Friday, 18 May 2018

Author’s Inspiration ~ John Holt #HistoricalFiction #AmericanCivilWar


Author’s Inspiration
The Thackery Journal by John Holt

“The Thackery Journal” is a total departure from my normal Private Detective novels, and way outside my comfort zone. So much so, that several people have asked why did I ever write it?  That’s a good question, and like much in life the answer isn’t straight forward.
I have always been fascinated by the American Civil War. A Civil War is the worst kind of war that there could be. A war that divides the Country and splits communities: a war that puts brother against brother, and father against son.  A war that splits families; and makes enemies of long-time friends. A war where in reality there are no winners. Indeed, a war where there could be no real winners, and where everyone loses something. The effects would be felt long after the war ends.  Could reconciliation and forgiveness really take place? How long would the wounds, mentally and physically, take to heal? Could communities divided by war, be re-united by peace? Even now statues of Confederate Generals are being torn down because of what they are perceived to stand for.


I remember one day at school, during a history lesson, we were asked what side we would have taken, Confederacy or Union. Why it should matter which side a British schoolboy would choose, in a war that had finished almost one hundred before that particular school day, I will never know. Nonetheless I chose the South. Not because I was in favour of slavery, because I wasn’t. No, I chose the South because it seemed to me that the North was threatening to destroy a way of life. A much gentler, and simpler way of life.


But that in itself is hardly a reason for writing the book. If the truth be known, I never actually considered writing a Civil War novel at all. But sometimes, instead of the author being in command of what he, or she writes, it is the writing itself that takes charge. It will suddenly go in a totally unexpected direction, and you are forced to go with it to see where it leads.
I started to write “Thackery” almost ten years ago. I had finished my first novel “The Kammersee Affair” in December 2006, and the first of my Tom Kendall private detective stories, “The Mackenzie Dossier” had been published (as “The Mackenzie File” in August 2008). I had begun outlining my next novel, “The Marinski Affair”.
Somewhere along the line I got side-tracked. During my research into “The Kammersee Affair” (a story of hidden gold bullion) I found an item on the internet about a consignment of Confederate gold that had gone missing as the Civil War was coming to an end. The gold had, apparently never been found. I thought perhaps I could make up some kind of a story. The gold had obviously been stolen by someone, and I got to thinking how that person would feel as his pursuers caught up with him. Very quickly I had the makings of a fairly well developed final chapter. That chapter is now the last chapter of “Thackery”, and largely unchanged from when it was first written. It was also obvious that the gold had been stolen for a reason. I wondered what that reason could have been. Then I had an idea.
Although this story concerns itself with the War between the States, and the momentous events that occurred just after the Civil War ended, the story is completely fictitious, and has no basis in fact. Although the story makes use of certain actual events, places and people, it does so purely for its own purpose, and nothing more. It is merely a “What if” storey, that supposes what could have happened in a certain circumstance.
Of the main characters, only three actually existed – President Abraham Lincoln, his assassin John Wilkes Booth, and General Ulysses S. Grant.

John Wilkes Booth

As the first sounds of gun fire echoed through the land, young men rushed to enlist, to fight for a cause that they believed was right. Shop assistants, bank clerks, farm labourers. All believing that the South would win. Right was on their side, and besides it would all be over by Christmas. 
Two life-long friends enlist on opposite sides of the conflict. Both believing that right was on their side, and both hoping that they would never meet each other on the battlefield. Their lives become inextricably entwined as the war nears its end culminating in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. On the night of April 14th 1865 Lincoln attended a performance at The Ford Theatre, in Washington. A single shot fired by John Wilkes Booth hit the President in the back of the head. He slumped to the floor, and died a few hours later without regaining consciousness. Was Booth a lone assassin? Or was he part of a much wider conspiracy? Was he part of something even more sinister? Was he part of a plot hatched by Lincoln’s own generals to replace Lincoln with General Ulysses S. Grant. A plot financed by stolen confederate gold bullion.
“The Thackery Journal” has been translated into Portuguese, and Spanish. It is currently being translated into Swedish and Afrikaans. It is currently being produced as an audiobook, and should be available by the end of March.

John Holt
Born in 1943 in Bishops Stortford, Hertfordshire. I currently live in Essex with my wife, Margaret, and my daughter Elizabeth. For many years I was a Chartered Surveyor, until I retired in 2008. I had always wanted to write a novel but could never think of a good enough plot. I started to write my first novel, The Kammersee Affair, in September 2005, and it was published in December 2006. It was inspired by a holiday in the Austrian lake district. We were staying in Grundlsee. The next lake, Toplitzsee, was used by the Germans during the war to test rockets, and torpedoes. There were rumours of gold hidden in that lake. Despite extensive searches the gold was never found. In my book, however, it is found, only in the next lake, Kammersee.

