2006 or 2007 that I spotted a shout out for pitches from Rebellion, the publishers of 2000 AD (another staple of my formative years). They were moving into novels, in particular those which would be part of a shared universe called ‘The Afterblight Chronicles’ – set in a future where 90% of the world’s population had died out from the A-B Virus.

I knew commissioning editor Jon Oliver from my time on the convention circuit, so I threw over a few ideas – one of which was a post-apocalyptic version of Hood. It just seemed like an obvious choice, once society had crumbled and mad dictators had taken over, to bring that legend back to life. It would be part of the Chronicles, but also a very distinct story in its own right. Luckily, Jon agreed, and suddenly I was writing my first mass market paperback: Arrowhead. Needless to say, my version was heavily influenced by RoS, whilst still going its own way; it had to really, as my Robin – Robert Stokes – was facing tanks and attack helicopters. Also needless to say, I was delighted when the book was so well received that another was commissioned shortly after the first’s release (a terrific launch ten years ago at FantasyCon in, appropriately, Nottingham).

I remember I had some vague notion about doing the whole ‘death of Hood’ legend – firing the arrow into the sky and all that – when it came to writing the sequel Broken Arrow. Thankfully, Jon talked me out of it saying: “When you have a hero like that on your hands, you don’t kill him off that quickly.” He was absolutely right, of course, and after that novel came Arrowland, forming a trilogy of books Rebellion released as the omnibus Hooded Man (which sold out of its first print run incredibly quickly). Not only that, but the novels had put me on the radar of…none other than Richard Carpenter, or Kip as I came to know him. He loved them, offered me a glowing quote, and even gave his grandson a copy to read. Imagine my joy at that – things had pretty much come full circle.

Or had they?

Spin on a few years, during which I’d pursued a couple of my other passions (the work of Clive Barker and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, even crossing them over in books like Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell) and mourned the sad passing of Kip himself. The world is still a poorer place without him. Rebellion had also asked me to continue the Hooded Man story with a novella which caught up with the characters a few years later, Flaming Arrow. And I was very excited to hear that RoS was returning in the form of a full cast audio adaptation of Kip’s Knights of the Apocalypse from Spiteful Puppet, something I reviewed for Sci-Fi Bulletin.

More audios followed, some of which I also reviewed – and during the course of this I got chatting with that lovely chap Barnaby Eaton Jones, of Spiteful Puppet. I mentioned the Hooded Man books, sent him a copy, and the next thing I knew I was being asked to pitch a RoS audio myself. As luck would have it again, I’d just finished my first audio script – a full cast drama adaptation of The Hellbound Heart for Bafflegab, which would star Tom Meeten (The Ghoul), Neve McIntosh (Doctor Who) and Alice Lowe (Prevenge) – so I felt confident enough to have a crack… sort of. It was still RoS and there was massive amount of performance anxiety, as you can probably appreciate.

But anyway, I began to think about elements of the show I’d loved myself and what we hadn’t seen so far in it. And, personally, I’d always thought it would be cool to see Robin and his band go up against a vampire, or at the very least someone who thought he was a vampire. I jotted down some ideas for a tale which pitted them against a Vlad the Impaler-type character, driven from his homeland and now a mercenary – and right there and then, The Red Lord was born.

I was over the moon when the pitch was commissioned, and even more thrilled when the script itself was passed – with a few minor tweaks – by SP and ITV. It was then that Barnaby told me it was being recorded soon, narrated by none other than Ian Ogilvy. Ian had played Lord Edgar in RoS, but also another quite well known character from my childhood. My better half Marie will tell you when that news came in, I screamed: “You’ll never guess who’s doing my audio! Only the Saint!” Yes, I don’t mind admitting I am that much of a geek…

And so it’s done, is totally wonderful, and something I’m incredibly proud of. Well, I would be, having lived and breathed Robin Hood – and Robin of Sherwood – all these decades. I hope the fans like it, after all I am one too, and I like to think that somewhere Kip is smiling as well.

