Writing Crime, Reporting Crime; Story Telling Is Innate In All Of Us.

“Being a writer is wonderful – it gives us carte blanche to get away with everything.” Simon Hall, seven times published novelist, former BBC News Correspondent of twenty years and tutor at the University of Cambridge, tells the gathered members and guests at Hampshire Writers’ Society’s Tuesday night meeting.

Simon loves to ‘people watch’; often from a spot in the pub in his beloved Cambridge. It is characters that drive his writing. Adam Breen and Dan Groves, even Rutherford the dog, the characters that he created for his TV Detective novels work together, not only literally, but together they form a crucial ‘relationship’.

Dan Groves, the TV reporter half of the duo appears to have everything. He also suffers with depression which he calls “the swamp”. Simon tells us that he has received many emails from men suffering the same affliction, saying thank you for giving the illness this coverage; it is good to know that they are not the only ones, the character of Dan is one that they can relate to.

Story telling is innate in all of us, he says. There’s no secret to writing a story, there may even be a formulaic way to do it and plenty of stories start at the end – reverse chronology. Simon once killed off a character; something for which he, his editor and publisher received much criticism – in reality, the character would have survived. But Simon argued the necessity that she be “killed off” – Dan, having had three successes, was in danger of succumbing to delusions of grandeur; he had to be taught a valuable life lesson.

So, here Simon imparts a piece of advice – “Let the story find you. Use your characters and your experiences.”

Research is done on-the-job. Simon recognises that it is important and suggests a researcher try to get as close to the original source as possible, because there you’ll often find an interesting fact to support your research. For his new book which is out in September this year (as yet it has no name – The Editor is a popular choice – although, Simon likes to have at least three words in the titles of his novels) he spent much time researching the city of Cambridge, which of course he greatly enjoyed.

“Writers are a species apart.” he says. It is a relationship, which is possible why everyone has their favourite authors – they can be relied on the to give ‘value for money’. As such, Simon follows four unbreakable rules which he calls the Four S’s

1                 He steers clear of science. Except for on the peripherals – a crime novel will always need a little of science.

2                 He skips on what he calls “slop”, we would understand slop as gore. The reason for this is that he feels he could not write anything worse than the reader can imagine. Most people will say that their favourite scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho is the shower scene. “You don’t actually see the murder.” Simon points out. The mind bridges the gap, your imagination does the rest.

3                 He avoids swearing, using it only to keep the dialogue real.

4                 He doesn’t do sex. His first attempt at writing a sex scene was laughed out of the draft by his editor.

“Humour is ubiquitous in our society”. he says. Humour is what keeps us going, it forms a bond between us. It is therefore omnipresent in Simon’s writing. “Everyone seems to think that the past is terrible and that the future is scary,” he tells us. Horrible things do go on and, as a reporter for the BBC, he has seen some of the worst. But, he truly believes that the majority of people are good.

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Erwin James at the Hampshire Writers’ Society Tuesday 13th June

Report by Lisa Nightingale

You’d be forgiven for comparing the early life of prize-winning  author and Guardian columnist, Erwin James, to that of Dickens’ Oliver, but there was nothing to sing about. Or Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre;  there was definitely no romance. Found guilty of stealing sweets at just ten, he became a victim of a neglectful, remorseless society and was thrown in a children’s home

The reality of the fictional world that we writers choose to live in never ceases to amaze us; the truth behind the life of spies, the ferocity of competition between athletes, the harshness of war and the brutality of children’s homes in 1960’s Yorkshire where Erwin James lived. Despite the inadequacy of the carers, James’ life of petty crime was overturned by small kindnesses..

James had only a basic education. At that time educational investigations had proven that 74 % of adult male prisoners had a reading age of less than that of an eight year old child. For Erwin James, being a writer was far from his own expectations.

Sessions with the Prison Psychiatrist persuaded him to enlist in part time education. He completed a degree in History Degree, along with an interest in writing  Fifteen years into his life sentence, rehabilitation gave him the opportunity to  write for The Guardian..

‘I am a writer.’ he told the Prison Governor,  Monster Mansion, HM  Prison Wakefield.

‘Better get another hobby!’ was the reply.

So, where do you go from there? Returning to his cell after that short but damning conversation, he stared despondently at the wall.

‘Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent …..’ Part of a speech made my Calvin Coolidge, the thirty- third President of the United States. James had copied these lines  though  ‘I had to look up “omnipotent” though,’ he admits.

