Red Ned Tudor Mysteries

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Next Big Thing in Tudor England

Greetings my well regarded readers, I hope that all is well with you and yours as we rapidly approach the Yuletide celebrations.  Remember feast and quaff in moderation and if in doubt don’t drive, I’d like to see you all alive and relaxed after the New Year.  Today I have a few announcements before we move on to the body of the blog.  Firstly A very big thank you to fellow Aussie Historical Fiction Author Barbara Gaskin Denvil
for selecting me for The Next Big Thing, a kind of blog style pass the parcel packed full of hidden treasures.
I’m sharing this wonderful experience with several other talent writers so I highly recommend a visit to their sites.
ANNA BELFRAGE on 22nd December -
 A RIP IN THE VEIL is the first book of THE GRAHAM SAGA.

JULIET WALDRON will also post on 22nd December -
ROAN ROSE a tale set in the latter years of the War of the Roses

Darlene is well known amongst historical fiction devotees as a discerning reviewer and I’ve heard some time soon we’ll be treated to her first published novel.

What is the working title of your next book?
Now that’s an easy question, The Smithfield Shambles hopefully out in January 2013.

Where did the idea come from for this book?
Well the wholes series actually, so many fine writers have worked over the machinations and dalliances of the Tudor Court of Henry VIII that I was unsure jemmy open a Ned Bedwell shaped space in the sub genre.  Then I though of one area almost everyone else had seemed to forget.  The King may royally command, the Lord Chancellor may order the writ and the Privy Secretary may seal and instruct.  But after that, who’s the poor sod further down the hierarchy who get the cuff over the ear or the boot in the arse and grumbling over late pay has to get the task done…or else.  In short its Red Ned Bedwell pursuivant, apprentice lawyer and aspiring rogue.

What genre does your book fall under?
Being set in the Tudor era in the reign of Henry VIII the novel slots into the Mystery section of the Historical fiction genre.  I had briefly considered that it may have inclined more towards the adventure end of the genre, but also all of Ned’s tasks involve shadowy Tudor figures, duplicity or treachery so Mystery it is.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
To play the lead of Red Ned we require a certain brash youthful arrogance combined with the misfortunate timing of Johnny English.  One thought is Simon Pegg of Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead fame though I’m open for suggestions.
As for Meg Black Penelope Cruz would be pretty good pick, she has the size and the fiery temperament to match the Tudor apothecary’s apprentice.  And if that’s so then only one actor could play her brother Jason Momoa from the recent Conan, Game of Thrones and Stargate.  Finally as the looming threatening presence of Gruesome Roger only one actor immediately springs to mind, Geoffrey Rush who made a wonderful Captain Barbossa in Pirates of the Caribbean and a very menacing Walsingham in Elizabeth.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?
Repeated attempts of mayhem and murder upon the person of apprentice lawyer Red Ned Bedwell, while he undertakes his various duties for Secretary Cromwell or his Uncle Richard Rich is nothing new.  Until now, a dark comedy of mistaken identity, murderous intent and a will.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Now that is a very easy question to answer, I personally believe I have more control over my work if I continue to be an Indie self-publisher.  Considering the constraints on writers in Australia, both geographic and cultural, self publishing is the only route that doesn’t take several years of unrewarding effort and heartbreak.

How long did it take you to finish the first draft of your manuscript?
The first draft of Cardinal’s Angels and Liberties both took one month including all day and long into the night.  In each case the editing and polishing took much longer than the writing as the tale was reforged and refined into a more professional piece.  This time included commas, full stops and paragraph breaks in the right place.

What other books would you compare this to within your genre?
My fondest hope is to be compared favourably to Lindsey Davis with her Falco series or PF Chisholm and her roguish hero Sir Robert Carey.  In my particular Tudor period I’ve been frequently compared with CJ Sansom, which I find flattering though hardly comparable.  Sansom’s his main character Shardlake is a complex flawed hero and lives in a much darker, grimmer Tudor world.  Young Ned is still brimming with enthusiasm and a somewhat over confident eagerness since he’s only beginning his mystery apprenticeship.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Now I very glad you asked that question because it gives me an opportunity to belatedly blow the sackbut for A Notable Discovery of Coosnage 1591 and The Second Part of Cony Catching 1592, by that scandalous rogue and contemporary of Will Shakespeare, Master Robert Greene.  A ‘gentlemen’ gifted with a quill dipped in vitriol and a vindictive streak wider than the Thames.  His descriptions of the arts of cosenage or to use the modern term ‘scam’ are wickedly amusing and the source for many of Ned’s misfortunes.  Another more recent notable writer also serves as inspiration PG Wodehouse with his amusing anecdotes of the adventures of Bertie Wooster.  While PF Chisholm’s excellent A Famine of Horse gave me the direct impetuous for Red Ned Bedwell.