Does this mean that everything’s finally come full circle now? Perhaps – but who can tell what the future will bring? Not me, that’s for sure. For now, though, I just feel incredibly fortunate to have had not one but two bites of the cherry.

Thanks for reading, thank you Jen for letting me waffle on, and finally may Herne protect you all!

Buy Links

Hooded Man:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1781081689/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1526485978&sr=8-1&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=hooded+man+paul+kane
&dpPl=1&dpID=51v4YFXL7jL&ref=plSrch
Flaming Arrow:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/B00XPIBTCW/ref=mp_s_a_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1526486007&sr=8-2&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_QL65&keywords=hooded+man+paul+kane&dpPl=1&dpID=
51C%2BYO2wXJL&ref=plSrch
The Red Lord:
https://spitefulpuppet.com/product/the-red-lord/

Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over seventy books – including the Arrowhead trilogy (gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus, revolving around a post-apocalyptic version of Robin Hood), The Butterfly Man and Other Stories, Hellbound Hearts, The Mammoth Book of Body Horror and Pain Cages (an Amazon #1 bestseller). His non-fiction books include The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark, and his genre journalism has appeared in the likes of SFX, Rue Morgue and DeathRay. He has been a Guest at Alt.Fiction five times, was a Guest at the first SFX Weekender, at Thought Bubble in 2011, Derbyshire Literary Festival and Off the Shelf in 2012, Monster Mash and Event Horizon in 2013, Edge-Lit in 2014, HorrorCon, HorrorFest and Grimm Up North in 2015, The Dublin Ghost Story Festival and Sledge-Lit in 2016, plus IMATS Olympia and Celluloid Screams in 2017, as well as being a panellist at FantasyCon and the World Fantasy Convention, and a fiction judge at the Sci-Fi London festival. A former British Fantasy Society Special Publications Editor, he is currently serving as co-chair for the UK chapter of The Horror Writers Association. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for US network primetime television, and his audio work includes the full cast drama adaptation of The Hellbound Heart for Bafflegab, starring Tom Meeten (The Ghoul), Neve McIntosh (Doctor Who) and Alice Lowe (Prevenge), and the Robin of Sherwood adventure The Red Lord for Spiteful Puppet/ITV narrated by Ian Ogilvy (Return of the Saint). Paul’s latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film), the Y.A. story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane), the sequel to REDBlood RED – the award-winning hit Sherlock Holmes & the Servants of Hell and Before (a recent Amazon Top 5 dark fantasy bestseller). He lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan and his family. Find out more at his site www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Robert Kirkman, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.

***

WOW- what a guest!! Thanks Paul- I am humbled by your productivity.

Many thanks for visiting today,

Jen xx

 


The Hooded Man 3: A different angle

Unusually for me, when it came to writing this round up of the weekend just past, I have been puzzling over a blank page.

The reason for this is clear – I’m still in the ‘coming down from a high’ zone. I’m not alone in this. Facebook this week is full of my fellow Hooded Man Event attendees suffering from post-event blues.

If ever there was a mark of an event’s success, it’s that people feel slightly bereft when it’s over- a bereavement that is undercut with happy hope – and the reassurance that in 2 years time it will all happen again.

Anyone who follows this blog cannot have failed to notice that I am fond of anything and everything to do with Robin Hood. Again, I’m not alone- especially when it comes to folk who are devoted to the 1980’s television show, Robin of Sherwood.

The Hooded Man 3 (HM3), was held in Gloucester this weekend just past. It was a two day celebration of Robin of Sherwood. It doesn’t matter that the show hasn’t aired for over 30 years- the loyalty of the fans is absolute- the friendship between the cast members is clear to see- and the atmosphere that buzzed around the hotel venue was 100% positive and happy.A great deal was going on- autographs were being signed, photos were taken, Bowlore performed incredible shows within their tented medieval stronghold, and talks were held….I however, can’t really tell you about these things. I saw the HM3 from a different perspective.This was my second adventure as a stall holder at a HM event. Last time was fabulous- I only had one book to sell (Romancing Robin Hood), and so had lots of time to wander around, chat to the cast, and meet lots of people.