The books that followed, The Mackenzie File, The Marinski Affair, Epidemic,and A Killing In The City all feature Tom Kendall, a down to earth private detective. In August 2012 I decided to go down the self published route, and formed by own publishing brand PHOENIX. As a complete change to my usual genre, "The Thackery Journal" is a "What If" novel regarding the assassination of Lincoln. It was published in August 2013. My latest novel, another featuring my private detective, and simply called "Kendall" was published in July 2014. "A Case Of Murder", the sixth novel to feature Tom Kendall, was published in May 2016. I am currently working on another novel featuring Tom Kendall.

The Thackery Journal

Civil War – the worst kind of war that any Nation could face. Fighting against itself there could be no winners in such a war, a war that divides communities; splits families; and makes enemies of long time friends. As the first sounds of gun fire echo through the land, two friends enlist on opposite sides of the conflict. Both believe right is on their side, and both hope they will never meet each other on the battlefield, but their lives become inextricably entwined as the war nears its end culminating in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln from a single shot fired by John Wilkes Booth. Was Booth a lone assassin? Or was he part of a wider conspiracy? A plot hatched by his own generals to replace Lincoln with General Ulysses S. Grant.




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Thursday, 17 May 2018

Blog Tour and #Giveaway ~ The Tudor Trilogy by Tony Riches Tudors #England #HistoricalFiction @hfvbt @TonyRiches





Book Tour~ Historical Virtual Book Tour Presents....



The Tudor Trilogy
By Tony Riches


OWEN (THE TUDOR TRILOGY #1)

Based on the true story of a forgotten hero, OWEN is the epic tale of one young man’s incredible courage and resilience as he changes the course of English history.

England 1422: Owen Tudor, a Welsh servant, waits in Windsor Castle to meet his new mistress, the beautiful and lonely Queen Catherine of Valois, widow of the warrior king, Henry V. Her infant son is crowned King of England and France, and while the country simmers on the brink of civil war, Owen becomes her protector.

They fall in love, risking Owen’s life and Queen Catherine’s reputation—but how do they found the dynasty which changes British history – the Tudors?

This is the first historical novel to fully explore the amazing life of Owen Tudor, grandfather of King Henry VII and the great-grandfather of King Henry VIII. Set against a background of the conflict between the Houses of Lancaster and York, which develops into what have become known as the Wars of the Roses, Owen’s story deserves to be told.

Owen – Book One of the Tudor Trilogy is a new addition to story of the Tudors in the historical fiction tradition of C J Sansom, Conn Iggulden, Philippa Gregory and Hilary Mantel.



JASPER (THE TUDOR TRILOGY #2)

Following the best-selling historical fiction novel OWEN – Book One of The Tudor Trilogy, this is the story, based on actual events, of Owen’s son Jasper Tudor, who changes the history of England forever.

England 1461: The young King Edward of York has taken the country by force from King Henry VI of Lancaster. Sir Jasper Tudor, Earl of Pembroke, flees the massacre of his Welsh army at the Battle of Mortimer’s Cross and plans a rebellion to return his half-brother King Henry to the throne.

When King Henry is imprisoned by Edward in the Tower of London and murdered, Jasper escapes to Brittany with his young nephew, Henry Tudor. Then after the sudden death of King Edward and the mysterious disappearance of his sons, a new king, Edward’s brother Richard III takes the English Throne. With nothing but his wits and charm, Jasper sees his chance to make young Henry Tudor king with a daring and reckless invasion of England.

Set in the often brutal world of fifteenth century England, Wales, Scotland, France, Burgundy and Brittany, during the Wars of the Roses, this fast-paced story is one of courage and adventure, love and belief in the destiny of the Tudors.




HENRY (THE TUDOR TRILOGY #3)


Finalist for the Amazon Storyteller Award 2017

Bosworth 1485: After victory against King Richard III, Henry Tudor becomes King of England. Rebels and pretenders plot to seize his throne. The barons resent his plans to curb their power and he wonders who he can trust. He hopes to unite Lancaster and York through marriage to the beautiful Elizabeth of York.

