A feast of history

Just back from the HWA’s inaugural Festival of Historical Writing, which took place over the weekend, during English Heritage’s Festival of History at Kelmarsh.  All in all, it was an unqualified success.  Despite the torrential rain, that made it feel a bit like Glastonbury with Spitfires, history lovers turned out in their thousands for the annual event and our 12 lectures were packed out over the 2 days.

I’ve done a fair few events now and in terms of organisation they can range from smoothly efficient to hopelessly inept (I can’t forget one I did with Simon Scarrow, where we were given no brief about the talk and, when it came to it, had 5 people, one of whom walked out halfway through).  Having done a talk at Kelmarsh with English Heritage before, I knew they were at the smooth end, but I think they surpassed themselves this year.  The HWA were provided with a huge lecture tent (we had about 200 people for each talk), which backed onto a marquee selling the books of all 32 authors who attended.  Among them, HWA founder Manda Scott, Michael Morpurgo, Ben Kane, Anthony Riches, Robert Low, Giles Kristian, Saul David, Sarah Gristwood, Micheal Jecks and more.  The whole thing ran like clockwork.

I chaired a panel on Myths in History, in which I discussed the origins of Robert Bruce’s famous spider story.   Joining me were fellow novelists, Imogen Robertson (discussing folklore and legends from Cumbria from her latest novel), Angus Donald (with his take on Robin Hood) and Tom Harper (on the piece de resistance: the Holy Grail).

Now, despite the fact my “to read” pile is less pile more skyscraper at the moment, I haven’t had the opportunity to crack open a novel in a while, what with reading so much non-fiction for the Insurrection Trilogy and, err, writing the things.  But I was forced to take four days off last week to read my panelists’ novels.  And what a treat.  The books I’ve read recently have been quite heavy-going and, although worthy, not all that entertaining and I’d forgotten what sheer, unadulterated pleasure you can get out of reading a good, rollicking adventure with taut, yet lyrical writing and superb history to boot. I thoroughly recommend you check out all three:

Island of Bones, Imogen Robertson

King’s Man, Angus Donald (third in the Outlaw Chronicles)

The Lazarus Vault, Tom Harper

So, a massive thank you to English Heritage, my fellow HWA committee members and all the authors, publishers and public attending for making it such a storming success.  Looking forward to next year already!


Enjoying a beer (or 4) in a brief patch of sun. (C.C. Humphreys, Robert Low, Saul David, Angus Donald, Imogen Robertson, my partner Lee, and Tom Harper)