He escalated his cause, petitioned the Home Secretary and eventually was allowed to accept the offer from The Guardian. His deadlines, perhaps didn’t pose the same restraints that they do for many columnists, nor the motivation or  inspiration. ‘ Life is what happens on the outside; surely?’

‘…we just aren’t sure how rehabilitated the prison service wants the prisoners to be…’ the Governor commented.

For four years, James wrote and submitted his weekly column.

‘You know you’re a writer when you want your readers to see and feel what it is that you see, ’he said.

Instrumental in the setting up of reading/writing groups within the prison, James made the decision to be what he is, a writer. His psychiatrist believed that he could be a writer.

‘I never expected to ‘live’ again.’ he said, ‘Thank you for this opportunity.’

Allie Spencer and April Competition Results

It was a pleasure to welcome Allie Spencer as our adjudicator for April. She is the author of Tug of Love, which won best debut novel, Romantic Novelists’ Association.

It seems that many of you were too shy to write romance, the number of entries this month was only 18.

Allie assured me that she enjoyed reading them all. Her comments are below with the winning entries but her choice of winners is:

 

1st Place

NIGHT AMBUSH by ANGELA CHADWICK

2nd Place

SECRETS by MARI THOMAS

3rd Place

STEAMPUNK LOVE by SUE SPIERS

Highly Commended

A STEAMY LOVE STORY by JOHN QUINN

Next month’s competition is:

Write the narrative of a viewpoint character in a historical novel solving a conflict. (300 words)

The adjudicator will be Dr. Peter Middleton, Senior Lecturer, English, University of Southampton.

Please remember that I have set up an automatic reply informing that your work has got through but I will come back to you ASAP if anything is wrong with your entry.

Keep writing,

Sharon

 

1st Place

NIGHT AMBUSH by ANGELA CHADWICK

Allie Spencer: ‘This piece pushed the idea of a steamy love story to its limits! It was fast paced, exciting and full of peril. The final sentence both rounded the story off nicely and pointed forwards to a possible continuation. If I had my way, this would be expanded into a full-length piece – I’d love to read that and learn more about the characters and their backgrounds.’

Lily opened her eyes to darkness. The explosion, when it came, rocked the campbed. The door of the cell crashed open and a guard grabbed her, hauling her upright.

“Vite! Vite!” he screamed dragging her along. She staggered into an inferno of gunfire. A thud, a gasp and the guard was gone. Lily dropped and lay still. Quiet came, someone moving close.

A voice like honey said, “Who the fuck are you?”

“Lily.”

“English?”

“Yes.”

“Stay here!”

Three lifetimes passed until he returned.

“You hurt?”

“No.”

“Good. Let’s go.”

“Where?”

“Anywhere but here, love. It’s wired to blow. Walk where I walk. Keep up.”

Lily crashed along, desperate not to be left. Hour upon hour, ache upon ache.

He halted.

“We wait here,” he commanded. “Chopper will be here before dawn.”

She was shaking, exhausted body and soul.

“Eat this,” he said. The chocolate helped, his arms held her, the shaking eased. She could smell him, feel the strength of his body.

“Are they gone?” she asked.

“They’re all dead. We came for the comms link,” his voice caught, “We weren’t expecting you and your guards.”

She reached her hands up to his face, kissed him. She felt him respond. She moved on top of him and there on the jungle floor they gave each other what comfort they could. Later she held him, as he had held her.

The helicopter crew asked, “Who the fuck is this?”

“Lily Johnson, the missing aid worker,” he answered, as he handed her in.

Lily opened her eyes to light. She prayed for her SAS saviour, just like every morning. Then she turned her head to the picture of Paul, grinning in his scrubs, and last night’s engagement ring.

Her mobile rang. A voice like honey said, “Hello, Lily.”

2nd Place

SECRETS by MARI THOMAS

Allie Spencer: ‘I’ve chosen this primarily for its incredibly tight structure. The running refrain of ‘a secret’ punctuates the piece, making it hang together and pushing it forward at the same time. The effect of such a powerful device in such a short piece of writing is to turn the prose into a kind of poetry. Superbly written.’

“Hey, Adam. Tell me a secret.”

“No.”

“What? C’mon, I told you one of mine.”

“The fact that you suck at hockey isn’t a secret, dumbass.”

“That’s not what I—”

Adam says, “Evan.”

Evan stops.

“Shut up.” And he reaches across to crush their lips together.