With help from his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, he learns to keep a fragile peace. He chooses a Spanish Princess, Catherine of Aragon, as a wife for his son Prince Arthur. His daughters will marry the King of Scotland and the son of the Emperor of Rome. It seems his prayers are answered, then disaster strikes and Henry must ensure the future of the Tudors.

“A fine end to a superbly researched and well-written trilogy, one I would recommend to anyone with an interest in this period of history.” Best-selling author Terry Tyler

“Henry was a hazy, cold impression in my mind, but Tony Riches fills him out, gives him intelligence, compassion, human frailty, and a consuming love of country, and I ended the book with great admiration for this man.” Author Noelle Granger


OWEN – Book One of The Tudor Trilogy, by Tony Riches

Excerpt - Winter of 1422

I tense at the sound of approaching footsteps as I wait to meet my new mistress, the young widow of King Henry V, Queen Catherine of Valois. Colourful Flemish tapestries decorate the royal apartments of Windsor Castle, dazzling my senses and reminding me how life in the royal household presents new opportunities. My life will change forever, if she finds me acceptable, yet doubt nags at my mind.

The doors open and Queen Catherine’s usher appears. I have been told to approach the queen and bow, but must not look directly at her or speak, other than to say my name, until spoken to. Taking a deep breath I enter the queen’s private rooms where she sits surrounded by her sharp-eyed ladies-in-waiting. I have the briefest glimpse of azure silk, gold brocade, gleaming pearls and a breath of exotic perfume. I remove my hat and bow, my eyes cast down to her velvet-slippered feet.

‘Owen Tudor, Your Highness, Keeper of your Wardrobe.’ My voice echoes in the high-ceilinged room.

One of her ladies fails to suppress her giggle, a sweet enough sound, if you are not the reason for it. I forget my instruction and look up to see the queen regarding me with confident, ice-blue eyes.

‘You are a Welshman?’ Her words sound like an accusation.

‘My full name is Owain ap Maredydd ap Tudur, although the English call me Owen Tudor. I come from a long line of Welsh noblemen, Your Highness.’ I regret my boast as soon as I say the words.

‘Owen Tudor...’ This time her voice carries a hint of amusement.

I put on my hat and pull my shoulders back. She examines me, as one might study a horse before offering a price. After years of hard work I have secured a position worthy of my skills, yet it means nothing without the approval of the queen.

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‘You look more like a soldier than a servant?’ The challenge in her words seems to tease me.

‘I have served in the king’s army as a soldier.’ I feel all their eyes upon me.

‘Yet... you have no sword?’ She sounds curious.

‘Welshmen are not permitted to carry a sword in England, Your Highness.’ I am still bitter at this injustice.

I remember the last time I saw her, at the king’s state funeral in Westminster. Her face veiled, she rode in a gilded carriage drawn by a team of black horses. I followed on foot as the funeral procession passed through sombre crowds, carrying the king’s standard and wearing the red, blue and gold livery of the royal household.

‘You fought in France?’

‘With the king’s bowmen, Your Highness, before I became a squire.’

The queen has none of the air of sadness I expected. Slim, almost too thin, her childlike wrists and delicate fingers are adorned with gold rings sparkling with diamonds and rubies. Her neck is long and slender, her skin pale with the whiteness of a woman who rarely sees the sun. Her golden-brown hair is gathered in tight plaits at the back of her head and her headdress fashionably emphasises her smooth, high forehead.

King Henry V chose as his bride the youngest daughter of the man they called the ‘mad king’, Charles VI. They said King Charles feared he was made of glass and would shatter if he didn’t take care. Charles promised Henry he would inherit the throne and become the next King of France and there were rumours of a secret wedding dowry, a fortune in gold.

Barely a year into his marriage, the king left his new wife pregnant and alone in Windsor. He returned to fight his war in France, capturing the castle of Dreux before marching on the fortress at Meaux, defended by Jean de Gast, the Bastard of Vaurus, a cruel, brave captain. The king never saw his son and heir, his namesake.

The siege of Meaux was hard won and he suffered the bloody flux, the dreaded curse of the battlefield. Men had been known to recover, if they were strong and lucky. Many did not, despite the bloodletting and leeches. The flux is an inglorious way to die, poisoned by your own body, especially for a victorious warrior king who would never now be King of France.

The queen has an appraising look in her eyes. She has buried her hopes for the future along with her husband. I remember I am looking at the mother of the new king, once he comes of age. One thing is certain; she will not be left to raise the prince alone. Ambitious men are already vying for their share of power and influence.

