Friday, 20 January 2017

Experts and why I'm not one

Every so often somebody suggests that I should give a talk or write a book about the history behind some of my novels. "You're an expert!" They gush. "You know so much about it!"

It's flattering but it isn't true. Experts are the people that people like me go to when they want to get the facts right for their books. When I was writing about Waterloo I went to a two-day conference at Sandhurst. One of the speakers was an academic who had spent three years studying the fighting in and around a farm in the centre of the battlefield. It's an important part of the battle, but still one tiny part. He didn't talk about Wellington's use of the reverse slope; he didn't talk about the fight for the Château d'Hougoumont; he didn't discuss the importance of the Prussians or the way in which the British shamefully understated their contribution. He didn't even talk about my favourite element of the battle – the role of the Dutch and Belgian troops. He talked about one farmhouse and its farmyard and the defence put up by the vastly outnumbered troops of the King’s German Legion. And if you want an expert on Waterloo, you want someone like him. (He really was very good.) I’m happy to talk to your history group about the battle. (Really: you can email me at I can give you an overview (Napoleon lost, but it's not nearly as obvious that Wellington won) and tell you why its importance is overrated (especially given that everyone ignores Quatre Bras two days earlier). But there's an awful lot I can't tell you. If you ask me about the number of dead, I'd have to look it up. Like Winnie the Pooh's Wol, I did know but I've forgotten. I don't want to end up like the man who was asked at the conference how fast the horses would have moved in a cavalry charge and guessed the answer. Not a good move when your guess is spectacularly wrong and you are facing a room full of people who know a lot about Waterloo and, in this context, probably as significantly, many of whom rode. (The answer, if you were wondering, is a lot slower than you’d think, it being a very muddy field.)

Last summer I did give a talk on James Brooke, which went down quite well and suggested that there is a place for talks by well-informed non-experts like me. But you have to be so careful, especially when battles are concerned.

Me, talking about James Brooke. It's funny how people pay attention when you wave a sword at them.

What’s brought on this chain of thought? Well, I’ve just been reading an excellent story set in the Indian Mutiny. One episode deals with the defence of the Delhi Magazine, a little-known incident early in the conflict when a handful of British soldiers held off thousands of rebels for several hours. Once it became obvious that the Magazine, with its huge store of ammunition and powder, was about to fall into enemy hands, the defenders blew it up in an act of suicidal heroism.

The author has based his account on the published story of one of the people who was there. It’s a brilliant re-telling of something that has been largely forgotten and I was really pleased to see it highlighted in the novel. There is even a historical note (and I do appreciate notes at the end of historical novels) that rightly gives credit for the courage shown by Conductor Scully, who lit the fuse to blow the Magazine. What it doesn’t mention is the role of Conductor Buckley, a 43 year old Assistant Commissary of Ordnance who, injured in the battle, nonetheless gave the final order to light the fuse once he was told by the defenders that they could hold out no longer. His heroism at the Magazine was recognised by the award of the Victoria Cross.

Centuries passed and the Ordnance Department was swallowed into other corps until it became part of today’s Royal Logistic Corps, the largest corps in the British Army. The RLC is not famed for its military prowess, though it took a lot of casualties in Afghanistan both because of its role in resupplying Forward Operating Bases and because RLC personnel had a lead role in disarming IEDs. For most RLC officers and men, though, the jibe that they spend wartime “in the rear with the gear” hurts. The RLC is therefore particularly proud of any VCs associated with the Corps. 9 Regiment RLC is a theatre logistic regiment within 101 Logistic Brigade and it is based in the UK at Buckley Barracks. A dinner night is generally held once a year to commemorate Conductor Buckley’s heroism.

RLC flag

I have to admit, at this point, that my son is in the RLC and has served with 9 Regiment in both England and Afghanistan.
The fact that a well-researched novel misses out one tiny (and, to a writer, not particularly important) detail of a fight that hardly anyone has heard of is, in the scheme of things, utterly insignificant. But the writer shouldn’t expect to be invited to dine at 9 Regiment any time soon.