 

“Hey, Adam,” Evan gasps out between moans. “Tell me a secret.”

“Do you ever shut up?” Adam growls into his neck, teeth catching on flesh.

Evan huffs a laugh as they break apart, pulling off his shirt. “Never.”

 

Adam is hiding. Evan finds him anyway.

“Hey, Adam,” Evan greets with a grin. He throws a cooled bottle of water at Adam’s head. “Tell me a secret.”

Adam snatches the bottle out of the air. “This place,” he snarls, “was supposed to be one.”

But Evan just smiles.


Evan holds Adam close, fingers drumming Für Elise into the bare skin of his chest. “Hey, Adam,” he says quietly. “Tell me a secret.”

“You’re an idiot.”

“That’s not a secret.”

“I’m an idiot.”

“Neither,” Evan says, a touch gentler, and Für Elise merges into Minuet in G, “is that.”

 

“Hey, Adam. Tell me a secret.”

He kisses him instead.

“Hey, Adam. Tell—”

He sticks his hand down the front of Evan’s trousers.

 

“Hey, Adam—”

Adam doesn’t look up from his hunt for his shirt. “Fuck off.”

Evan’s grin is savage. “Unfortunately, we already did that—”

Adam can’t take it anymore. “Why won’t you leave me alone?” he demands. “Why are you—you’re always here, always asking that stupid question—it’s nothing, Evan.” His voice cracks. “It means nothing.”

Walk away, Evan.

Evan doesn’t. “Hey, Adam,” he says and his voice lilts in that way that makes Adam want to punch something. “Want me to tell you a secret?”

3rd Place

STEAMPUNK LOVE by SUE SPIERS

Allie Spencer: ‘I chose this because it is genuinely memorable: it hung round in my brain for days after I’d read it. The images it creates are both intriguing and powerful. They have a strong visual resonance. The hypnotic, half-poetic style of the writing both complements the other-worldliness of the setting and helps to invoke it. A fabulous exercise of the imagination.’

She was beautiful, hidden by her clockwork mask

Its lenses magnifying her hazel eyes, always wary,

Like an airship butterfly taking wing at any slight air.

 

She saw him step from the Galveston Torpedo

as a burst of steam engulfed him from the city’s engine,

his great-coat flapping wildly in the jet, top-hat tipsy.

 

Her Uncle’s handshake marked him for the company,

soon uniformed in the Shackledoom livery, him unique:

un-automated, whole animal, fascinatingly full-human.

 

She spied him from her window, visiting her Uncle,

risked half undress while her gramophone played,

her golden corsets concealing barely breathing ribs.

 

Their eyes met, she sensed a stillness; time-halt

when all relationships are possible in that instant,

when only movement is impossible in that moment.

 

He brought flowers and her Uncle sent him gone.

He brought a tiny hare of brass and taxidermy fur.

Her Uncle told him, ‘stay absent’, threatened harm.

 

Tears rusted the workings of her mouth, she oiled

the hinges of her lips, but her human heart failed

or seemed to stop its beating until she willed it on.

 

In secret they met, too-brief hours when friends

left them talking, falling, stroking, making sparks

‘til alarm calls sent them bolting to opposite exits.

 

Of course the Uncle, suspicious, discovered them,

furious ructions and the powerful man sent ruffians

after the flesh-bound gallant, crushed by steel.

 

She stole away his pulped body to a blacksmith,

ordered the finest bronze-nickel to mend his limbs,

delicate automation of more intimate conditions.

 

In the lovers’ like-built bodies the Uncle’s objections

faded like the hiss of the Galveston Torpedo’s whistle.

Their human hearts were left to weld a life together.

 

Highly Commended:

A STEAMY LOVE STORY – JOHN QUINN

Allie Spencer: ‘This piece was chosen because it works on so many levels: it is warm, funny, human, poignant, sad and also strangely hopeful. It had very strong echoes of Alan Bennett’s work and the attention to detail, like Bennett’s writing, was beautiful – even down to the way Thelma uses the eiderdown (of which her husband would have approved) rather than a duvet (which he would not) to assist in her suicide attempt. Again, this is a piece of writing which could be extended to full length and would undoubtedly produce a very strong and moving story.’

If asked Thelma would deny it.

But, like many widows and widowers, she takes solace in talking to her husband, despite him being underground for nigh on 20 years. ‘Oh, that damn electric kettle, why I let David get me one I’ll never know. You never would’ve, Harry.’

