Saturday, September 24, 2011
Greeting my friends and Houselings having started this theme of book reviews I thought we’d look at a spread of contemporary writers who have produced some good pieces of fiction and non-fiction in the Tudor Period. Today it is the turn of PF Chisholm, whom for those of you who don’t already know is Patricia Finney and to be blunt she is an excellent writer of historical fiction. Without being reduced to base grovelling and sycophancy, it is one of my aspirations that eventually my Red Ned Tuor Mysteries will be favourabley compared with her excellent Cary series. So as you see I've got a pretty high target to aim for.
A Famine of Horses: A Sir Robert Carey Mystery by P.F. Chisholm
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It is now Oh Gods some fifteen years since I first came across the first of PF Chisholm's Sir Robert Carey novels set in the politically complex Tudor England of the 1590s’. Queen Elizabeth’s fleet has beaten back the famed Armada and that threat at least for time has diminished and the kingdom basks in relative peace. However the northern border with Scotland it is not so quiet. Murder, cattle reiving and tower burning are all too common occurrences. So one more dead body found in the Debatable Lands shouldn’t make that much difference, except when it’s a Graham, and the head of that surname has a nasty reputation for vengeance. In to this cauldron of trouble steps Sir Robert Carey newly appointed Deputy Warden of the Western Marches. What Sergeant Dodd of the Carlisle garrison thinks of his new commander probably shouldn’t be put in print, but between them Cary and Dodd they have to solve two mysteries the ill timed murder of a Graham and the sudden ‘Famine of Horses of the title’. Alright that hasn’t given away anything that isn’t apparent from a quick view of the back cover blurb. As to the quality of the story, in short it is superb. PF Chisholm has a fine grasp of the character’s traits, they are all so very human and compelling. Sergeant Dodd for one is the epitome of the dour northern with a wry sense of humour and an intelligence that shouldn’t be underrated. As for Cary he comes with a very interesting history, he has to head north to escape his London creditors and recoup the fortune he doesn’t have. I’m not give much away in saying that his father Lord Hunsdon is the son of Mary Boleyn and that it is said he bore an uncanny resemblance to Henry VIII. That hint alone should wet your interest. The difficulties and scrapes Robert Carey gets into and his ahh unique ‘solutions’ very much carry the tale along to its not quite expected conclusion. In it all PF Chisholm has worked very hard to recreate the Borders region of the 1590’s as a living breathing culture alive with plots, mischief and mayhem. She hasn’t stretched facts or come up with wildly improbable story lines like some period writers. Instead this is honestly engaging with a very dry sense of humour. Most of all it’s a damned enjoyable romp for anyone who likes historical fiction. And yes it is worth every one of the five stars I gave it!
The Liberties of London
The Queen's Oranges
View all my reviews
Thursday, September 22, 2011
According to Paul Hentzner a visitor from
Recently a good friend of mine Wayne the Leatherworking Reverend has embarked on a very tasty series of reconstruction archaeology experiments based on the recipes from The Closet of Sir Kenholm Digby, Knight Unlocked. He has been endeavouring to brew Tudor and Stuart period ales using full mash techniques appropriate to the period. Of course less the weevils and possibly some extra modern sanitation. His results have been impressive and recently I’ve had the chance to try one a Hydromel as served to the Queen so this is it;
Take 9 litres of water, 0.5l of honey, half a ginger root, two cloves, small bit of fresh rosemary, splash of English ale yeast left over from the Cock Ale (I cheated instead using a dry ale yeast).
This only took about an hour to make, first simmer the honey, but don't boil it or you'll drive off the lovely aromatics. Ferment in a sterilised brewing chamber as per a mead and bottle at the end of the fermentation process depending on the Specific Gravity reading maybe a week or so. Personally I tend to go by taste and aroma as well as keeping a good eye on the rate of bubbles in the airlock. Also remember this is a low alcohol version then 5 weeks in the bottle.