This time…wow!!

So, let me back track a little.

In 2016 I was lucky enough to be invited to sell Romancing Robin Hood at the HM2 event by the lovely Barnaby Eaton-Jones (organiser and all round hardworking guy). As I mentioned above it was just fantastic. (The blog I wrote after the event is still available here if you want to take a peep) A week after that event I had an even bigger stroke of luck- I was invited to attend the premiere of the very first Robin of Sherwood audio revival- The Knights of the Apocalypse- in London.

I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the moment when Barnaby and fellow audio write, Iain Meadows, began to consider putting together a short series of Robin of Sherwood audio stories, to be narrated by the original cast.  It was also that moment when- again unknown to me- I was being considered as a writer for one of these stories.To cut a long story short- 2 years later, here I am having written three different Robin of Sherwood audios. The Waterford Boy (narrated by Judi Trott a.k.a Maid Marion), Mathilda’s Legacy (narrated by Michael Craig a.k.a Earl of Huntingdon), and the forthcoming The Baron’s Daughter, which will be a full cast read story.

One of the highlights of HM3 was signing this script for a fan of the show, and chatting to Judi about the recording of the audio story. Judi did such a good job of reading my story, I was amazed to discover how nervous she’d been about doing it. As a writer for the show (still in shock about that to be honest) I was allowed to go into the green room with all the cast and crew, I took part in a panel, and had photographs taken with the cast. However, I was so busy on my stall that I never did get into the green room to chat to the cast between events. This is NOT a complaint. I had a ball talking to everyone as they came by my book stall to talk about Robin of Sherwood and the influence it had on my work- especially Romancing Robin Hood- and how that novel has now spun off into The Folville Chronicles series.I sold out of The Winter Outlaw on day one, and by the end of day two, my stall was more of a place to come and say hello, than a place from which to buy things! It was just wonderful.There were plenty of other things to see and buy, including the real Albion from series 2 and 3, Herne himself stood proudly over us, and RoS inspired gifts and DVD’s were available.  An auction of original Robin of Sherwood merchandise made a small fortune for charity- and the banquet and after event disco and bar chatter went onto 3am! On the Sunday- while the world was ever so slightly the worse for drink and lack of sleep- I was privileged enough to take part on a panel about the audio books. In the company of producer, Barnaby Eaton Jones, fellow writer, Tony Lees, the brilliant Alex and Verity who provided the ‘Clannad-ish’ music for the new series, and the amazing Nickolas Grace (a.k.a the Sheriff of Nottingham), we shared our thoughts and experiences of what it is like to write for a show that aired when we were children.

To sit there, in a packed room, looking at the people I was writing for- the very same people I have a horror of letting down with my words- I felt humbled to be part of something so special and so popular. When Nickolas Grace began to speak about how much the show means to the cast, and how he wanted to do as many audios as he could…the lumps in our throats grew as tears formed in the great man’s eyes. A moving moment indeed.The overriding theme for the weekend however, has to be the laughter and the smiles- of which there were many.

On a personal note I’d like to thank Lesley and Michael for being there for me- and to every single person who said kind things about my work.

Roll on HM4 – just give us all a chance to recover first- there are audio stories to make…

Happy reading- and listening!

Jennifer xxx

PS. I’d better crack on with Book 3!!!

 

 

 

 

 


Romancing Robin Hood: A Hooded Man

My timeslip novel, Romancing Robin Hood, has a special place in my heart for many reasons . It reflects a great deal of my own life within its many pages- it gave me by first taste of writing medieval fiction (the novel is part modern romance and part medieval mystery)- and it gave me a chance to doff my hat to all those who were involved in the recording and production of the ITV series, Robin of Sherwood- a formative part of my upbringing.