Thelma opens the cupboard under the sink, roots around for a while and pulls out an old, slightly battered kettle. She half fills it from the cold tap, pushes on the whistling lid and places the kettle on the stove with a welcoming clatter. The gas ignites with a whoosh.

She pulls her old, thick, pink, cotton dressing gown more closely around her. ‘But that’s sons for you. Always doing what’s best, even when it isn’t.’

Thelma picks up the tea cloth, likes she does every morning while the kettle boils, and absentmindedly wipes the copper frame holding the photo of Harry wearing his ill-fitting, double-breasted, demob suit and a smile almost as wide.

The warm, furry slippers shuffle back into the bedroom of the tired bungalow. Thelma pulls the eiderdown from the bed. ‘You never would have one of those continental quilts would you, Harry? “Nothing foreign in this house,” you said, knowing full well they’re made in Huddersfield. You did make me laugh!’

Easing slowly down onto the kitchen floor, so not to startle the arthritis in her knees, Thelma sits, likes she’s about to pray, in front of the old oven. She pulls open the oven door and slides out the trays.

She turns the gas on but does not push the ignition button. Instead her head enters the oven and she awkwardly pulls the eiderdown around her shoulders to form a plug. ‘Soon be with you Harry, my love.’

The kettle starts to whistle.

Its Not Who You Know by Claire Fuller

For the next couple of weeks, Hampshire Writers’ Society has gone all Publishy. Here, Claire Fuller tells us about finding her Agent.

Claire Fuller at HWS Book Fair
Claire Fuller at HWS Book Fair

It’s Not Who You Know

A few years ago when I was in the middle of writing my first novel, without any idea about what would happen to it, I went to a talk by a writer who told us how her book came to be published. ‘I went to a party in London,’ she said. ‘And I met a girl there who was the receptionist at a London literary agency. A few days later I sent her my manuscript; she showed it to her boss; and he offered to represent me. You’ve got to know someone in the industry.’

All of us came out of that talk feeling dejected – getting published was about who you know, and I didn’t know anyone, and I certainly didn’t get invited to any London parties.

But, I’m pleased to say that she was wrong. My novel got picked up from the ‘slush pile’, and I now know that so do many more. It’s not about who you know, but it is about following the rules.

Of course you still have to write a novel that an agent will be interested in. You need to be passionate about it, and that passion needs to come across in the writing. And it goes without saying that it must be well written and brilliantly edited.

After that you only need to regard your submission like a job application. I used Agent Hunter (www.agenthunter.co.uk) to select twelve agents who had open lists, were looking for my genre, and were interested in debut authors. I went onto each of their websites and I sent them a submission that followed their guidelines exactly and professionally. No funny coloured font, no gifts enclosed, no begging letters (and agents do receive all of these).

There is still some luck involved – will your submission hit the right desk at the right time? But get the basics right, and your novel, like mine, can be selected without knowing anyone in the industry or getting invited to any parties in London.

 

Claire Fuller, a member of the Hampshire Writers Society, is the author of Our Endless Numbered Days, published by Penguin.Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller It won the 2015 Desmond Elliott Prize and is a Richard & Judy, and Waterstones Book Club book.

www.clairefuller.co.uk

@ClaireFuller2

 

 

February Meeting Report – Jude Evans

JudeEvansFeb2016

Happy 30th Birthday, Little Tiger Press!

Publishing is exciting and challenging,’  says Jude Evans ‘It’s a good time to be writing.’

The range of reading products for children is rich and diverse with YA, a huge crossover.

Jude could not stress enough: ‘know your market.’

Know your audience.

Get to know the interests of your chosen age range and remain reflective of a broader society.

At Little Tiger Press, the character is the key.

Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. Think; what is my book (super commercial, literate, contemporary) therefore, what is its ‘tone’? It is essential that the opening hook them in.

It is our aim that children WANT to read. We are introducing them to the ‘magic’ of words.

You should consider the ‘travel’ of your story – how will it translate into other cultures?

When you’ve finished your manuscript. Put it away for a while – when you return to it, you’ll be able to remain objective. Also ask for the opinions of it from those most valuable to your progress.

Then, think like a Publisher. An agent will already have a familiar relationship with publishers and will negotiate on your behalf.

Your covering letter should be brief and pertinent.

Your synopsis; no more than two sides. Don’t bombard agents/publishers.

DON’T GIVE UP. It can take weeks before you receive a reply.