I write these blogs every week and lots of people seem to enjoy reading them. Unfortunately, they don't all go on to buy my books. So (when I remember) I am trying to highlight things you might want to read if you were interested in this post. This week obviously ties in with my novel of Waterloo, somewhat unimaginatively titled Burke at Waterloo, and my Indian Mutiny book, Cawnpore. I'm particularly proud of Cawnpore and I'd love it if you all went out and bought a copy. (And, yes, both books come with historical notes at the end.)

Friday, 13 January 2017

Book Review: The Last Days of Leda Grey

I seem to be posting an increasing number of book reviews. I'm not sure this is really in my best interests, as I only review books I've enjoyed and I concentrate on historical novels, so basically I'm encouraging you all to read the books that directly compete with mine. 😕 Perhaps that's not an ideal marketing strategy. Anyway, people seem to enjoy the reviews and I do try to write the blogs you want to read, so here is another one.

It's difficult to review a book when you've been to the launch party and met the author and enjoyed the delicious nibbles and the cake. It's not so much that you're biased, but that you come to it with expectations. You read it differently, possibly wearing a "Literary Critic" hat rather than just enjoying it for what it is. Still, I can honestly say that I did enjoy The Last Days of Leda Grey, which is probably much more of a relief to me than to the author, Essie Fox.

Ms Fox has established a reputation as a writer of 19th century fiction. I have to confess that I've never read it, although I enjoy her excellent blog on all things Victorian, the Virtual Victorian. This book, though, breaks away to the Edwardian era. The story is framed by the account of a young journalist in 1976, with most of the action being set against a background of the early cinema. I had no idea that the south coast of England was one of the places where film-making started on a commercial scale, but I found the story entirely credible. I know other people have googled and confirm that the factual background is correct, but I have simply taken Ms Fox's word for it. There is quite an extensive bibliography for those who want to check up on the history, but time is short and I'm lazy and read an awful lot of history already. The book would definitely have benefited from a historical note.

Perhaps the absence of a historical note reflects the fact that this is not a conventional historical novel. The characters behave in ways which, whilst believable in the context of the story, are distinctly modern. They are all actors, actresses and other bohemian types and their louche behaviour does not necessarily reflect societal norms at the time. In fact the story relies on the emotional sympathy between the jaded, quite possibly drug addled, music journalist who frames the narrative and Leda Grey, the one-time star of the silent screen who is, we discover, no stranger to chemical stimulation herself.

I remember the summer of 1976. The heat was so intense that at the end of the working day I would go swimming in a local river. It seemed all that kept me sane. The narrator here is suffering from that long hot summer and the almost hallucinatory impact that it seemed to have on all of us. What with that and the drugs and, possibly, some illness, he's not a very reliable narrator. He finds Leda Grey in the ruin of the house where she lived at the height of her beauty, a bona fide screen siren. Now she is old and faded, yet the beauty still shines through, sometimes with an almost supernatural intensity. Is this the fevered imagination of a young man becoming infatuated with a woman literally old enough to be his grandmother? Or is it that Leda’s bone structure and tricks of the light really mean that she can shimmer with vital beauty? Or is there something darker and more mysterious going on?

The reader naturally leans to the idea of dark and mysterious forces at work. We are repeatedly reminded that many people believe that a photograph can capture your soul. Is Leda’s soul held within those tins of film littering the old house? And does it escape back, infusing her body with diabolical beauty? There are continual mysterious sounds that might indeed be an old-style projector or the cars and motorbikes of a bygone era. There are unexplained reflections in the mirrors. Things arrive and vanish unaccountably. The spirit world may well be at work.

Essie Fox has written on Twitter about her admiration for Bram Stoker and, even if I had not seen that, I think I would recognise the influences of that master of macabre horror. For all that the setting is Edwardian/modern the style of the story is firmly based in the Victorian age. The prose has something of the feel of the 19th century too. I found it effective and easy to read, but it can seem affected. My wife struggled with the opening pages and has yet to return. She may well not be alone, which is a pity because once you get into the atmosphere of the book the language works very well.