What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?
Humour and a detailed and different view of the Tudor world are two elements that make these stories stand out from the rest.  As is common with most novels in the Historical Mystery subgenre Ned is presented with a puzzling challenge, something or someone is out of kilter and usually unwillingly he is tasked with solving the conundrum.  Unfortunately for Ned being only a young and lowly legal apprentice, he possesses neither the keen intellect of a Sherlock Holmes or the quiet persistence and intuition of Poirot.  Instead Ned has to depend upon his hard won knowledge of cosenage and the nefarious ways of rogues and roisters. 

Regards this Solstice and Yuletide- Greg

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Lord of Misrule Released On Amazon!

New Red Ned Novel Out!

Greetings my well regarded readers, I hope that all is well with you and yours as we rapidly approach the Yuletide celebrations.  Today I have a few announcements before we move on to the body of the blog.  First I would to extend my heartfelt sympathies to the family of Jacinta Saldanha, the staff of King Edward VIII hospital and Kate Middleton the Duchess of Cambridge for the trauma and sorrow caused by the deceitful, cowardly and callous actions of a few of my fellow Australians.  My personal reactions to this crime of fraud and breach of privacy is detailed in my other blog Prognostications and Pouting so for any interested I suggest you clink on the link for a quick visit.

To happier news, I would also like to announce that a new Red Ned story has been released on Amazon- The Lord of Misrule.  This new volume of Red Ned Bedwell’s misadventures is a compilation of the Yuletide tales comprising The Liberties of London, The Fetter Lane Fleece and the latest story A Comfit of Rogues, all brought together into one handy volume.  This will also be the first of my novels that will be committed to hard copy printing and with luck should be available by Christmas.

Now since I’ve already released prologues of all these novellas it’s pretty pointless to do so again.  Instead I thought I’d put up a short list of my Tudor sources, with a brief justification as to why a majority of  historical fiction writers go to such great lengths to present their story in its proper setting.
As with most writers those of us in this genre would like to take you on a journey into the past.  Sometimes just a decade or two, or maybe stretching back deep into the prehistory of the Neolithic.  To weave the visual and mnemonic tapestry of the tale requires a special set of talents, imagination, creativity, commitment, storytelling ability and most importantly resources to draw upon for the historical flavour and texture.  Luckily in these modern times we are blessed with the wonder of the internet, which has been both an enormous boon for its quantity of information and somewhat of a peril for its varying and occasionally dubious quality.  However for the serious historical fiction writer there is always the old standby resource - books.  Lots of them.
Visit the home of just about any writer of this genre and no doubt you’ll find book cases packed to the gunwales of all manner and type, both fiction and non fiction.  For this is the well of inspiration, the salmon of knowledge, where in we dip for the textural landscape of our setting. Such as the size and shape of the buildings, the weft of the clothing the sight and all too often smell of the era.  And most of all the placement and situations of our characters, their families, friends and rivals the very nature of their conflict, adversity or experience.  Without the aid of these splendid props our work would be so much the poorer, merely a thin soup of a serving, instead of a rich spicy banquet fit to stun the senses.
So as an inspiration and an example of some of the library here is a short list of the contents of my library.

The Lord of Misrule Book links

Tudor Bibliography

Tudor London

Elizabeth’s London, Liza Picard

The Riverside Gardens of Thomas More’s London, Christianson
The A-Z of Elizabethan London
The Renaissance European Painting 1400-1600, McCorquodale
Cities of the Renaissance World, Swift and Konstam
The History of London in Maps Barker and Jackson
Walking Shakespeare’s London
Shakespeare’s London


Tudor Warfare

Weapons of Warre- The Mary Rose Trust
Elizabeth’s Wars Paul, E J Hammer
The Confident Hope of a Miracle, Neil Hanson
The Great Enterprise, Mattingly
War and Society in Renaissance Europe, JR Hale
Weapons and Warfare in Renaissance Europe, Bert S Hall.
Gunpowder, Jack Kelly
English Warfare 1511- 1642, Mark Fissel
the Military Revolution, Geoffrey Parker
Early Gunpowder Artillery, John Norris
Arms and Armour Annual, R. Held ed
Art Arms and Armour 1979-80, R Held ed.
Hafted Weapons in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, John Waldman
Osprey Publications
Henry VIII’s Army
Tudor Knights
The German Peasant Wars

