Cue drum roll…cue trumpets…
Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to announce that the next ‘Journal of Matthew Quinton’, the sixth book in the series, will be entitled The Rage of Fortune.
But this is a ‘Quinton Journal’ with a twist, because the central character is a different Matthew Quinton. Followers of the series will know that one of the biggest influences on the personality of my hero, the Restoration naval captain Matthew Quinton, is the memory of his eponymous grandfather, the eighth Earl of Ravensden, one of Queen Elizabeth I’s ‘sea dogs’. Indeed, Matthew sometimes ‘hears’ asides from what might or might not be the shade of the long-dead swashbuckler, a colleague and rival of the likes of Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh. I’d always envisaged a prequel centring on the first Matthew Quinton, and thanks to Ben Yarde-Buller at Old Street Publishing, I’ve now got the opportunity to do it!
The story begins in 1651, just after the Battle of Worcester, the final conflict of the British Civil Wars. The eleven year old Matthew Junior and his twin, Henrietta, are exploring an abandoned corner of their family home when they discover the long-forgotten papers of their grandfather, only to be interrupted by the arrival of Roundhead troops intent on searching for their elder brother, the tenth Earl of Ravensden, who has been seriously wounded in the Cavalier cause. Gradually, though, the papers of the old Earl and of some of those who knew him – including the recollections of his wife, Matt and Herry’s grandmother – start to paint a picture of a very different world: the world of the turn of the seventeenth century, when England was still fighting a seemingly endless war against Spain, when William Shakespeare was writing Henry V and Julius Caesar, and when the whole country was obsessed by the question of who would succeed the ageing Queen Elizabeth.
The Rage of Fortune is set against the backdrop of a series of real historical events. Many still wrongly assume that the Spanish Armada was the only significant naval campaign during Elizabeth I’s war, and that nothing of much note happened after it. This is simply untrue – the war lasted for another 16 years, and Rage places Earl Matthew at the centre of such remarkable, but sadly little known, naval actions as the affairs of the ‘Spinola Galleys’ and the ‘Invisible Armada’, and at the Battles of Castlehaven, Kinsale and Sesimbra Bay. Meanwhile, he and his new French wife are thrust into the heart of the intrigues over the succession to the English throne and of one of the most mysterious incidents in the whole of British history, while being threatened by a mysterious and malevolent enemy who threatens to bring down the entire Quinton family. Rage also provides a startling revelation about the history of one of the principal characters from the Restoration-era books!
I’ve really enjoyed returning to a time period and to themes that I know well. I spent over ten years researching and writing my non-fiction book, Blood of Kings: the Stuarts, the Ruthvens, and the ‘Gowrie Conspiracy’, which provided a lot of inspiration and material for The Rage of Fortune; and I spent many more years teaching Elizabethan and Jacobean England, together with such related European History themes as the French Wars of Religion, Habsburg Spain, and the Revolt of the Netherlands (all touched upon in Rage), to A-level students. So in some ways, writing The Rage of Fortune has marked a return to pastures old! But I’ve also relished the opportunity to learn more about matters that I’d been only dimly aware of until now: for instance, the very brief and somewhat bizarre interlude when both England and the Netherlands became convinced, almost literally overnight, that galleys were the future of naval warfare, even in stormy northern waters, and embarked on programmes of galley-building.
Regular readers of the series will already have come across references in Matthew Junior’s ‘back story’ to some of the other characters who appear in The Rage of Fortune: notably to his grandmother, the ‘imperious termagant’ Louise-Marie, Countess of Ravensden, a distinctly feisty Frenchwoman, twenty years younger than her husband, and to his remarkably long-lived great-great-grandmother Katherine, a former nun. And those regular readers needn’t fear – Matthew Junior will be back in his own right in 2016, the 350th anniversary of both the Four Days Battle (the subject of the most recent published title in the series, The Battle of All The Ages) and of the Great Fire of London, which will play a very significant part in the plot of ‘Quinton 7’, Death’s Bright Angel.
The Rage of Fortune will be published by Old Street Publishing in the spring or summer of 2015. I really hope that readers enjoy it!