Now the light that trickled in was a great deal fainter than before. But enough to see when Leda Grey motioned to the mantelpiece where, beside the silent static clock, I saw the tall brass candlestick she must have been alluding to when she asked, "Could you light that candle, please? I'm afraid that here in White Cliff House we have no electricity… And no more oil for any lamps.”

Stoker was obsessed with death and sex (possibly because he was dying of syphilis) and this book is dominated by the same issues (though, presumably, not for the same reason). Leda Grey, once young and beautiful, inhabits the ruin of a body in the ruin of the house where she had achieved her greatest triumphs. The young girl is trapped in the old body just as her image is trapped in the films that share the house with her. And then there is the narrator – still young, but tired and cynical; debauched like Wilde’s Dorian Gray. (And, I wonder, is the coincidence of surname here really a coincidence? If Stoker is a driving force behind this book, Oscar Wilde has certainly helped with some of the details.) The young old woman and the old young man end up in a strange relationship with definite sexual undertones. Sexuality is introduced, too, with a modern young woman whose grandparents had bit-parts in Leda Grey’s story. She arrives like some sort of sprite, living in a railway carriage, constantly travelling, but going nowhere. I found her, I admit, the least satisfactory element of the story, arriving only to vanish away until the very end when …

But no, you’ll have to read it yourself. When all is said and done, for all its asides on mortality and for all the research that has gone into the detail of early cinematography, this is at heart a ghost story. And like all the best ghost stories, the best is kept to last. And it’s too good for me to spoil.

I don’t do star ratings, but this comes with a definite ‘Recommended’ from me.


Excellent as Essie Fox's book is, other historical novels are also available. Clicking on any of the book covers to the right of the screen should take you to the Amazon Kindle page. All are also available in paperback. 

Friday, 6 January 2017

2016: a year in blog posts

My last post talked about the year I had in real life, but this week is the by now traditional summary of the year as seen through my blog. I am always interested (and usually surprised) by the posts that have caught people’s attention over the year. As ever, I have to point out that I use Blogger and Blogger’s analytics really aren’t very good, so I can only say which posts were the most widely read: I just don’t have reliable figures on how many people saw each one. I can say that the number of people reading my blog seems to rise every year, possibly in part because of people who have discovered it through Twitter. I also seem to have the odd surge of interest from Russia. Friends of mine who have experienced similar numbers of hits from the former USSR put it down to lots of Russians interested in their books, but I suspect it’s hackers. But then I’m a sad cynic.

Anyway, enough of the caveats. What was my most popular blog of 2016?


This was, by a considerable margin, the most widely read post I have ever written.

Jane Jackson produced a lovely new book in 2016: The Master’s Wife. It’s a historical novel with much of the action in Egypt. It includes scenes where our heroine travels into the desert and lives for a while with the Bedouin. 

I loved the book. I was particularly interested in the way that Ms Jackson handled scenes and situations not a million miles from events in Burke and the Bedouin. Like a lot of male authors writing stories where heroic men (and they almost always are men) fight off hordes of evil villains without a petticoat in sight, I have always harboured a deep suspicion of that sub-genre capitalised as Historical Romance. It’s an area where Jackson has a fine reputation with several nominations for major awards from the Romantic Novelists Association.

It turns out, though, that Jackson is also a fine historical writer even if no bodices are being ripped and a heaving bosom is never pressed against a manly chest. But I do think women do history differently from men and I describe some of the differences here.

This was a straightforward review of a book by an author I admire. It’s a romance, though, and I’m not big on romance. I said so in the review and this seems to have excited more interest than I expected, making it one of my most-read posts ever.

Although this was only published in December, it was my third most widely read post of the year. Well, when I say “my” I mean it showed up on my web-site: it was actually written by Jenny Kane, guest-blogging here as she has decided to move into historical fiction and was writing about the Robin Hood legend and the real-life background to The Outlaw’s Ransom. She’s been on my blog before and she was very popular then too. Perhaps I should just give up writing myself and pass my blog over to her.