Investing in business cards might be opportune. Use them in conjunction with your manuscript or a conversation – don’t just drop them willy-nilly at book fairs.

Jude signing books
Jude signing books in the Stripe foyer

Finally, Jude issued an invitation to all of us present!

For full report –  see the members’ Newsletter. Not a member? Join us for only £20.

Q & A with High Fantasy Author James Barclay

th_ebf486218337267c1b432845a3df25be_1302558799_magicfields_cover_artwork_1_1[1]Q. I notice from a review on your website of Elves Once Walked with Gods that you wrote and then abandoned the first sixty thousand words and began all over again. It was also a point that you made when you came to talk to us that a writer shouldn’t be afraid to make cuts and re-writes. How long does it take you to write a first complete draft? And then how long to edit it?Read More »

Jane Wenham-Jones speaks to Hampshire Writers’ Society

Report by Carole Hastings

Barbara Large opened the evening by inviting Local writing group, Pencils and What-not, to promote their new self-published book, Journeys and What-not. It’s a miscellany of sixty pieces of fiction, travel tales, poems and assorted writing. £1 per book will go to the charity First Story that supports creative writing in schools where at least 50% of the children are deprived. The book is available from P & G Wells in Winchester, The Winchester Discovery Centre and from their website.

Then we heard from special guest Jenny Knowles who runs a small publishing company in the New Forest, called Little Knoll Press.

Her mother wrote stories of her life in China and India and sent them to Jenny at boarding school rather than ordinary letters and these inspired Jenny to get into publishing. She has published some of her family’s stories and as well as a few others. She will soon be publishing a book of postcards accompanied by stories produced by a local artist. She thinks that people considering self-publishing use an external editor to get their work to a publishable standard. She recommended that people interested in travel writing join the Itinerant Writers Club via their website: http://www.lizcleere.com. It’s run by a woman called Liz Cleere from a boat near Cochin in India and provides a good support network.Jane Wenham-Jones (1)
The main act was Jane Wenham-Jones and was pure entertainment. She recounted saying to one audience that it was easier to rob a bank that make money from writing. The audience were guests at HMP Send! This set the tone for the evening.

She sees herself as a jobbing writer – novelist, short story writer, columnist, features writer, agony aunt, speaker. She’s feisty and tenacious and deals with her rejections by sending out another script the same day – often reworking a piece depending on the comments she may have had back. Her record for sending out the same piece was11 times across a period of two years. Her advice was to do something positive when you get a rejection – it’s normal to get plenty and few people really get their first novel published.

She believes in writing what you know and her first novel Raising the Roofwas based on her experiences in the buy to let market where one of her tenants actually stole the boiler and another filled the place with stolen goods and replica guns. She tends to keep research to a minimum – mostly Google and asking people to tell what she needs to know. She’s a firm believer in not trying to sell your book until you’ve written it – the first three chapters are not enough. Keep your focus in what you want to write as you can easily pick up so much contradictory advice – bigger plot/bigger characterisation etc.

IMG_1253Jane never wastes her life experiences – they all provide her with material for books and features -domestics even find their way into her column… Woman’s Weekly Fiction Specials are a great outlet for short stories.

In the name of research Jane has been botoxed, [better performed by the dermatologist than the dentist apparently], been painted naked [her laptop strategically placed] and had a go at stand-up comedy. The audience found her funnier in real life than when she was trying to tell jokes.

Her second book Perfect Alibis was based on research from a friend on how to have an affair which led her on to work on The Sun and an appearance on Kilroy. Her most recent novel,Prime Time, based on her experiences in day time TV was nominated for The Romantic Comedy of the Year Award.

She currently has a 15,000 word book on Kindle called 100 ways to Fight the Flab and this will be out in paperback as a 60,000 word book by Christmas. She is running a “How to Lose Weight” competition for a week’s writing course in France.

An Evening with Marc Morris – Tuesday 9th October

On a wild and wet October evening, Hampshire Writers’ Society Chairman, Barbara Large introduced special guest Professor Liz Stuart Senior Pro Vice-Chancellor from the University of Winchester who began by welcoming the HWS to the university campus.

She spoke about her role at the university and her work as a writer. Although one of the smallest universities in the country, only 7000 students, it has made the top ten in the Sunday Times’List of best universities and achieved first place in the country for student satisfaction on its creative writing courses.

