Red Ned Tudor Mysteries

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

New Red Ned Novel Out Soon!

The Queen’s Oranges

Good day to my growing legion of devoted readers.  First before we start this instalment of Red Ned’s Tudor blog I would like you to take a moment to think of the survivors of the most recent disaster in the US where thye are enduring the savage Tornado season.  Those along with the Japanese Tsunami and the still- still on going Nuclear disaster, make us pause and reflect that helping other’s in times of trouble is one of the saving graces of humanity.  I ask you that if it is possible please donate or support a local/international charity of your choice.

Now on to the latest Red Ned news!  The Liberties of London novella is now almost across the complete internet spectrum firstly here at Smashwords then secondly via their affiliate program through Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Diesel so far.  According to their updates, Sony, Apple, Kobo and Android will soon follow.  Right now you can acquire this magnificent piece of Tudor period fiction for the trifling amount of 99c!  In the meantime it is definitely available on Amazon Kindle at this link.  For those of you who have expressed a desire for a hard copy I fear that will have to be much, much later this year.  But thanks for asking, it does a writer’s ego the world of good.

Now on to the second book in the Red Ned Series- The Queen’s Oranges.  I’m including in this blog the pen and ink sketch by the very talented artist, Alexander House, of the draft cover.  We have since changed a few concepts for the cover art and now this will go as the inside ebook first page, a practice I think lends itself to the format of epublishing.

Before I post the prologue, I thought it would be a good idea to give some background to the Red Ned stories.  The Tudor period in English history is, as anyone who’s seen the TV series The Tudors knows, rich, extravagant violent and treacherous.  All the court factions seek to bask in the generosity and munificence that is his Sovereign Majesty Henry VIII.  However to get there usually requires either a lot of money, noble blood or the kind of political cunning and ruthlessness that would make Machiavelli’s political classic The Prince look like a kindergarten primer.  It has also been frequently speculated that Thomas Cromwell was perhaps the first man in England to have a copy, which may explain his adroit manipulation of factions as well as religious dispute. 
At this point I feel that I must dispel a number of myths that have grown up around the politics of Henry VIII’s Court.  Unlike what is seen or suggested in an unfortunately too large number of Tudor period romance literature and not a few non fiction works, the Royal Court was not a closed system.  Into this fierce competition for power and patronage at the Court intruded a number of external influences.  

In fact it could be argued that these factors drove the bloody factional striving perhaps even more than ambition.  As we know succession was one of the most powerful spurs, and in several articles I will spell out the grim realities that caused such an extreme thinning of royal cousins.  Another factor which is only infrequently mentioned is the severe impact on harvests and trade caused by the onset of the Little Ice Age.  Poor harvests and starvation are excellent prompters of society change, as is the resultant waves of disease and epidemics. Frequently in history they have encouraged the commons to question the present structure of Church and State, or overthrow it.  The other largest contributing influence was the balance of the population of England.  At the time it is estimated to be around three million.  The Court structure held a few thousand within its sphere with only a few hundred tightly clustered around the monarch.  Despite the myths of Feudalism, and the nascent Early Modern State, Henry VIII and his lords had to rule by a form of consent, this varying depending on the region or community from strictly aristocratic to almost limited franchise democracy.  Due to Henry VIII’s lack of a standing army or a dependable military powerbase, his manoeuvring to gain consent for his actions gave the Parliament more power and influence to dictate law and political direction.
In short it was the external factors and levers that drove the dynamism of the Tudor Court and political life.  Since that’s were I believe the real action of the Tudor period lies, a fair number of the Red Ned Bedwell stories will be amongst the myriad affairs of the kingdom of England.  So if the price of charcoal has shot up alarmingly, or the iron from the Weald is consistently brittle, or the Baker’s Guild displays a disregard to royal requirements for quality loaves, then it’s going to be Ned Bedwell who’s tasked with an investigation of these mundane matters of common life.  If Ned’s work usually strays into the deadly politics of faith and the Court, isn’t that only to be expected?