I really enjoy Nell Peters’ work, but it’s difficult to say why. I worry that it might be because we share a warped sense of humour. Anyway, I gave up on trying to review them and asked her onto my blog to speak for herself. The result was one of the weirdest posts I’ve ever seen here and (disturbingly) one of the most popular.

Terry Tyler has been amazingly supportive of my writing, so I was very nervous when I sat down to read hers. It’s always awkward if you read a book by someone you know and don’t like it. Fortunately I did like it.

Why so many readers for a straightforward review? Because Terry is a star at using social media, that’s why. If you have books to sell, it’s worth watching her to see how it’s done. Terry’s Twitter handle is @TerryTyler4 and she blogs at

This summer I gave a talk on James Brooke at the Llandrindod Wells Victorian Festival. Swords featured.

This was a short post suggesting that people might come to see it. Following Terry Tyler’s advice, I promoted this like mad, with the result that hundreds of people read the post. Sadly, not nearly as many made it to mid-Wales to see the talk, but you can’t have everything.

If you want to read about the talk itself, have a look at Presenting the Fact behind theFiction.

So that was my six top-rated posts. Looking back, it does seem that perhaps they are rather more about other people and their books than about me and mine, but I did appear on a lot of other writers’ blogs when Back Home came out, so I can’t really complain.

Just outside the top six was the compulsory post about social media – always a popular read. (Social media and other random thoughts). Further down, there were some serious posts about history and quite a lot about the metallurgy and art of non-European swords. (It’s a thing of mine.)

A very pretty knife

Unusually this year, there was only one post from me on tango and this barely made the top twenty. But if any of you want to know how to persuade someone to dance with you without saying a word, I wrote about this in August.

So, there we are. Book reviews, guest blogs, history, swords and tango. Yes, that is pretty much the story of my life. Why not join the party? It’s nice if you subscribe to the blog, though I’ve finally fixed the ‘Comments’ section so you should be able to write about anything that interests you here without being subscribed. Or comment on my author page on Facebook. Or, if you prefer to make very pithy comments, there’s always Twitter: I’m @TomCW99.

I look forward to hearing much more from you in 2017.

Monday, 2 January 2017

A Fat Thrush. (Not a Round Robin)

I came back from our Christmas break this year to find a complaint from a friend that they had not received a Round Robin full of details of our exciting overseas adventures and all the books I have published. The reason, I fear, was very simple: we live an extremely dull life these days and there didn't seem to be a lot to say. Prior to our Christmas break in France, the only time we have been out of the UK was a short holiday in Istanbul back at beginning of the year. There has only been one book published, too: Back Home. I'm proud of that one and very happy with the reception it has received, but that was back in April, so long ago it seems I can barely remember it.

Yet, for all that everybody is, quite understandably, going on about what a terrible year 2016 has been, here on the domestic front it has seemed to slide by pleasantly if unexcitingly. That's left me wondering just exactly what we did do last year and, given that I am always being told that I should be more open on my blog posts, I thought that once I’d worked out what it was, I'd share it with you.

A surprising amount of our time was spent in mid-Wales. Regular readers of the blog will know that we like to get there quite often but every year we promised ourselves that we will have a proper Welsh holiday and every year we don't. Except 2016. After a particularly frantic couple of years, our son finally got to take a proper break from his work with the Army – if only because all the abuse he has put his body through landed him up in hospital. The result was that he took himself off for an extended rest in God’s Own Country and we spent a lot of our summer joining him there. It was glorious! I'm not going to preach about how we shouldn't boast about our holidays on Facebook because everybody does it and they won't stop just because I moan, but there's no doubt that we miss a lot of simple pleasures because time spent in mid-Wales doesn't produce the exciting status posts of  time spent in some exotic distant spot. It does, though, produce astonishingly high levels of relaxation and well-being, punctuated with long walks and, because every stereotype has a basis of truth, lots of sheep.

Another UK destination I had been meaning to visit the years but never got around to was Bletchley Park. We finally got there in the aftermath of my birthday/launch party celebrations for Back Home and I was blown away by the place. I did blog about it here and if you have any interest in the beginnings of the world of code breaking and computerised eavesdropping that ended with GCHQ, I do recommend a visit.

