Get to Know Damian Seeker
Posted on: 27/06/2016
S.G MacLean talks us through the genesis of her Cromwellian hero Damian Seeker.
I first encountered Damian Seeker on cold, misty December afternoon, walking through scrubland in a Highland wood. I was there alone, but for our black Labrador, who didn’t seem to notice the tall, black-clad and helmeted stranger who’d just emerged on to the path in front of us. Usually, such an encounter would have absolutely terrified me, but this one didn’t – I’d never seen the man before, but I knew instantly who he was and why he was there, and I knew his name was Damian Seeker.
To go back a little: I had recently watched a documentary on seventeenth century London, presented by Dan Cruickshank. Cruickshank is a very engaging presenter and within minutes I was hooked on the vibrant, teeming city he described. When he got to the emergence of the London coffee house in the 1650s I felt that unmistakeable buzz of excitement: there was a story here. Coffee houses were amazingly egalitarian institutions where individuals from all walks of life, strangers or friends, met to drink coffee, smoke, and talk of anything and everything – trade, politics, gossip, sedition. Concurrent to this was the rise of the news sheet or news book – forerunners of our newspapers – and it was in the coffee house that people read and exchanged news. The London of Oliver Cromwell was obsessed with news, absolutely buzzing with rumour, gossip and intrigue, and it struck me that a coffee house would make the perfect setting for an ensemble cast of diverse characters amongst whom a murder would take place.
The 1650s were also, of course, when Oliver Cromwell’s regime virtually usurped the place and function of the Stuart kings. Throughout England, political and religious radicalism threatened to run amok. The republicans also had to contend with endless royalist plots from the Stuarts in exile. The resourcefulness of the royalists was matched only by their indiscretion. And while an ingenuous and sophisticated intelligence network developed to counter these threats, this was also a time when the man and woman in the street, the common soldier, the radical thinker, made their voices heard. I have always found the anonymous of history more interesting than the kings, queens and statesmen who governed them, 1650s London, offered the ideal opportunity to bring them to life in a tale of intrigue, espionage and murder. I just had to find my main protagonist, my hero, hence the walk in the woods with the dog, to think.
That is when, in my mind’s eye, I ‘saw’ Damian Seeker. I’d always thought I preferred the Cavaliers, but I knew straight away that Seeker was a republican through and through. I wanted him to be something of an outsider, so I made him a Yorkshireman rather than a native Londoner. To distinguish him from my earlier series character Alexander Seaton, an introspective, self-doubting intellectual, I made Seeker tough, uncompromising. And then I let him loose in the corridors of Westminster, and the streets and alleyways of 1650s London.
The Seeker by S.G MacLean is available to buy now: http://amzn.to/1TgQirB