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At last she speaks. ‘And now you are in my household?’

‘My appointment to your service was made by Sir Walter Hungerford, Steward of the King’s Household and constable here at Windsor.’

‘Sir Walter was one of my husband’s most trusted men—the executor of the king’s will.’

‘I worked as squire to Sir Walter for many years, in England and France.’

‘You speak French?’

‘A little, Your Highness.’ I answer in French.

‘Were you with King Henry at the siege of Rouen?’ Now she speaks in French.

‘I was, Your Highness. I will never forget it.’ I answer again in French. I learned the language on the battlefield and in the taverns of Paris and can swear as well as any Frenchman.

‘I heard the people of Rouen were starving... before they surrendered.’ Her voice is softer now and she speaks in English.

I hesitate to admit she is right. The townspeople of the great city of Rouen were eating cats and dogs at the end, whatever they could find. Hundreds of good men and women starved to death to give her husband his victory. I drank foul ditch water to survive and the sights of the siege of Rouen are forever engraved on my memory.

‘War is cruel, yet now there is less appetite for it.’

‘I pray to God that is true.’ She glances back at her ladies, who are watching and listening, as ladies-in-waiting do. Queen Catherine regards me, giving nothing away. ‘I welcome you to our household, Master Tudor.’

‘Thank you, Your Highness.’

Our first meeting is over. She is unlike any woman I have known, fascinating, intriguing and beautiful. More than that; there is something about her I find deeply attractive, a dangerous thing to admit. Perhaps my fascination is with the glimpse I’d seen of the real woman, the same age as myself, behind the title of Dowager Queen of England.

‘Aim high, boy,’ my garrulous longbow tutor once advised me, his voice gruff from too much shouting. ‘It’s not the Welsh way to play safe and wait until you have a clear shot!’ The man spits hard on the ground to add emphasis and stares knowingly into my eyes, standing so close I can almost feel the coarse grey stubble of his beard. ‘When you aim high,’ he points an imaginary bow up at the sky, ‘your arrow will fly far into the enemy ranks and strike with the full vengeance of God.’

‘Who, of course, is on our side.’ A daring, foolhardy thing for a boy like me to say to a man who can punch me to the ground or worse.

For a moment I see the old man’s mind working as he tries to decide if I am being disrespectful, sacrilegious or both. The moment passes. I notch a new arrow into the powerful yew longbow and fire it high into the sky, without a care for where it will fall.

I smile at the memory as I return down the long passage to the servants’ hall. Life as a king’s archer was hard, but I enjoyed the camaraderie of the other men and it taught me many things. As well as how to use a longbow, I learned to watch my back, when to speak up and when to remain silent. My tutor died in the thick mud of Normandy, yet his lesson serves me well. I know to aim high.

That night, wide awake in the darkness, I reflect on the unthinkable turn my life has taken. I always imagined I would become a merchant, setting up shop somewhere in the narrow, dirty streets of London, or perhaps an adventurer, sailing off to seek my fortune. I remain a servant, yet for the first time I have my own lodging room, however small and cramped.

My reward for long and loyal service as squire to Sir Walter has been this new appointment, a position of great responsibility. The queen’s wardrobe is a treasure store of priceless gold and jewels, as well as all her expensive clothes and most valuable possessions. Such a senior post in the royal household pays more than I have earned in my life and carries influence, allowing me regular and privileged access to the queen.




I resolve to become indispensable to her. High and mighty lords and dukes will come and go, with their false concerns and self-serving advice, yet I will see her every day, tending to her needs. I recall how she referred to Sir Walter as one of the king’s most trusted men. That is what I wish to become; Queen Catherine’s most trusted man.
Giveaway

During the Blog Tour we will be giving away an eBook & Signed Paperback of each book! 

Giveaway Rules

• Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on June 7th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
• Giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.
• Only one entry per household.
• All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
• Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

You can enter the Giveaway here.


Tony Riches
Tony Riches is a full-time writer and lives with his wife in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. After several successful non-fiction books, Tony turned to novel writing and wrote ‘Queen Sacrifice’, set in 10th century Wales, followed by ‘The Shell’, a thriller set in present day Kenya. A specialist in the history of the early Tudors, he is best known for his Tudor Trilogy. Tony’s other international best sellers include ‘Warwick ~ The Man Behind the Wars of the Roses’ and ‘The Secret Diary of Eleanor Cobham’.

For more information please visit Tony’s website and his blog The Writing Desk. He can also be found on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.