Tudor Society

The Elizabethan Underworld, Gamini Salgado
A Notable Discovery of Coosnage 1591, Robert Greene
The Second Part of Cony Catching 1592, Robert Greene
A Groat’s Worth of Wit 1592, Robert Greene
The Early Tudors at Home Elizabeth Burton
The Tudor Housewife, Alison Sim
Tudor Pastimes and Pleasure, Alison Sim
Food and Feast in Tudor England Alison Sim
The Tudor Law of Treason, Bellamy
Strange and Inhuman Deaths Murder in Tudor England, Bellamy
Big Chief Elizabeth, Giles Milton
Undreamed Shores, Michael Foss
Tudor Rebellions, A Fletcher and Diarmaid McCulloch
Tudor England, ST Bindoff
Beer in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, Richard W Unger
Ale Beer and brewing: Women’s Work in a Changing World, Judith M Bennett
Treason in Tudor England, Lacy Baldwin Smith
The Pilgrimage of Grace, Moorhouse
English Merchant Shipping 1460-1540 Dorothy Burwash
Rethinking the Henrican Era, Herman Ed.
Foul Bills and Dagger Money R G Hamilton
Invisible Power: the Elizabethan Secret Service Alan Hayes
Medicine and Society in Later Medieval England
The Tudor Constitution, G R Elton
Authority and Disorder in Tudor Times 1485-1603, Paul Thomas
A Time Traveller’s Guide to Elizabethan England, Mortimer
The Complete works of William Shakespeare
Contested Will Who wrote Shakespeare, J Shapiro
What the Tudors Did for Us, Adam Hart-Davis
All the King’s Cooks: The Tudor Kitchens of Henry VIII at Hampton Court Palace, Peter Brears
Ale Beer and Brewsters in England, Judith M. Bennett
The Cambridge History of Urban Britain Vols 1-2
The Tudor Tailor, Mikhaila and Malcolm Davies
Period Costume for Stage and Screen 1500-1800, Jean Hunnisett
The Patterns of fashion, Janet Arnold

Tudor Court

In the Lion’s Court, Derek Wilson
The Life and Letters of Thomas Cromwell, Merriman
Letters to Cromwell, Cooke
The Lisle Letters, ed Muriel St Clare Bryne
Thomas More, Marius
Thomas More, Ackroyd
Thomas More, Roper and Harpsfield
Wolsey, Cavendish
The Reign of Henry VIII, Starkey
The Statesman and the Fanatic –Thomas Wolsey and Thomas More, Ridley
Rivals in Power, Starkey
A Tudor Tragedy, Lacy Baldwin Smith
The Mask of Royalty Henry VIII, Lacy Baldwin Smith
A Tudor Tragedy, Neville Williams
The Double Life of Doctor Lopez, Dominic Green
Henry VIII’s Divorce Literature and the Politics of the Printing Press, J C Warner
Great Harry, Carolly Erikson
Henry VIII The King and his Court, Alison Weir
The Children of England; The Heirs of Henry VIII Alison Weir
Elizabeth the Queen Weir
Mary Boleyn Alison Weir
The Lady in the Tower Alison Weir
The Six Wives of Henry VIII Alison Weir
Mary Tudor England’s First Queen, Whitlock
Henry VIII, Scarisbrick
Henry VIII, Bowles
The Last Days of Henry VIII, Hutchinson
Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII’s most notorious minister, Hutchinson
Anne Boleyn, Joan Denny
Who’s Who in Tudor England, Rouse
The Infamous Lady Rochford, Julia Fox
The Queen’s Conjurer Benjamin, Woolley
The Uncrowned Kings of England, Derek Wilson
The Tudor Queens, Loades
Elizabeth, Starkey
Elizabeth’s Women, Tracy Borman
Mary Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley, Alison Weir
Arabella England’s Lost Queen, Sarah Gristwood
My Heart is Not My Own, John Guy


The Reformation, Diarmaid McCulloch
The Pursuit of the Millennium, Norman Cohen
God’s Bestseller, Moynaham
Reformation Europe 1517-1559, G R Elton
Bloody Mary’s Martyrs, Ridley
Schisms in Christianity and the rise of Protestantism

Then of course we have the internet sources such as academic articles, national archives, online archives, the Guttenberg Project and university dissertations and if your keen that can take up weeks in the searching and compiling.  I think we’ll leave a taste of those resources for a later occasion.
To all my readers keep safe and well in this lead up to Yuletide and unlike Red Ned quaff in moderation.
Regards Gregory House

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Comfit of Rogues Released on Amazon

 New Red Ned Novel out
Greetings my well regarded readers, I hope that all is well with you and yours this All Souls Eve, or All Hallows Eve for those in the north and Beltain for us in the southerly climes.  Today I have a few announcements before we move on to the body of the blog.  First I would to extend my heartfelt sympathies to those lost and injured during Hurricane Sandy and highly commend all the rescue workers and ordinary people who are doing such splendid work helping their neighbours and their communities.  If possible I’d like to encourage everyone to give aid to the Red Cross for what I fear is the start of a very long recovery. 
As well I would also like to announce that as of today a new Red Ned story has been released on Amazon- A Comfit of Rogues.  This tale, also set in novella form carries on from Ned’s near disastrous venture in The Fetter Lane Fleece.