St George's Day produced one of those completely mad, random events that are pretty well impossible to plan, but unforgettable when they happen. Following a casting call on Twitter, I ended up performing in Henry V at the Wallace Collection. I haven't been on stage since I left school so my two minutes of fame was as unexpected as it was exciting. Self-help books are always telling us that we should do something new that scares us and sometimes they are right. It was a wonderful day and one of the highlights of the year.

Why do you stay so long, my lords of France? Waiting for someone who can act, probably. 

Something I have always wanted to do is to train my own hawk. I doubt it will ever happen – I simply don't have the patience – but I came surprisingly close when we found an injured kestrel in the street and took it in until it was better. It was only with us for around four days which saw it changed from a huddled, terrified creature hunched on the floor in the corner of our spare room into a confident, sassy flyer eating us out of house and home until we could open the window and watch it fly away. And, yes, it did perch, however briefly, on my hand and for a moment I was some medieval hawker with my own proud bird. Another unforgettable moment.

What else? We went to a polo match (as you do) and danced the night away at a ball in a 15th century castle. I spent two days of lectures being taught about the metallurgy and art of non-European swords and a morning clambering over tanks, so I now have a detailed theoretical knowledge of how to kill you in the century of your choice. I even gave my own lecture on South-East Asian weaponry to an audience largely dressed in Victorian costume. Don’t even ask.

2016: a miserable year for many people in many ways, but, here at home, perhaps not so bad after all.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Random thoughts post-Christmas

Well I'm back home after ten days of skiing. I've slept most of the last 24 hours and feel rather more self indulgent than usual, so this is going to be a bit of a random blog post. Come on – it's that weird time of year when Christmas is over but the horrors of the New Year have yet to really sink in, so we're all a bit more random than usual.

Whatever your views on global warming, if you're a regular Christmas skier you will have seen some changes lately. This year saw the French Alps covered in snow in November, which all melted away sometime early in December. When we arrived, temperatures were firmly back down at snow-making levels but there was an obstinate refusal of anything to fall from the sky. Resorts have responded to these early-season mishaps by massively improving the quality and quantity of snow cannon that produce white stuff that skis just like regular snow. The result is that a large area resort – like the three valleys where we were – has areas of high altitude natural snow linked with long paths (sometimes miles long) of wide pistes stretching across otherwise snowless mountain meadows. It's an odd experience, but we were able to cover all four of the three valleys (yes – the fourth valley is now very definitely a thing) and ski a wide variety of different pistes over our ten days.

The combination of no recent snowfall, low temperatures and some quite high winds meant that at altitude many of the slopes were essentially rather steeply sloping ice rinks. Our old skis were not up to the job and we decided it was time to finally bite the bullet and get something more suited to the conditions. The fashion, which had been getting sneakily longer for a few years, is now firmly back to shorter skis and we were able to have fun on our nippy new toys with their viciously sharpened edges. If you enjoy icy slopes, there is something particularly satisfying about remaining attached to a smooth, steep stretch of something that bears only the most distant relationship to what most people think of as snow and somehow magically remaining upright. We had a fabulous time.

What I very definitely didn't do on my holidays was keep in touch with the lovely people who are still reviewing 'Back Home'. So many, many thanks to Sharon, who blogged her review just as we set off for France. And thanks too to Jera's Jamboree for posting an interview about my books on James Burke. And Elle Field, whose interview with me was a particular pleasure. She had some really interesting questions and it's a shame that the interview may well have got overlooked in all the pre-Christmas excitement..

This last month of 2016 has seemed to produce a lot of publicity from some lovely people. I was particularly thrilled when Rosie Amber's book review team made Back Home runner up in their awards for best Historical Fiction of 2016. It's the first time any of my books have won anything and it meant a lot to me – especially as sales of Back Home have been disappointing.

I was also excited to be the featured interview in Historia magazine, the online magazine of the Historical Writers' Association. This was a particular honour for me, as I featured alongside Paul Collard, whose Jack Lark books I really admire.

