Latest from the H for History blog

Christmas in the Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson

Posted on: 13/12/2013 with tags: antonia hodgson, Christmas Traditions, historical novel, John Grano, The Devil in the Marshalsea

There are some cheerless places to spend Christmas. I would say that an eighteenth-century debtors’ prison would be near the top of that list – but for one prisoner at least the truth was a little more complicated than that.  While researching my debut novel – The Devil in the Marshalsea (March 2014) – I drew a lot of fascinating details from a unique prison diary*. It was written by a debtor called John Grano from the day of his arrest in May 1728 to his release in September 1729, which he cele…

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My First Christmas in Spain by C.W. Gortner

Posted on: 12/12/2013 with tags: christmas, CW Gortner, feliz navidad, Franco, history, spain

Many of my readers know that I am half-Spanish by birth, raised in southern Spain. When my family first moved to Spain from the United States, I was a six-year old child and Christmas was, as for so many children, one of my favorite times of the year. However, I had come from the US, where Christmas involved decorating a tree in lights and glittery balls, with Santa Claus and his reindeer-drawn sleigh, and leaving out a plate of cookies and glass of milk on Christmas Eve. The opening of gifts on…

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The Plum Duffs by Aly Monroe

Posted on: 11/12/2013 with tags: aly monroe, christmas, christmas truce, world war II

I write novels that are historical but just within long-lived memory. Many of my sources have spoken to me of their experiences; it helps me particularly with ‘the atmosphere’ of World War2 and its aftermath. These vary, of course, from the personal – I remember my aunt talking of her learning to draw seams on her bare legs to produce make-believe stockings when no real stockings were available – to larger matters, like bombs and ‘picking up bits of an old lady’ in Alnmouth. One of my sources ha…

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A Dickensian Christmas? – by Marina Fiorato

Posted on: 10/12/2013 with tags: charles dickens, christmas, christmas carol, Christmas Traditions, dickens, history, Marina Fiorato

If you walk down the London street where I live, it’s quite easy to imagine yourself back in time. In the winter dusk, if the cars stop for a moment and there’s no C11 bus roaring at your back, you could fancy yourself in Victorian London. The tall redbrick mansions are straight from the period in which the notion of Christmas as we know it today was first born. The dates carved above the architraves whisk me back in time, like the date dial in the Tardis. 1887, reads the number on my mansion bl…

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Saturnalia by Lindsey Davis

Posted on: 09/12/2013 with tags: author, christmas, historical fiction, historical novel, Lindsey Davis, saturnalia

Thomas Couture, Romans during the Decadence (1847) Sometimes I wonder if the Romans were ever paranoid, thinking in despair, ‘Oh no,  I’ve only got one Saturnalia present’, ‘I forgot to order the hazelnuts’, ‘I didn’t tip the wine merchant enough’, ‘what in Hades can I give the brother-in-law who is so funny about choosing his own clothes’,  ‘Help! I will never get through this!’ Of course they didn’t invent the Christian religious festival, but they didn’t need Gustav Holst to tell them their a…

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Sublime early praise for Rebecca Mascull’s debut novel THE VISITORS

Posted on: 09/12/2013 with tags: Boer War, children, debut novel, Edinburgh Festival, historical fiction, historical novel, Kent, praise, Rebecca Mascull, South Africa, The Visitors, Victorian England

We are so excited about publication of The Visitors, Rebecca Mascull’s brilliant debut novel, in January 2014, and it appears we’re not the only ones … Karen Howlett, of Cornflower Books, chose it as her book of the day. You can read her early thoughts here. There are some wonderful early reviews from readers on GoodReads here. And Stacey of Pretty Books sums up the novel thus: ‘THE VISITORSis about a deafblind girl, set in late Victorian England, but it also seems to be…

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Four classic American novels by Herman Wouk back in print in the UK

Posted on: 05/12/2013 with tags: backlist, classic, Herman Wouk, Humphrey Bogart, Majorie Morningstar, Pulitzer Prize, reissue, The Caine Mutiny

It is indeed a surprise to learn that Herman Wouk, the prize-winning American author, is still alive. But, at ninety-eight years young, Herman Wouk is not only still alive, he’s still writing. Herman Wouk, born in 1915, grew up in the Bronx in New York City, and attended Columbia University. Over the course of his long career, Wouk has published novels, plays, poetry and screen-plays (for the stage adaptations of his books). He has also kept a personal journal for most of his life; there are cur…

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Whipping Yarns – by Rory Clements

Posted on: 28/11/2013 with tags: author blog, crime and punishment, historical crime, John Shakespeare series, Rory Clements, Shakespeare, Tudor London, whipping

Punishment by whipping has been a common disciplinary measure throughout human history. In the sixteenth century, the setting for Rory Clements’ John Shakespeare series of historical crime novels, the infamous Whipping Act (1530) was passed, which directed vagrants (on the rise after the dissolution of the monasteries) to be carried to some market town or other place ‘and there tied to the end of a cart naked and beaten with whips throughout such market town till the body shall be bl…

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Julie Walker on female pirates in the 18th century

Posted on: 28/11/2013 with tags: 18th century, Anne Bonny, Bahamas, Calico Jack, Caribbean, English History, female pirates, Golden Age of Piracy, Jack Rackham, Mary Read, New Providence, pirates, role of women, seafaring, women in history

On the anniversary of the trial of notorious pirate Calico Jack (November, 1720) – famous for having two women as part of his crew – writer Julie Walker looks back at some of the women who dared to pass as men …  While the role of women was strictly regimented in the 18th century, not all took this to heart. The 18th century press gang is a familiar concept, with the British Navy taking men by force into the service where brutality, terrible conditions and even worse pay were par for the…

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The Kennedy Legend

Posted on: 22/11/2013 with tags: assassination, author blog, conspiracy theories, JFK, JFK50, Rebecca Mascull, rewrite history, The Visitors, The West Wing

by debut historical novelist Rebecca Mascull. In the mid-1980s, I was a teenager and prone to obsessions. I had a thing for true stories. I loved to watch TV docudramas and read biographies of famous people. I remember the TV movie Escape from Sobibor, which sparked a life-long fascination with WWII and particularly the Holocaust.                    I wrote a novel about it, before I wrote THE VISITORS. I saw it on TV, then bought the book – this wasn’t so easy in those days, long before the int…

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