Ned has tweaked the noses of the Masters of Mischief and Roguery in the City and Liberties of London once too often.  Putting aside their rivalry they’ve signed a compact to ensure the removal of this meddlesome apprentice lawyer and aspiring rogue.  So can Ned count on anyone in the London Underworld for support, or is the reward of five gold angels in coin too much temptation for treachery? 
Plots, plunder and the occasional hobby horse abound, in Tudor London this Misrule.
The next tale of Ned’s Yuletide and Misrule adventures after The Liberties of London and The Fetter Lane Fleece.  including a cast of rogues, beggars and lowly Londoners.

For your delight and amusement I’m putting up chapter 1 on this blog, please feel free to pass this around.  Also as an All Hallows treat the previous Red Ned novel A Fetter Lane Fleece will be available as a free download from Amazon for two days from 1st Nov (12am Pacific Standard Time ie Seattle) .  So put your feet up have a chortle over poor Ned and stay safe this week.

Regards Gregory House

A Comfit of Rogues Book links


The Fetter Lane Fleece

Chapter One A Christmas Calling

The chill breath of winter blew down the lanes of New Rents Southwark, a setting the window shutters rattling and the painted signs above swaying to and fro. It also forced the small band trudging through the flurries of wind–driven snow to huddle deeper into their collection of ragged cloaks and worn gowns as they muttering and cursing at the weather. At the front their leader didn’t give the complaints any mind, though his bulbous nose glowed red with the cold and the straggly brown locks escaping from under his tattered cap were caked in icy sleet. No matter the weather, even if it were Satan’s own fearsome flaming farts you faced, only a lack brained fool keen for a bruising or worse would have dared to voice a challenge to an order from Canting Michael. And Gulping Jemmy wasn’t near that foolish, so he turned a deaf ear to the mutinous mutters and grumbled curses behind him and forged ahead deeper into the chancy lanes of New Rents. So they were nervous and afraid. Phew, what a pack of trembling pizzle pullers! Weren’t they the fearsome lads of Canting Michael, gang lord of Southwark and the baiting pits?
Gulping grinned as he ‘overheard’ one of the lads whispering to poor Will the tales about Gryne’s Men and how they hacked apart those who crossed them in bloody retribution. As tales went it had it all, packed full of gruesome detail along with the useful caveat that in essence it was true. Most of Southwark had seen the parade of the lopped trunk and several assorted parts impaled on an array of pikes escorted by Gryne’s Men last summer. Even Justice Overton, their blinkered magistrate, who reputedly only noticed a gold angel thrust in front of his nose, had witnessed the precession to the pillory at High Street. Canting himself had watched nodding with grim approval, then as an aside curiously wondering how their goodly, honest and worthy Justice would ascribe this death on the mortuary bill, severe ague perhaps or possibly accidental drowning.
It had been neither and Gulping Jemmy should know. He’d seen the listing for the day. It’d cost him a groat to the clerk but the expense had been worth it. The proof had won him a shilling and a slightly worn cambric shirt from Reaching Richard the hookman. So for him the journey to the Gryne Dragone, lair of Gryne’s Men, was naught to be concerned over. If his escort shivered and shook with more dread than cold at the squeal of the chains holding the carved and painted dragone, that was all to the good.
A greater fright awaited as they approached the door. Suddenly a six foot tall door warden, a great butcher’s blade in hand, lurched out of a covered shelter. From the abruptly muffled squeal Jemmy could swear young Will, their most recently recruited roister had dampened his codpiece. The door warden snarled and Jemmy’s retinue flinched. Their leader though returned his own cheery grin and brushed the snow off the collar of his worn heavy scarlet gown. “Good day Wat. Is the Captaine in?”
His question was answered with a short grunt and a tilt of the cleaver sized implement indicated that Jemmy was allowed entrance. With a friendly nod and the toss of a small coin he pushed the door open and whistling he stepped out of the cold. As he should have expected the gasp and whimper of incipient terror once more came from young Will. Jemmy shook his head in mock regret over the sad quality of Canting’s latest retainer. If the lad hadn’t been the favoured son of the gang lord’s sister he’d still be a carpenter’s arse, and a poor one at that.
In Southwark the choice of boozing kens was many and varied. A fellow, if he chose could toss down sour ale by the firkin in a tumbled down hovel of an ale house. By law and statute such places had to be identified by a green bush out front, though it was commonly a few withered leaves on a broken branch. There he may get rolled by thieves and cutpurses or purge his guts from sour maggoty ale, but life was full of diverse pleasures and risks. Alternately if flushed with silver the Tabard Inn on High Street was the perfect place—fresh rushes on the floor, a decent brew with possibly better company and or at least less chance of puking his pint. Even so the punks were of a better sort. Jemmy should know. He ‘personally’ collected the rents. In between these extremes stood a tavern such as the Gryne Dragone. It possessed a good sized common room, a blazing fire, fine ale and the reputation for serving a tasty pottage and usually a roasted ordinary dripping in savoury juices, all of which would normally draw in a sizable clientele from Southwark’s finest. Except for one slight difference.