Here is the section it was based on from Digby
Take 18 quarts of spring-water, and one quart of honey; when the water is warm, put the honey into it. When it boileth up, skim it very well, and continue skimming it, as long as any scum will rise. Then put in one Race of Ginger (sliced in thin slices,) four Cloves, and a little sprig of green Rosemary. Let these boil in the Liquor so long, till in all it have boiled one hour. Then set it to cool, till it be blood-warm; and then put to it a spoonful of Ale-yest. When it is worked up, put it into a vessel of a it size; and after two or three days, bottle it up. You may drink it after six weeks, or two moneths.
Thus was the Hydromel made that I gave the Queen, which was exceedingly liked by everybody.
[The Closet of Sir Kenholm Digby, Knight Unlocked (1644), p36 in the 1669 edition]
The above link is to the whole downloadable book on Project Gutenberg.
After all that lets hope it doesn’t end up like this Tudor version
“Healthy but sickening to the taste. It is cloudy like horse urine and has husks on top” Perhaps they used Thames water like some pilloried
So in several weeks I’ll let you know how it turned out.
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
More Tudor Fiction
Good day to my growing legion of devoted readers. First before we start this instalment of Red Ned’s Tudor blog I would like you to take a moment to think of your friends and neighbours who may be experiencing problems or difficulties, I mean have you actually asked them if they are okay? Or like so many of us are you isolated by family stress, work or illness and now I think about it are you okay?
Anyway here’s a little entertainment to brighten your day. It has been too long since we looked at the state of Tudor fiction, for that I plead the pressures of writing and the long long struggle to get The Cardinal’s Angels ready for publishing. While the plan was to release it first in ahh… February, ahh (cough, cough, embarrassed mutter) life and other trivial irrelevances got seriously in the way. So while in theory the third Red Ned novel is soon to be available in Amazon Kindle I won’t stick my neck out and promise next week. In the meantime back to the exotic, lively and treacherous world of Tudor Fiction.
The book I’d like to review today is CJ Sansom’s first Tudor novel Dissolution, I must state here publically that while Red Ned Bedwell and Mathew Shardlake are both lawyers in Henry VIII’s
, there the similarity ends. His work did not serve as an inspiration for Red Ned, nor is Ned an attempt to ‘cash in’ on someone else’s well deserved praise. Though considering the excellent quality of Sansom’s series it is definitely a target for me as a writer to aim for. So firstly, a thank you to those of you who’ve flatteringly compared me to Sansom, it is an accolade I will endeavour to fulfil. London
Dissolution by C.J. Sansom
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A very sound first novel
I must admit to coming to Sansom’s historical mystery stories only very recently, although I had been aware of the series for a couple of years. Since at the time I was writing my own collection set during the reign of Henry VIII and while my main character like Sansom’s Shardlake is a lawyer in London, Ned is but a lowly apprentice. So rather than be accused of plagiarism I stuck well clear until I’d finished my first quintal of stories. In fact I finally read my first Shardlake novel over Christmas- Dissolution. Put off by the publicity write up and a little wary of the use of a hunchback hero in Tudor times, I hesitated then daring all I took the plunge and dove in. On the whole I’m glad it did, though it is true that at the conclusion I found that I had to seriously think about my reaction to the story. As a first novel it was a little rough around the edges with a few flaws in the characters, plot and historical interpretation which I personally found annoying and distracting. But I am admittedly a tad picky. Now for the positive, the overall quality was reasonable, interesting plot, a good attempt at fitting the characters to a ‘living time period’ good quality research for the story background, credible characters and a decent and engaging storyline. I feel that I can recommend it to anyone with a taste for historical fiction. I’d certainly recommend continuing through the series, his later work picks up dramatically in quality and suspense, stunningly so! As the budget allows I will be buying all of the Shardlake series.
Dissolution Amazon Kindle UK
Dissolution Amazon Kindle US
Regards Gregory House
The Liberties of London
The Queen's Oranges
View all my reviews