The Queen’s Oranges
The Goat’s Head Tavern London
Petty Wales
4th–5th June 1530

The summer nights in the city were long warm affairs, rich in the soft twilight that was the gift of the season. Where one could, the labour continued taking advantage of the lingering light—farmers, tradesmen and even the punks that strolled the riverside flashing their loose ribboned hair along with other open bodice enticements. The wherries that plied the river in their thousands also had cause to thank the weather. It meant good trade for the bear and bull pits across the river in Southwark.
The merchants, as well, had reason for good cheer. It was the week that His Majesty, King Henry VIII, had summoned the country’s lords to the city to deal with the petition to His Holiness, Pope Clement, in Rome, for the annulment of his current marriage. While the tangled politics of the situation did not concern them, they still eagerly prepared for the anticipated bounty as the crowded city filled out with the families and retinues of the lords of the land. The holy orders also were not slow to see the potential and used the gathering crowds to advantage. Hundreds of mendicant friars had joined the jostling throngs of London to preach, threaten and cajole. Or as some parish reeves complained ‘make much mischief by their disputes, alarums, beggings and affrays.’
This was a sample of life in the great city of London, the wonder of the world in the year of Our Lord, Fifteen Hundred and Thirty.
The shrouding dark of the summer night brought forth its own custom—thieves lurked in the concealing wells of shadow, cozeners played their gambits to wide eyed farmers too beer befuddled to notice the twitched slip of the dice, while outside the taverns, whores and trulls plied their trade in the alleys of the Liberties. In all this new evening the sounds of life and death echoed amongst the thatched roofed lanes—grunts, groans and curses along with the sudden scream. If you were lucky, the Common Watch trundling along may come to your aid, if not too drunk or compliantly deaf.
Other cries, abruptly terminated by the sharp blade or choking flow of blood that washed out from a slashed throat went unnoticed in the nightly hubbub that was the riverside. Hands clenched, such victims died without the grace of confession, their spirits caught up in the torment of the moment, locked on the mortal plane, frantic for the release that vengeance brings.
Two men had a seat at the dockside tavern, still some hours to go before the yellow wash of dawn. They were raucous and loud as they downed a second firkin of ale. The shorter one gazed at a blonde punk a couple of tables across. She had that sort of eye catching beauty that gave a man a case of cramp in the codpiece with only a single smile.
Shorty wiped an encrusted sleeve across his face, leaving a wide dark smear that lent his face a savage look like those of the barbarous Indies across the great waters. He wasn’t watching her smile. “I wants ‘er!”
“Don’t be a clod pate. Yer cods a’ just got the itches!  After what’s we did afore we ain’t got the time!”
“I say I wants ‘er. Always gets the raging ‘orn affer a bit o’ work like that.”
“Yer a’ daft a’ a Bedlamite. We still got to finds it!  Yer killed ‘em too quick afore they squealed.”
Rather than a serious complaint, this was more in the form of a professional judgement. The taller one lent out from their cubby and squinted towards the door, the iridescent feathers in his cap sparkling in the rush light. He was used to night work, preferred it to his daytime labour. For one thing, it was eminently more profitable.
“We’s got a couple o’ hours. ‘ow in God’s teeth are we goin’ to do it?”
“Naw got days ‘ow’s I rigged it. Any’ow stop yer yammerin’. We got friends who’ll see us right if’n they wants a share o’ the gilt.”
The shorter man gave a braying, evil–sounding laugh that startled the table of dockmen to their left. One of the younger men made to get up and complain but his grizzled haired companion put out a restraining hand and shook his head. The reputation of the two grimy drinkers was known along the river.
The one with the peacock’s feather in his cap grumbled a few more curses then slumped back into the cubby. This was the best cozener’s game they’d ever tried and all manner of men were keen to hand over their gold. He took another couple of hefty swallows and shrugged. Who was going to care about a pair of dead foreigners anyway?
Most deaths were given no more than a cursory glance in the daily mortuary bill of the city. But some deaths it was just too imprudent to encompass or ignore, for one never knew who could be drawn in by the trial of blood and heretical sin.
Regards Greg

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