Here’s the blurb…

When you’re in love with a man of legend, how can anyone else match up?

Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a teenager. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History—but Grace is stuck in a rut.

Grace is supposed to be writing a textbook on a real-life medieval criminal gang—the Folvilles—but instead she is captivated by a novel she’s secretly writing. A medieval mystery which entwines the story of Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood—and a feisty young woman named Mathilda of Twyford.

Just as she is trying to work out how Mathilda can survive being kidnapped by the Folvilles, Grace’s best friend Daisy announces she is getting married. After a whirlwind romance with a man she loves as much as the creatures in her animal shelter, Daisy has press-ganged Grace into being her bridesmaid.

Witnessing Daisy’s new-found happiness, Grace starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? Grace’s life doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks—a rival academic who she is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to… If only he didn’t know quite so much about Robin Hood.

Suddenly, spending more time living in the past than the present doesn’t seem such a good idea..

 

Little did I know when I wrote Romancing Robin Hood that the book itself would give me a chance to thank the actors and behind the scenes team who worked on the show over 30 years ago- in person.

This weekend I am attending my second Hooded Man Event – this gathering (evey 2 yeaars) brings fans of Robin of Sherwood together- along with the stars themselves- to talk all things RH and medieval. It is a lot of fun and one of the friendliest events I have ever attended.

Last time I went- thanks to my novel-  to sell books from a stand in the corner of the room. I stood and watched the world go by in a sort of RH heaven.

This year however, I am selling 3 books- Romancing Robin Hood, The Outlaw’s Ransom and The Winter Outlaw. The latter 2 books are the direct result of comments made to me at the last event by kind readers.

I will not be staying behind the safety of my book  year – on Sunday afternoon I will be up on the main stage with  fellow writer, Tony Lees, talking about writing audio scripts for Robin of Sherwood. I am still not sure I can quite get my head around that I do that- but I do!!

And all because- four years ago- I wrote a novel called Romancing Robin Hood… I owe that novel BIG time!!

***

If you would like to read Grace’s adventure- not to mention discover what Mathilda of Twyford gets up to in fourteenth century Leicestershire- then you can buy the new look Romancing Robin Hood from all good retailers, including…

Paperback

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Romancing-Robin-Hood-Jenny-Kane/dp/1999855248/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1517319761&sr=1-2&keywords=romancing+robin+hood+Jenny+Kane

Amazon.com – https://www.amazon.com/Romancing-Robin-Hood-Jenny-Kane/dp/1999855248/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1517404290&sr=1-1&keywords=Romancing+Robin+Hood+Jenny+Kane  

Kindle

So why not treat yourself to a little something to read this weekend while I am away talking to the merry men- and a couple of Robins!

Happy reading,

Jenny and Jennifer xx


In Search of King Arthur: Tim Walker

I’m delighted to welcome Tim Walker back to my site today. On this visit he is sharing a little of his search for King Arthur.

Over to you Tim…

The search for a tangible King Arthur remains as inconclusive as ever due to lack of compelling, physical evidence, although some continue to try and convince us otherwise. There are many places in Britain that lay claim to have connections to a ‘real’ Arthur – Tintagel where he was said to have been conceived; Camalat (South Cadbury in Somerset), an impressive iron age citadel; Glastonbury Abbey where monks in 1190 claimed to have found his grave; Camelford – a village in Cornwall that claims to be the site of the Battle of Camlann, where Arthur was mortally wounded around the year 515 AD (a date arrived at through research by historian John Morris). Avalon, or The Island of Apples, where Arthur’s body was taken, is thought to be near Glastonbury – its proximity to Camelford lending support to the claims of this patch of the West country. There are other ‘Arthurian’ sites at various locations in Wales, at Birdoswald on Hadrian’s Wall, and north of the wall at Caledonian Wood.