So here I am in a welter of dirty laundry and some lovely Xmas presents (yes, books featured), trying to come to terms with being back at home and getting on top of domestic chores as well as thanking all of you who have been so kind about my books and generous with blog posts and reviews and interviews. Most people are happy to see the end of 2016 (with George Michael and Carrie Fisher the list of lost icons seems determined to drag us down all the way to the very end of the year) but it has, after its share of ups and downs, ended on a high note for me. I am truly grateful to all of you who have supported my writing and only sorry that the last ten days have left me too tired to give you all the acknowledgement you deserved. I hope it's not too late to thank you all now.

Enjoy the rest of 2016. I'll see you all next year.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Celebration time!

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you probably already know that yesterday was an exciting day.

Photo: Niels Noordhoek

Given the number of books out there and the limited marketing budgets of most smaller publishers (and, increasingly of larger ones as well) the efforts of online book bloggers are really important. One of the most influential is Rosy Amber. She heads a team of reviewers and between them they cover hundreds of books in a year, posting their reviews at At the end of the year the reviewers draw up a shortlist of their favourites, which go to a public vote for the books of the year. It isn't the Booker, but it's a nice recognition of the work that less well-known authors put in. And this year I am thrilled to tell you that 'Back Home' was the runner up in their Historical Fiction category.

That seemed a pretty good way to end 2016. But this morning there is more! I am a member of the Historical Writers Association who published the excellent online magazine, Historia. The latest addition leads with a front-page interview with to writers of the 19th century historical fiction, comparing the way they approach their subject. One is the excellent Paul Collard (author of the Jack Lark books) and the other is ME!!!

I think that writers are always looking for what psychologists call "validation". Writing is a solitary activity. We hide in garrets scribing away and eventually release our books into the world where, unless we are very, very lucky, they will vanish into a huge pool of other books, leaving scarcely a ripple on the water. We are all slightly obsessive about sales figures, not because we are ever going to make any money (realistically, we’re not) but because we so want to think that there are people out there who have read and enjoyed what we have written. That's another reason why we are constantly asking people to leave reviews – and if you have read anything by less well-known author and enjoyed it, please do review it, because it does mean such a lot. Comments on blog posts leave a warm glow. Fan mail can feed an author emotionally for a month. But awards, or the acknowledgement of your peers – that’s super special. And to have both in two days is just mind blowing. It's the best early Christmas present I could ask for.

If you have bought any of my books, or reviewed them, or voted for me for Rosie’s award, or just been one of those many, many people who have said the odd nice word when reviews have been thin on the ground and sales have been rotten, I really do want to say THANK YOU. It is the support of readers that keeps writers writing and we really are very, very grateful for it.

I will be stepping away from the keyboard soon to take a Christmas break. I am looking forward to a lovely Christmas, all the better for such good news in December. I hope you all have fantastic holidays too and that you find many new books to enjoy in 2017.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

The Outlaw's Ransom

This week's blog is a couple of days early because it's part of the promotional effort for Jennifer Ash's new book, The Outlaw's Ransom. Who is Jennifer Ash  and why should we care? I hear you ask. Jennifer is one of the increasing number of pen names of fellow Accent author and multiple personality disorder sufferer Jenny Kane. She's become  Jennifer Ash as she moves into historical fiction. (Welcome to the madhouse, Jenny.) Anyway, here she is, talking about some of the history behind her book.


The Outlaw’s Ransom: The Folvilles in History

I’m delighted to be visiting today, as part of a blog tour celebrating the publication of my medieval mystery, The Outlaw’s Ransom – a book which was inspired by my love of all things ‘Robin Hood.’
The earliest mention found (to date) of the name Robin Hood appears in the poem The Vision of Piers Plowman, which was written by William Langland in c.1377. This was a protest poem complaining about the harsh conditions endured by the poor in the Fourteen Century. Not only did it mention Robin Hood, but it also makes reference to the real outlaw gang, the Folvilles.
“And some ryde and to recovere that unrightfully was wonne:He wised hem wynne it ayein wightnesses of handes,And fecchen it from false men with Folvyles lawes.”