Prof Liz Stuart (2)As a theologian, Professor Stuart has written ten books, although much of her time now is spent dealing with academic matters within the university, writing policy documents, academic papers and reports. Once regarded as a radical theologian, one of the delights of her life is when she discovers her work has been the subject of a PhD thesis.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of her book which was banned by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Ironically, it turned out to be one of her best sellers!
Marc Morris, historian, author and broadcaster

The Guest Speaker, Marc Morris was interviewed by Graeme Pick, who began by asking why there was such a long gap between Marc Morris’ books.
Report by Hermione LaakeMarc Morris

Marc’s response was that books take a long time. There was a brief discussion about hot housing, doing a book in 2-3 years. Generally Marc described the time taken to write his work as being around four years, with the first being commissioned in 2004 and then going on to be published in 2008 and the second being commissioned in 2008 and published this year.

Graeme asked M. M how he goes about writing his books.

Much of his research on Edward 1st came about through his thesis on the Earls of Norfolk in the 13thCentury BC. “Edward I conquered Wales had illegitimate children, tried to conquer Scotland and had one of the greatest reigns in British history. I thought that he was due a page turning biography. Someone needs to write a book about this — me.”

M.M described the process of writing as reading other people’s books and a synthesis taking place. But because of the sheer volume of writing available trying to make these disparate texts synthesise didn’t work. Prior to The Norman Conquest, there was much documentation. After the revolution in 1200 the King ordered that copies of messages were kept. These have survived,  Consequently, there is more evidence than you could look at. “European historians look at English medieval history and are agog,”
Graeme then asked, “How do you decide what to discard?”

M.M.:“What makes the research process interesting, is when it doesn’t fit.  You get your story straight.  I would imagine this is the same with every story. Every book I read with that date in, I break it down by year: Jan, Feb, March, the date of whatever, then you discover mistakes,”

He described the tag Narrative History as often thought of as a pejorative term. “Alternatively there is thematic history.. Social history gets in the way whereas narrative history gets the story going. There needs to be a balance between moving the story forward and conveying the story.”

Graeme: “Do you end up in a different place to where you expected?”

M.M: “You’ve got to. You might start with one set of preconception and end up somewhere else…..Edward improved somewhere in my estimation as I was writing the book.  You start off with a series of preconceptions you came with, the legend and the bona fide academic material then you end up somewhere questioning those orthodoxies.”

Graeme: “How do you decide which stories are worth telling or retelling?”

M described this as hard sell. It was all about selling the legend, “Have you seen Braveheart—?”

Graeme: “How do you keep the narrative going while having to address the reader?”

M.M: “Where are the breaks and where are the hooks where the chapter ends? Where are the cuts? From an academic point of view that would be cheap tricks. People want to keep reading your book; people want to know what happens next. The academic way is completely different. You assume people know all that already.”

He  described this as a balance of keeping the tricks to himself but often not revealing them to the reader, although on some occasions, he said he kept them in.

Graeme: “You seem to be interested in how big characters drive the story. Without these big characters show do you drive the story?”

M.M “Harold dies and with him one of the most important people in history. You’ve lost your antagonist you’ve lost your protagonist.”

He managed to “skip along from 1072 to 1085/6. I brought in a character connected with The Bayeux Tapestry.. I am interested in why these stories matter. How did this affect England, Englishness, how did this affect the language? How did this affect the culture?”

G: “Are you trying to teach people things?”

M.M: “It tells you something about the past society.—Who are the bad guys in the Norman conquest? I was surprised to discover that the Anglo Saxons did slavery in a big way, and the Normans didn’t do that. Harold was a great slave trader. A major cultural shift was brought about by the Normans; Chivalry (not killing your opponent) was a new thing. The Vikings didn’t do this. The English didn’t do it. These are big changes. These affect the way the English view their Celtic neighbours: These people are barbarians we need to conquer and civilise them

“You work as a writer. What other work are you doing to make sure your work gets out there?”

M.M: “I do articles for history magazines, tour for literary festival, I’ve just written an article on slavery.”
G: “Is the Norman conquest a good thing?”

M.M: “No I don’t think it was a good thing….You are considering a balancing testimony, not taking sides. Your main duty as an historian is to get it right. The historian is not a judge. You make the best case and say make up your own mind. This [discussion] was called putting a pulse into the past. That’s not what I do. [I’m asking]… how can I make these bones live? I’m trying to take the pulse of the past.”

Marc Morris’s articles are being collected and published as an E-book next week.

For further information on this Marc’s website