At the visitor centre near Camelford at the aptly-named Slaughterbridge, I followed a path to a low cliff above the River Camel and look across to the meadow on which Arthur is said to have fought his last battle. On the muddy riverbank below lies The Arthur Stone – a granite tombstone dated to 540 AD engraved with Celtic runes that have been interpreted as stating ‘here lies the son of Arthur’, throwing up the intriguing possibility that it was not Arthur but his heir who fought and died on this spot some years after his illustrious father (or that both father and son fought battles there, as the keepers of the visitor centre would like us to believe). Legend has it that the victorious Saxons desecrated his burial site and rolled the tombstone down to the riverbank where it remains to this day. Hold on a minute, did King Arthur have a son? In Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account, Arthur is succeeded by his cousin, Constantine of Cornwall.

In the absence of something more substantial from historians and archaeologists, these remain theories in the realm of legend. One theory is that Arthur may not have been a king at all, but a ‘leader of battles’ a ‘Dux Bellorum’ or a hired sword, working for a group of tribal leaders, in the immediate post-Roman era. Bernard Cornwell’s excellent novel, The Winter King, adopts this point of view.

Another perspective is offered by historical fiction author Chris Flynn (The Bear, The Dragon and The Wolf) who argues the case for a Northern Arthur who is a cavalry commander, possibly drawing on the influence of Sarmatian cavalry units once garrisoned at Hadrian’s Wall, who organises resistance to the spread of Anglo-Saxons in the north-east (www. botrbooks.com/blog). Also in this corner is Alistair Moffat, who puts forward the case for Arthur being a warlord based in the Scottish borderlands north of Hadrian’s Wall in the years after Roman evacuation, in his book, Arthur and the Lost Kingdoms. His book builds a case based on literary sources, historical documents and interpretations of place names to build a compelling and intriguing case for a Scottish Arthur. Add this to the Welsh chroniclers’ Arthur, and you have a folk hero claimed by three home nations.

Clearly, it was a troubled time for the Britons, left exposed by the removal of Roman protection. However, there is no physical or archaeological evidence for who the leaders were, where battles took place and when. It has been suggested that the legend of King Arthur is a composite of the feats of a number of Briton leaders over a broad period stretching from the mid-fifth to the mid-sixth centuries, embellished by bards over the years until written down in 1136 AD by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his book, The History of the Kings of Britain.

Victories in as many as seventeen battles on British soil have been attributed to Arthur, plus his overseas adventures, giving credence to the notion that this was not the work of one leader but of several – collapsed together for the purposes of engaging storytelling by bards to make one great heroic figure who battled to preserve a Romano-Briton way of life.

Contemporary historian, Miles Russell (writing in History Revealed magazine), has re-examined Geoffrey’s claim that the inspiration for his work was based on an ancient book ‘in the British tongue’ and found that it may have some credence (despite the source text never having been found or mentioned by any other). To support his theory he uses as an example Geoffrey’s telling of the coming of Julius Caesar in 55 and 54 BC – an account that has similarities to the ‘official’ Roman version but differs in some details and is told from a British point of view. Geoffrey certainly did his homework, poring over source material as diverse as folklore, chronicles, church manuscripts, king-lists, dynastic tables, oral tales and bardic praise poems.

In Geoffrey of Monmouth’s ‘history’ we get a compelling story of a time of desperate struggle following the end of Roman Britain. He gives us a linage of Fifth Century kings – Constantine, Vortigern, Ambrosius Aurelianus, Uther Pendragon and then King Arthur.