The Folvilles were a noble family from Leicestershire who, throughout the late 1320’s and 1330’s, ran Ashby-Folville and its surrounds within the Hundred of Goscote, as a base for criminal activity.

In 1310, John de Folville, Lord of Ashby Folville, died, leaving his widow Alice and seven sons. The eldest son, also John, inherited the Ashby-Folville manor. Historical records show that John lived largely within the bounds of the law. However, his brothers, Eustace, Laurence, Richard, Robert, Thomas and Walter formed a criminal gang which became notorious.

The first crime that brought the Folvilles to the notice of the authorities was the murder of the Baron of the Exchequer, Roger Belers. Over the following decade, the Folville brothers’ travelled the countryside assaulting those they considered deserving of such treatment, and holding people and places to ransom. They hired themselves out as mercenaries, willing to commit crimes for the right price. The most violent of the brothers, Eustace, is known to have committed murders, robberies and even rapes across Leicestershire and Rutland.

Like Robin Hood and his men, the Folvilles are often portrayed as the allies of the common people fighting a corrupt authority. Eustace’s crimes aside, their targets were all officials that had gone beyond the norm of taking advantage of their positions. For example, in 1332 the Folville gang kidnapped the judge, Sir Richard Willoughby, on the road between Melton Mowbray and Grantham, near Waltham on the Wolds. A ransom of 1,300 marks was demanded from his men. While the Folvilles waited for the ransom they stole over one hundred pounds worth of goods from Willoughby as they dragging him from ‘wood to wood.’

Willoughby was so hated by the people, that in 1340 another criminal gang made him the target of an attack, trapping him in Thurcaston castle. Later, Willoughby was imprisoned by King Edward III for corruption and was forced to pay 1200 marks for a pardon.

It is perhaps not surprising that parallels have been drawn between Robin Hood’s stories and the real life activities of the Folville brothers. It was these parallels that led me to use the Folville family as the central focus for my first ever medieval mystery, The Outlaw’s Ransom.


The first in an exciting new series by acclaimed author Jenny Kane writing as Jennifer Ash.

When craftsman’s daughter Mathilda is kidnapped by the notorious Folville brothers, as punishment for her father’s debts, she fears for her life.  Although of noble birth, the Folvilles are infamous throughout the county for disregarding the law – and for using any means necessary to deliver their brand of ‘justice’.

Mathilda must prove her worth to the Folvilles in order to win her freedom. To do so she must go against her instincts and, disguised as the paramour of the enigmatic Robert de Folville, undertake a mission that will take her far from home and put her life in the hands of a dangerous brigand – and that’s just the start of things…

A thrilling tale of medieval mystery and romance – and with a nod to the tales of Robin Hood – The Outlaw’s Ransom is perfect for fans of C.J. Sansom and Jean Plaidy.

You can buy The Outlaw's Ransom for your Kindle HERE

The many faces of Jennifer Ash

Jennifer Ash is the author of the medieval murder mystery, The Outlaw’s Ransom (Dec, 2016). Her second novel, The Winter Outlaw, will be published in 2017.

You can find detail’s of Jennifer’s stories at
Jennifer also writes as Jenny Kane
Jenny Kane is the author the contemporary romance Another Glass of Champagne, (Accent Press, 2016),  Christmas at the Castle (Accent Press, 2015), the bestselling novel Abi’s House (Accent Press, 2015), the modern/medieval time slip novel Romancing Robin Hood (Accent Press, 2014), the bestselling novel Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013), and its novella length sequels Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), and Christmas in the Cotswolds (Accent, 2014).
Jenny’s fifth full length romance novel, Abi’s Neighbour, will be published in June 2017.
Jenny is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat (Hushpuppy, 2014) and Ben’s Biscuit Tin (Hushpuppy, 2015)
Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at for more details.
Twitter- @JennyKaneAuthor

Facebook - 

Comments are open

After years of running this blog  and wondering why I get so few comments, I've discovered that Blogger's defaults limit the number of people who can comment. I've taken these limits off, so comment away below.