Most taverns made an effort to decorate with whitewashed walls and timber wainscoting. The wealthier few even pushed extravagance to a mock canvas tapestry or painted plaster. Here they’d gone a step further or maybe depending on your taste a whole mile. The walls were fitted out like the racks of the Ward muster armoury. Pole arms, spears, bills, axes and spiked maces jostled for room with stands of half armour and great swords. Now unlike some lord’s hall where this was a statement of past glories and ancient martial deeds, Jemmy, like the rest of his band could see by the gleam of oiled and polished ironware that this array was sharp and ready for instant and bloody use. For Captaine Gryne this served as the well–arranged display of any quality craftsmen, though unlike the shops in the street of the goldsmiths it wasn’t fancy gilt and silver ewers he had on show. And this wasn’t all. The Captaine didn’t just offer the wares of war but also the skilled muscle to wield them, for a price. And this was why Will had wilted so completely. At any time the tavern held a dozen odd veterans of the battles in France, Italy or further afield. During the festivities of Christmas that number tripled and then some. Even the boldest rogue would have faltered at the way the assembly swivelled as one to view their ‘guests’. So many fearsome battle scarred faces lacking eyes, teeth and noses could unbalance the humours of even the most stout—hearted roister. As for poor Will, the lad possessed the stomach and fortitude of a mouse.
Jemmy was by now immune to the subdued menace. He waved the company a cheerful greeting, and ignoring the keen eyed calculations of worth and mayhem, took an empty seat at a table by the fire. His company clustered at his back as if trying on a display of swagger. He let them stew in their own sweaty fear for a long minute then sent them off to hide in relative safety at a bench by the door. Anyway Will’s cod piece reeked like a tanner’s yard and by the fire it steamed noxiously.
Keeping up his friendly smile Jemmy lent back against the wall pulling out a small bone comb and quickly flicked it through his greasy brown locks, then with a heavy thumb nail cracked the captured lice. With Captaine Gryne one waited patiently and smiled…always.
By the distinctive peel of the church bells of St Mary Overie by the river he’d been waiting about an hour when the tavern door swung open and in stomped a troop of heavily cloaked men. Most peeled off to various tables but two continued their passage to Jemmy’s table. The first was a tall, lean and swarthy fellow with coal black hair and a mouth set in a permanent sneer from a sword cut. Hand on dagger he gave Jemmy a close and long inspection. As with the rest of the company in the tavern Jemmy continued to display a cheery smile. Master Swarthy Sneer gave a last slit eyed glare and stepped back.
An even larger figure moved into the vacant spot and after unfurling yards of heavy cloak from around his shoulders, revealed a broad strong face and a long red beard split German fashion into two forks over a satin black leather doublet. The new arrival sat down on the opposite bench, hands powerful enough to snap the necks of mastiffs at rest on the oaken boards of the table. A large pottery jug of freshly warmed wine and two silver cups were placed between them. Master Swarthy Sneer performed the duties of a livery servant and filled both cups to the brim. A delicate waft of rich vapour spiralled up. The Master of the Gryne Dragone and Captaine of Gryne’s Men picked up one of the cups, and holding it under his nose drew in the trail of steaming wine then downed it in a single swallow and nodded with approval. “So Gulping Jemmy, how stands ta Misrule festivities o’ Canting Michael?”
Given his pledge of safety Jemmy took his own leisure sip. Hmm, good Gascon. Captaine Gryne was never one to stint on quality. He slowly put his hand into his doublet and pulled out a heavy clinking pouch and slid it across to Captaine Gryne. “Canting gives ‘is respects Captaine.”
Gryne nodded and pushed the purse to his left. As if summoned a young man with all the mannerisms of a clerk scurried out from a curtained alcove. Without any command he immediately emptied the purse, and tally book open, began to count out Canting Michael’s black rent. The scribbler paid close attention and noted down every coin even to a clipped groat. It was said you could cheat Captaine Gryne but once. A few years ago one clerk had tried to pull some coining cozenage on the Captaine’s rents. Gryne apparently had listened to the gabbled excuses and decided the snivelling penner wasn’t wholly to blame and thus only broke the fingers of both hands. Some may scoff and shake their heads but the play of cozenage did require a certain level of honesty, if only to those above.
