Friday, 8 November 2013

17th Century London

How's this for inspiration for a writer of alternate quasi-historical fiction?

The Last Witch might not be set in the capital, but that's not to say I don't have ideas for other stories that would be...

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

A Modern Day Matthew Hopkins

If you're a fan of Whitechapel, but you haven't yet watched tonight's episode (the second part of Case One of Series Four) then look away now.

Still here? Then on your head be it...

I love Whitechapel. I'm a fan of murder mysteries, but when they come with a packaged as a horror story, that references myths and historical murders, they're just the best. (Hence, I was a fan of Messiah too.)

I enjoyed the first series, with its replaying of the Jack the Ripper murders, wasn't so fussed about the Krays-inspired second series, and then really got into the triple case format of the third series. And now Whitechapel's back with more of the same.

Where the third series tapped into the well of inspiration formed by other London crimes and myths of bogeymen, series four has taken the history of crime as the launching off point of its stories. And it now looks like Whitechapel has gained an over-arching story arc too. I'm also impressed by references to events in previous series, and the dark turn DC Kent's character is taking. Oh, and the over acknowledgement now that although DI Chandler and DS Miles - not to mention police researcher Buchan - always get their man, they never actually get their man, as it were.

So why mention this on a blog about a book about Matthew Hopkins, the self-styled Witchfinder General? Well, because that's who the Whitechapel coppers have been hunting for the last two weeks - a modern day Matthew Hopkins...

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Who was Matthew Hopkins?

Matthew Hopkins is perhaps the most notorious name in the history of English witchcraft, more commonly he was known as “The Witch-Finder General”. Throughout his reign of terror 1645-1646, Hopkins acquired a feared and evil reputation as a ‘fingerman’ (informer), paid by local authorities to commit perjury.

Together with his henchman and fellow ‘Witch-Pricker’ John Sterne, in just 14 months, Hopkins was responsible for the condemnations and executions of some 230 alleged witches, more than all the other witch-hunters that proliferated during the 160-year peak of the country’s witchcraft hysteria.

But who was he really?

To find about more about this alleged serial killer, follow this link.

Tony Robinson's Gods and Monsters

Tony Robinson explores the weird and wonderful history of belief, superstition and religious experience in Britain.
For 2000 years, Britain has been a Christian country. Or has it? In fact, our ancestors actually kept many other dark, fantastical beliefs alive.
It was a world underpinned by outlandish, dangerous and plain weird beliefs. Ideas that today seem unbelievable, but were seen as uncontroversial and hugely influential, with some having shaped our history as much as mainstream religion.

Episode 4

Before he became James I of England, James VI of Scotland nearly died in a terrible storm at sea, which he believed was caused by a spell cast by witches. Tony Robinson follows the story of a Scottish midwife called Agnes Sampson (one of the models for the witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth).
Witches like Agnes were believed to be agents of the Devil; their magical powers believed to be gifts of Satan. They could make people sick, make crops fail, or cause misfortunes.
They were said to travel on broomsticks, made to fly by the application of a paste made from the crushed bones of dead babies.
This sounds extraordinary - almost comical - to us today, but 400 years ago witches were terrifyingly real.
Tony investigates the process of arresting and interrogating a suspected witch; and discovers how red-hot tongs, thumbscrews, sleep deprivation and stress-positions were all used to extract confessions.
In Agnes Sampson's case, this process was overseen by King James VI himself. And he did a good job: Agnes confessed, and was convicted and burned to death.

You can buy Series 1 of Tony Robinson's Gods and Monsters here.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The English Civil War - A National Obsession

What is it with the current resurgence in the popularity of stories set around the time of the English Civil War?

The synopsis for The Last Witch was written two years ago, back in the summer of 2011. Then in February of this year, Gideon's Angel, by Clifford Beal, was published by Solaris Books. And now, in the summer of 2013 we have Ben Wheatley's A Field in England to look forward to.

I know that the English Civil War has held a fascination for all manner of people for a very long time (classmates and teachers of mine were members of the Sealed Knot more than twenty years ago when I was still at school) but I like to think the recent resurgence might have something to do with things like this...

A Field In England - Coming Soon!

It looks like this might be good inspirational stuff for The Last Witch...

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Mary Tudor - Unfit to Rule?

There is a passing reference made to Mary Tudor's bizarre pregnancy in The Last Witch, and there was more than a passing reference to the same condition in Fit to Rule: How Royal Illness Changed History, presented by Historic Royal Palaces chief curator Lucy Worsley.

It's a great hour's factual programming, and if you've not seen it already, you can watch it on BBC iPlayer.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

And so it begins...

I'm off to the Essex-Suffolk borders tomorrow for a few days, with the intention of carrying out some research for this...