Thursday, 19 March 2015

First Shot.

Hello and welcome, you found us alright then?
Come in, close the door, keep the forest out there.
This is my blog, it's a place for rambling and writing, for a loving look at all things from the late 12C, for medieval Archery, and of course: crime. Take a look around, get comfortable.

If you stumbled here from facebook, or twitter you probably know I used to be a police officer, working on an ordinary inner-city response team, where I learned more about violent crime (particularly robbery) than anyone probably should.
When I came out of the service I had a LOT of holiday owed. The concept of a 'disciplined service' means they can order you to work if needed, and they were a bit shortstaffed back then. I'm pretty sure the longest stretch was 28 days on, 2 days off (ouch).
Anyway, I left with a load of leave owed, so I did what any right-thinking person with a couple of months to spare would do. I wrote a book.


Someone once told me to only write about the things I knew best.

During my time in time in the force, I saw firsthand how the most successful criminals learned their trade; how they came up from nothing and carved out their little empires.For them, crime wasn't an image or a lifestyle accessory, it was their life. They were the career criminals, making banditry into a business. I've also seen that even the best of them fail when they get too famous to ignore; then the door crashes inwards and the response team burst in shouting “Down down down”.

As a dark-ages re-enactor and historical roleplayer I've also spent two decades wearing very different bodyarmour; slogging about the woods of England in chainmail, with a bow or a blade.
With a little research, anyone can write convincingly about a arrow or a helmet, but if your hobby is camping and fighting for up to ten days at a stretch with nothing invented after 1200AD, you come away with firsthand knowledge of the microdetail of day to day life in another time. You learn the things you need to get by in that world, like how to scrub the rust out of armour (put it in a bag with sand and vinegar and kick it for an hour) or how to site a campfire that can’t be spotted at night (always useful when the other side are better armed than you are).

So returning to that advice I was given; what do you write that first book about when your sole areas of expertise are crime and medieval living?

Robin Hood, clearly.

'Cutthroat', is a re-imagining of the Robin Hood ballads, portraying Hood as an enterprising career criminal on the way up.
I've re-written plotlines from a fistful of the Robin Hood ballads: Robin and the Forester, Robin and the Bold Pedlar and Robin Hood and Alan Adale as a violent tale of banditry in lawless 12C England mashed up with the gallows-humour of my police days.
The book asks 'what would these guys have been like if they were actually Norman era armed robbers, rather than Disney characters'
Let's look at that old cliché; ‘robbing from the rich to give to the poor’. In my time as a police officer I never once saw the hardened blagger give up his piece of the score to the poor and the needy, however, a robbery suspect on the run will bribe, buy gifts, and outright pay people for a place to stay until the heat dies down.
That’s a plausible reason why our gang of cutthroats would give stolen coins to common folk: for a place to stay where the Law isn't welcome. That’s a believable ‘truth’ behind the ballads and legends.

No glory, no golden arrows, no heroes; just bad men doing bad things and trying to stay a jump ahead of the law.

So yeah, I wrote a book, and now I can't stop.
I'll talk a bit about that, and about writing in general on the blog, but I'm mainly planning to use this dark corner of the interwebs to post notes and ramblings about aspects of medieval life, along with aspects of Nottingham, Robin Hood, or the history of the 12th and early 13th century.

I'll also be writing and posting an episodic miniseries called 'Foresters', featuring a grubby trio of Nottingham lawmen, working one of Norman England's most dangerous beats. I feel the sudden need to mention that it is in no way a thinly veiled ramble through some of my own police experiences, seen through a flimsy historical filter (no, wait, that's exactly what it is).

Finally I'll point my pen at anything else that has even a passing relevance to the fairly broad topic of writing about bastards...

...hopefully you enjoy reading about them.


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