As the counting continued the Captaine called for a serving of ale, and still playing servant Master Swarthy poured a full measured firkin. Jemmy pulled the timber staved tankard towards him and smacked his lips in appreciation. “Care fo’ a wager Captaine, mayhap on who’s the quickest, fo’ say a firkin?”
Jemmy grinned hopefully. The large man opposite remained silent for a brief second then barked out a short laugh and slapped his palm down on the scrubbed boards of the table. The snap echoed like the sudden belch of a great Gonne. “Jemmy, Jemmy ‘at’s a forlorn hope. I’s seen ya’ guzzle a good couple o’ gallons an’ still stand. I’ll nay take yr’ cozeners ploy.”
Jemmy gave shrug as if the Captaine was losing out on the most certain of opportunities and taking the refusal as yet another round in the monthly game o’ sport they played at the Gryne Dragone, moved onto a more fruitful piece of business. “So Captaine, ‘ave yea ‘eard o’ ta latest ploy o’ ta Bedwell lad?”
Gryne’s heavy red beard moved up and down in a slow nod. “Oh aye, some wild rumour reached me o’ strange doings ov’r on the Fleete a night or so past.”
Jemmy gave his usual half grin. Common gentlemen looked at Gryne and saw only a hired sword, or in this case a great sword for cleaving men in twain. If that were so Canting wouldn’t be the one handing over black rent every month for the ‘safety’ of his Baiting pits. Gryne skimmed a shilling from the pile of coins towards Jemmy. In a practiced flash it disappeared with nary the twitch of a hand. “Tsk, tsk. Flaunty Phil over at ta Fleece tis in a right state. ‘is nose were flattened by a bucket tis said.”
Gryne’s beard split for a moment to reveal a brief broken toothed smile. “Aye an’ the lad fair singed Delphina’s golden crown. Both o’ em are spittin’ fury an revenge all over ta Liberties.” The fierce smile grew wider and the Irish accented tones of Gryne rumbled. “I’s heard young Bedwell won ta Fleete Street race, a’ bare arsed as bishop’s altar boy.”
Now it was Jemmy’s turn to nod. Only a fool would assume Captaine Gryne hadn’t heard about the misfortunes of Red Ned Bedwell. As he knew the shilling was an inducement for depth and breadth to the rumour. “That’s so, in a storm o’ ice an’ snow fram what I’s ’eard. Ned’s a lucky lad. If Lord Frast’s breath were any chillier ’is precious stones woulda froze more than the Thames. A wee tap would hae them shatter like glass baubles!”
Gryne gave an amused chuckle at the image then teased out a little more of his knowledge. “Aye tis said it came close but the apothecary lass he’s a sweet on pulled his chestnuts ut o’ the fire.”
Now it was Jemmy’s turn to grin. He’d met the ‘apothecary lass’ during Ned’s last scheme at cony catching over Bermondsey way. It didn’t take much to remember that very attractive line of neck and shoulder leading to a well packed bodice. Oh yes and sparkling eyes. It mattered naught that she’d played him as a cony with a drugged posset. He was fairly caught and gave due credit to a worthy mistress of cosenage. Jemmy lent forward over the table keen for the meat of the tale for his own curiosity even if Canting wasn’t going to grill him when he returned. “Oh aye?”
“Yea. His codpiece parts were soaked in fresh piss every hour, just like those coneys a’ the Biddle! An he ‘ad no lack o’ friends ta supply t’ steamin’ liquor!”
Gryne’s laugh boomed off the wall and Jemmy readily joined in. Ahh, young Red Ned did get himself into some fine scraps. He’d have paid silver to see Ned’s grimace as his mates unlaced their codpieces and hoes then let forth the stream. Though as strange as the remedy seemed he’s wasn’t moon–calfed enough to scoff at Mistress Black’s regimen of physick, but by Satan’s own blackened bollocks, her cures always had a bitter bite, or so he’d heard.
Having given the reputation of Red Ned Bedwell, young rogue of note, a good pasting for his Fleece folly, Jemmy appeared to relax then took a slurp of the Gryne Dragone ale. As he’d come to know it was a fine drop. Captaine Gryne always had the best double strength ale, aged a year in the barrel by some accounts, only served to those he considered his ‘especial’ friends and since Jemmy felt himself a very useful especial friend indeed, he casually eased out his most valuable morsel of news. “By ta by Captaine have yea ’eard o’ ta meeting Earless Nick wants at ta Bear’s Inn on the morrow?”
The raising of a shaggy eyebrow was his answer.
“He’s called in all ta gang lord’s o’ London, Cantin’ Michael, Flaunty Phil an Ol’Bent Bart ta name a few. I’d a thought yea would ’ave received a letter o’ invitation.”
Captaine Gryne’s eyes didn’t flicker or twitch. Instead his hand moved towards the pile of coins laid out for the tally and skimmed a golden angel towards his visitor. Instantly it vanished into Jemmy’s doublet as he drained the tankard in one long steady swallow after which the tankard smacked down on the table and Jemmy rose up giving his host a respectful tilt of his cap as thanks for the hospitality. “I’ll bid yea a good feastin’ this Misrule and Christmastide Captaine.”
The master of Gryne’s Men gave a slow nod in reply but other than that made no further comment. Acquiring his retinue including the reeking Will on the way out Jemmy strode happily into the grey light of Christmas whistling a jaunty tune. Tomorrow was promising to be very entertaining and fair bulging with golden promise as well.