Arthur becomes king at the age of fifteen and marries Ganhumara (‘Guinevere’) who is from a noble Romano-Briton family. Arthur forms an alliance with his nephew, King Hoel of Brittany, and they inflict defeats on the Saxons at Lincoln and Bath before crushing a combined force of Picts (Scots) and Hibernian (Irish) tribes at Loch Lomond. They then attacks Ireland, the Orkneys, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and parts of Gaul (France), forcing the people to pay them homage. He lays waste to fields, slaughters the population of these places and burns down their towns – the exact opposite of a chivalric king. Geoffrey’s Arthur is an arrogant, aggressive and brutal warlord who kills and takes what he wants.

But Geoffrey’s story does not end there – Arthur is summoned by the Roman Emperor to face charges of war crimes and responds by raising a large army, sailing to Gaul, and meeting the Roman army in battle, defeating and killing the emperor. Arthur’s mind is set on capturing Rome, but he is forced to return home at news that his nephew Mordred has taken his queen, Ganhumara, and seized the kingdom. In a bloody civil war in which thousands die, both Mordred and Arthur fall in battle – Arthur’s body is taken to the Isle of Avalon and he is succeeded by his cousin, Constantine of Cornwall.

This is a summary of Geoffrey’s account in his Historia, and it is an intriguing thought that he MAY have taken it from a lost manuscript. Later generations lightened the blood-soaked narrative, adding more sorcery, the romance of Camelot, chivalric heroes (the knights of the round table), the quest for the Holy Grail, an evil foe in Morgana, and a doomed love triangle involving Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot.

Despite the fanciful tale of Arthur taking on the might of the Roman Empire, there is still the possibility that Geoffrey’s account was largely based on genuine source material that offers a glimpse of native Briton resistance to foreign invaders in the fifth and sixth centuries. Geoffrey’s King Arthur could not possibly have done all those things – he is most certainly a composite of several characters, including Ambrosius Aurelianus, who perhaps has better credentials as a noble leader who led the Britons to early victories over the Saxons.

Clearly, there was organised resistance to invaders, and tales of bravery told by chroniclers and bards from the Briton resistance point of view – and perhaps missing texts. Arthur is the embodiment of this oral tradition from the fifth and sixth centuries, offering us intangible glimpses of deeds in a period wedged between the gloating records of Roman and Anglo-Saxon conquerors.

*****

Uther’s Destiny – Blurb

In the year 467 AD Britannia is in shock at the murder of charismatic High King, Ambrosius Aurelianus, and looks to his brother and successor, Uther, to continue his work in leading the resistance to barbarian invaders. Uther’s destiny as a warrior king seems set until his world is turned on its head when his burning desire to possess the beautiful Ygerne leads to conflict. Could the fate of his kingdom hang in the balance as a consequence?

Court healer and schemer, Merlyn, sees an opportunity in Uther’s lustful obsession to fulfil the prophetic visions that guide him. He is encouraged on his mission by druids who align their desire for a return to ancient ways with his urge to protect the one destined to save the Britons from invaders and lead them to a time of peace and prosperity. Merlyn must use his wisdom and guile to thwart the machinations of an enemy intent on foiling his plans.

Meanwhile, Saxon chiefs Octa and Ælla have their own plans for seizing the island of Britannia and forging a new colony of Germanic tribes. Can Uther rise above his family problems and raise an army to oppose them?

Book three in A Light in the Dark Ages series, Uther’s Destiny is an historical fiction novel set in the Fifth Century – a time of myths and legends that builds to the greatest legend of all – King Arthur and his knights.

***

In my historical book series, A Light in the Dark Ages, I have attempted my own alternative history of the period starting with the departure of the Romans and building to the coming of King Arthur, putting flesh on the mythical bones of early kings Vortigern, Ambrosius Aurelianus and Uther Pendragon – lighting the way for the coming of King Arthur.

Book one – Abandoned! – http://myBook.to/Abandoned

Book two – Ambrosius: Last of the Romans – http://myBook.to/Ambrosius

Book three – Uther’s Destiny – http://myBook.to/Uther

Author website: http://timwalkerwrites.co.uk 

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Great blog- thanks Tim.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny x

 


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