A long, long time ago, when very old people still remembered what the words ‘pubs’, ‘sport’ and ‘handshakes’ meant, I started writing a book. This was to be the third title in my trilogy set in the sixteenth century, ‘Jack Stannard of the Navy Royal’, and until now has had a cunningly disguised provisional work-in-progress title, namely ‘the one with the Spanish Armada in it’. However, I can now reveal the book’s official title, which is…wait for it…
I hope to provide a cover reveal and a publication date before very long. In the meantime, here’s a quick teaser (NB this contains spoilers for the second book in the series, Battle’s Flood)
It is twenty years after the shattering events at San Juan de Ulua, where shipmaster Jack Stannard of Dunwich was captured by the Spanish after the catastrophic failure of the John Hawkins / Francis Drake expedition to the Caribbean. Now England faces the existential threat of the approaching Spanish Armada, and Jack’s son Tom is ready to venture out to meet it, alongside his strange, fanatically religious eldest son Adam, as part of the Narrow Seas fleet. Tom’s middle son Peter, a wild and free-spirited actor, has very different plans of his own, although they don’t include finding himself unexpectedly serving in the royal army at Tilbury, hearing Queen Elizabeth I deliver one of the greatest speeches of all time. The youngest of the three brothers, also named Jack in tribute to his lost grandfather, will be the first to confront the Armada as he ventures out to sea from Plymouth aboard the royal galleon Revenge, commanded by the enigmatic, ruthless living legend that is Sir Francis Drake.
Meanwhile in Dunwich, Tom’s sister Meg faces a terrible danger of her own – charges of witchcraft, brought against her by one whom she should have been able to count among her nearest and dearest.
But what none of the Stannards know is that aboard the galleass Girona, one of the most important vessels in the entire Armada, the slaves at their oars keep time both to the beat of the drum and to the still strong singing voice of a very old man who speaks Spanish with a strange accent…
Armada’s Wake was completed ahead of schedule, partly as a result of the current lockdown – after all, it’s not really too different to the normal author lifestyle anyway. I’m also finally completing my long-gestating book on the Stepney family, and will then be starting to develop some new projects. Watch this space for details of those! Otherwise, I’ve been reading (and have just finished) Hilary Mantel’s epic The Mirror and the Light; not quite as good as the first two, IMHO – but then, of course, the same was true of Henry VIII’s wives – yet still vastly superior to pretty much anything else that’s already been published, or is likely to be published, this year (except Armada’s Wake, naturally…).