This blog contains the ramblings of a retired historian who is trying to write a crime fiction novel set in seventh century Britain. The story begins with a murder that really took place. Around about the year 615, Hereric, father of the woman known to us as St Hilda of Whitby, was poisoned while in exile in the British-ruled kingdom of Elmet. Hereric was heir to the throne of the Anglo-Saxon-ruled kingdom of Deira. Both Elmet and Deira were in the area now covered by the modern county of Yorkshire.
The novel is a 3M sort of affair (Medieval Murder Mystery). It is not, quite, the more common 4M sort of book, justly made so popular by Ellis Peters (Medieval Murder Mystery with Monks), but yes, there are herbs and healing in the story, as well as love and music, feasting and fighting.
The action ranges from the Isle of Anglesey, through the ancient kingdoms of Gwynedd in North Wales and Mercia in the Midlands and all the way up to the lands north of Hadrian’s Wall. The novel covers a period of a single year, 633, and examines the consequences of Hereric’s murder from the point of view of both Anglo-Saxons and Britons. It is, in a sense, an Anglo-Saxon cold case.
This period of British history has inspired many epics of sword and sorcery. After all, Anglo-Saxon language and literature was J. R. R. Tolkien’s area of expertise and the inspiration for his Lord of the Rings trilogy, while King Arthur is associated with the time of the earliest Anglo-Saxon invasions. But despite being set in the seventh century, no obviously mythical beasts find their way into this story and for most of the time most of the action follows the laws of physics as understood in the 21st century. However, this does not mean that the characters in this novel do not believe in the supernatural, because they do.
So expect plenty of swords, and people who know how to use them. But sorcery? Well …