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Comfit of Rogues

 New Red Ned Novel out soon!

Greetings my well regarded readers, I hope that all is well with you and yours this northern Fall or southern Spring.  Today I have a few announcements before we move on to the body of the blog.  First I would like to congratulate Hilary Mantel at winning the Booker prize for the second time for her continuation of the Thomas Cromwell story in Bringing up the Bodies.  It is a splendid endorsement for all historical fiction across the genre and shows that our common past is a fertile ground for writers and readers.  So three cheers for Hilary!
I would also like to announce that this week a new Red Ned story will be released on Amazon- A Comfit of Rogues.  This tale, also set in novella form carries on from Ned’s near disastrous venture in The Fetter Lane Fleece.  It would appear that Ned has tweaked the noses of the Masters of Mischief and Roguery in the City and Liberties of London once too often.  Putting aside their rivalry they’ve signed a compact to ensure the removal of the meddlesome apprentice lawyer Ned Bedwell.  So can Ned count on anyone in the London Underworld for support, or is the reward of five gold angels in coin too much temptation for treachery? 

Prologue. A Festive Gathering

Throughout the Christian realm of His Sovereign Majesty King Henry VIII the twelve days of Christmas was a time of celebration. Doors and lynch gates were framed with holly and ivy and the last fasting ended on Christmas Eve with a joyous feast of the Saviour’s birth in every lord’s hall, yeoman’s house and beggar’s hovel. The Black Goat on Bride Lane in the Liberties of the Ward of Farrington Without was no exception, though here they also maintained the old tradition of a Lord of Misrule. For the season some wards and parishes proclaimed a boy bishop or elevated a humble servant with complimentary ragged rogues serving as the officers of Butler and Chancellor. Here only one man held that title and the bestowal of traditional gifts and favours, Earless Nick, the Lord of the Liberties from London Wall to Temple Bar.
This wasn’t any titled demesne such as that of the Duke of Norfolk with a carefully scripted parchment heavy with gilt and seals, though like a distant Howard ancestor it was a rank gained by the practice of murder and the ready effusion of blood. Not that this distinction mattered to those in the long procession snaking out of the tavern door. Earless Nick’s whims or pleasures held them enthralled in tighter bonds than even the slaves of the Sultan of the Moors, and considering the recent debacle here at the Black Goat, Nick’s moods had tended towards the darker shades of choler. There was also another factor that held them. Past Earless Nick’s silk draped chair of state was a feast of such sumptuousness that few had beheld outside of the Cardinal’s palace of Whitehall at York Place; capons in almond douce sauce, smothered rabbits and onions, a white pudding of hog’s liver, jelly hippocras and a roasted pheasant complete with feathers. As for the sweets and subtleties, one clever cross biter whispered to his drooling friends that three pounds of blanched almond sugar went into the modelled replica of Newgate Tower alone. For fellows and punks who scrounged, begged and thieved for a bowl of warm pease and bacon potage this was a spread of foods beyond compare. A veritable paradise of pleasure…though for some surveying their skimpy gleanings, gaining a seat at the feast wasn’t their only concern.
One by one the line shuffled towards the finely dressed figure taking his ease on lordly seat, each member of the fraternity dropping to their knees and presenting their prizes for judgement. To complete the feudal scene a clerk stood beside Earless scribbling notations in an iron clasped, leather bound book as the offerings were displayed. Then if acceptable, Wall-eyed Willis, Nick’s master of rogues and veteran of fifty fights in the brawling pits, would wave one of his lumbering lads forward to take the prizes and convey them to the heavy iron strapped chest set against the wall. After this Earless Nick would stare at his grovelling petitioner for a few seconds in deep deliberation before waving them off to join the company at the back of the commons who’d partake of the feast.
However in the regard of Earless Nick not all gifts were so easily accepted. One lanky longbearded fellow in a ragged cloak stepped forward and presented a bundle of clothes. Earless Nick frowned at the offering and signalled for it to be shaken out by a waiting minion and sat there tapping his lip with a ring covered finger. “Tis a poor week for a hookman tis it, Dickon?”
The hookman cringed at the question, his beard almost brushing the floor. “Aye Master Nick. Tis the snow an’ cold. They’s keeps their shutters sealed up tighter than a bishops cellar!”
Earless Nick gave a wintery smile and nodded. “So Dickon, its latched and shuttered windows that is the cause of your miserable pickings. Hmm, two old cambric shirts and a worn patched set of hoses.”
Dickon the hook man quickly nodded and spluttered out agreement through quivering lips. “Aye Master Nick. Tis ta cold fo’ them ta hang ou’ their clothes an sa’ I can’t gets em.”
Earless Nick continued to smile as he buffed his silvered rings on a piece of damask cloth. “So it wasn’t you seen passing four fine shirts to Ol’ Simkins in Little Drury?”
Dickon the hookman gulped nervously as his eyes darted around the common room seeking out the informant. “Na’ it weren’t I Master Nick. Sum cuffin’s a lying rogue ta yea.”
Earless Nick’s smile broadened as he picked up a horn cup and dropped a pair of dice into it. “Well Dickon, it may be so. Indeed it may and I’s a fair master so according to custom yea can throw an let the good Lord decide your fate.”
The hookman’s hand shook as he took the proffered cup and the dice rattled like a gallows drummer. Covering the open mouth of the cup with a grimy hand Dickon gave a wheezing prayer then spilled the dice on the floor with an abrupt fling
“Hmm, that’s a poor cast Dickon, a two.” Earless fastidiously rubbed his fingers with the velvet damask and scooped up the dice, a quick swirl around the cup and they leapt out then rolled to a stop displaying a ‘nick’. Earless leant back in his chair and shook his head in mock sadness. “The Lord God has judged against yea Dickon.”
The defeated hookman grovelled at his master’s feet whimpering and pleading as two of Wall-eye’s scowling lads dragged him over to a close set pair of posts to which they tied his arms. Nick gave another brief wave and one of Dickon’s escorts began lashing his back with a length of knotted rope. In between the howls of pain Earless Nick cast a long slow look at the gathered members of his company. Then into the sobbing silence he spoke in a voice low and menacing. “No man cheats the Lord of the Liberties. Remember it.”
The assembly cheered with eager gusto flavoured by the fact that it wasn’t them getting the beating. Given the last reception to the head of the queue there was no complaint as a pair of figures pushed their way to the front, though they did garner a fair amount of whispered speculation. The woman from her worn scarlet kirtle and pulled down chemise had to be a punk. Only a lass interested in gathering ‘trade’ would expose that much pale breast on a chilly winter’s day. To the rest of the crowd it wasn’t just the recent flogging that had them pull back. With her long blonde hair and vivid green cap only the most blind of beggars wouldn’t recognise Earless Nick’s favoured girl, Anthea, leader of the St Paul’s punks. But favour was a tricky thing. It ebbed and flowed like the Thames and according to many a sage whisper, due to the recent disturbance, Anthea was dry beached on the shores of Nick’s ill content.
The Lord of the Liberties spent some time watching the play of candlelight on a recent present, a gold ring inset with a sapphire, before acknowledging her presence with a twitched finger. As for her guest, the cloaked and hooded figure, it was as if it were as insubstantial as a spirit for all the regard Nick gave it. “Anthea my poppet, I’ve missed yea these last days. I hopes yea have recompense for your previous failings…?”
The question hung in the air with a dreadful menace and the audience of the Tavern swung their fascinated gaze towards the advancing punk. All were keen that someone other than them should suffer the further ill–humoured wrath of the Lord of Misrule. Anthea visibly swallowed then locked her arm around that of a hooded stranger before stepping forward into the empty space between the retreating petitioners and the Master of the Liberties. The punk captaine shook her long hair out of her eyes that glinted evilly in the reflected orange glow from the yuletide log. Several nips and foisters crossed themselves flinching as she passed, some making furtive gestures to avert ill fortune. Then at a pace’s distance with much bowing and grovelling Anthea threw herself down on her knees beside the chair of state and clutched at the hand of Earless Nick, rubbing her face on it like a fawning hound. “Nick my luv, I’s have a gift fo’ thee, a wonderful gift, the likes yea have not seen afo’. A sweet gift fo’ my sweet Lord o’ the Liberties.”
Nick turned his coldly impassive face toward his formerly favoured punk. The chilling interest reflected in his eyes would have set even the meanest wild rogue a trembling with fear. His lips stretched to the barest flicker of a smile. “And what of my gift…my sweetling?”
Anthea drew the hooded stranger forward. The visitor didn’t bow or kneel instead inclining a shrouded face towards Earless Nick and with a shielding hand began to whisper. The Lord of Misrule’s face remained blandly still though to those close enough to see, his eyes did appear to glitter from time to time with a malevolent spirit. Finally the hooded figure drew back and Earless Nick clapped his hands together like the snap of an harquebus and grinned with savage delight. “Oh Anthea you are my best lass, a true pearl beyond compare and this is a wonderful Yuletide gift payment and revenge all wrapped in one. Hah! No man cheats the Lord o’ the Liberties of his winnings and certainly not that lawyerly whelp!”
Earless Nick slammed his fist onto the table and grabbing his silver gilt cup thrust it in the air. “A toast! A toast! Raise high yer cups, cos a sennight hence Red Ned Bedwell will be swinging at Tyburn, or food for worms!”
The sack fuelled cheer echoed out the doorway into the winter snow and whispered in rumour through the Liberties. The Lord of Misrule was out for revenge.