Tag Archives: Tom Fleck

Tom Fleck & The Black Caravel

31 Oct

My friend Harry Nicholson asked me to review his new novel, The Black Caravel. I helped proofread his last one, Tom Fleck, but I’ve had no hand in this book.

So, first impression: I loved it!  It’s quite a short novel but packed with incident and likeable and interesting characters.

The Black Caravel is a sequel to Tom Fleck.  The latter is fully titled Tom Fleck: A novel of Cleveland and Flodden, and is set in 1513.  The novel tells the story of 18-year old Tom and his adventures, which climax at the Battle of Flodden.  You can read more about it here; as well as the first chapter.  I highly recommend it.

The Black Caravel is set twenty-three years later, in 1536, when Tom is a happily married family man.  From the blurb:

1536 is a year of rebellion against Henry VIII’s seizure of England’s abbeys. Barbary corsairs raid northwards.  Despite the turmoil, Tom Fleck must journey to London.

You don’t need to have read the first book to make sense of the second – Harry reminds us of pertinent details quite seamlessly – but, as I might have mentioned, I recommend that you do, just for the joy of reading good historical fiction.

I confess to loving Tom Fleck.   He is brave, principled and adventurous.  He’s what is popularly described as a book boyfriend: the man I would marry (after Jamie Fraser) if I could somehow dispose of the Hub without going to jail, assuming of course that I could bring a fictional character to life and he wouldn’t object to my complete lack of skills that would fit me to live in the 16th century (me being no Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser).

What I love about Harry’s books, however, handsome hero aside, are the fascinating details he weaves into his stories.  I now know how to prepare a rabbit for the pot, making sure to steep it in brine overnight; and that gulls dine on dead men’s eyes first (despite that nugget, let me assure you that the books are not gruesome, although they don’t shy away from the unpleasant realities of their setting).  I discovered from reading the books that Harry has a real love of nature which is not something that appeals to me, and yet it was engrossing to learn for example of the herbs that freshen your mouth or which heal in some way. 

Harry has a background in seafaring and his knowledge litters the pages of The Black Caravel without showing off in any way.  He writes what he knows, and the books are better for it.  

Perhaps more importantly, Harry has a way of getting to the nitty-gritty of his subject matter, leaving us to draw parallels to today:

Tom watched them depart and wondered at the brave poverty.  It was a topsy-turvy world.  Such a struggle to live.  Hard knocks and cold drownings, and all the while velvet-clad folk in London’s great halls dined on swan.

Dining on swan aside, I couldn’t help thinking of the modern world with its food banks; it’s rich/poor divide; its drowning, desperate refugees.  A struggle to live indeed.

So, I’ll say it again, even though I’ve said it twice before:

                                                Tom Fleck and The Black Caravel:

                                                                               highly recommended!

Tom Fleck by [Nicholson, Harry]

The books are available on Kindle or in paperback:

Tom Fleck: Amazon UK, Amazon US

The Black Caravel: Amazon UK, Amazon US In the UK, this book is currently available free with Kindle Unlimited, so why not buy the first one at its very reasonable price of £2.24?

Incidentally, Harry is a gifted enamellist (I think they’re called).  Check his blog for some wonderful work; including the two originals which are his books’ covers.

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And finally…

From Wikipedia:

Muphry’s law is an adage that states: “If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.”[1] The name is a deliberate misspelling of Murphy’s law.

Just so you know, although it wasn’t a criticism, when I wrote, I helped proofread his last one, Tom Fleck, I actually wrote: I helped proofread his last one., Tom Fleck.

There’s a reason Muphry has his own Law.

The Battle Of Flodden: Fleck Or Fiction?

30 Nov
English: Site of the Battle of Flodden Field. ...
Image via Wikipedia

If you fancy a good read…you should buy a copy of Tom Fleck.  Set at the time of the Battle of Flodden, it is a real page-turner.  I’ve read it three times and loved it each time.

Here are Tudor kings and their nobles – their documented lives are rich material for writers – but now they play a minor part. This is the story of Tom Fleck, a penniless farm labourer, who shares his dwelling with cattle. He is fictional only because he leaves no record – his people live before the keeping of parish registers, so they make no marks on parchment and are lost to history.

We find his rare surname in the register of St. Hilda’s church at Hartlepool:

Baptisms 1596, September 19th : Christofer ye child of Willm. Fleck.

Perhaps William heard tales of how his great-grandfather, Thomas, loved a strange woman and stood with the army on the terrible battlefield of Flodden. This story brings him to life.

The first chapter can be read on the author Harry Nicholson’s blog: http://1513fusion.wordpress.com/

I have a treat for you: Harry kindly agreed to be interviewed for my blog. 

TB:  Hi Harry, thanks for doing this.  First, something banal to ease you in: how did the idea of Tom Fleck come to you?

HN: It is partly a response to what greets me when I walk into bookshops: glossy covers of historical novels that push jewelled Tudor cleavages at the reader – and within, yet more tangled intrigues of royal courts. I wonder what emotional connection I might find with these great lords and their ladies.  Where are the stories of the ancestors of people like me? I don’t see any – so I decided to write the life and adventures of forgotten men and women, people without heraldry, people who left no record except for the blood that, at least poetically, might still flow through our modern veins.

TB:  How difficult was research, given that there are no records of the lower classes?

HN:  It was a matter of combing card indexes of reference libraries and of collections in local history archives; local archives remain vital for detail, the internet is not yet the source of all knowledge (though it is wonderful for making great leaps in general research).   Parish registers, even though they did not begin until 1566, are worth consulting.  They are brief in detail of the common folk but there are entries which hint at human drama and tragedy. Here is one from St Hilda’s at Hartlepool:

Burials  9 Dec. 1596.  Christofer Harte, John Harte ye elder, John Harte ye younger, and Thomas Todd were all of them drowned out of one boat.  There is a tragedy here: four coble fishermen, three of one family – all lost. What will happen now the bread-winners have gone. Three months earlier, five men were lost from another coble.  

I feel an emotional connection with these stark lines, my mother is descended from these same fisher-folk.   Another snippet from a 16th century Yorkshire travelling  Quarter Sessions is rich in facts but also feeds the imagination. I’m sad for Matilda Wilkinson, spinster of Thornton, found guilty of stealing a pair of stockings (threepence), a petticoat (fourpence) and a neckerchief (threepence); she was to be whipped at Malton ‘and from thence conveyed from Constable to Constable, through the parishes, to Thornton, there to be whipped upon a holyday after evening prayer time, from the church stile to the place of her late dwelling there.’  These forgotten people are our fellows, they are silent ones who might sometimes whisper from the pages of historical fiction. That is how I felt when writing Tom Fleck.

TB:  How much time did you spend in research?

HN:  I never logged the days I spent walking the Flodden battlefield or studying the exhibits at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, or sifting through the journals of the Surtees Society, but it must add up to many, many hours. Whilst writing, I would sometimes break off to check something on the internet – like footwear, or what would Tom have on his feet when he kicked a robber in the shins? Would there have been red kites scavenging the streets of Durham City?   What sort of material was Cambric and would that Belgian cloth be for sale on a stall in Alnwick in 1513?  At the close of many days it seemed that I’d spent as much time on research as I did in writing the story – which is probably why it took four years.

TB: Did you have to leave much out?  If so, why?

HN:  In my enthusiasm for historical background, at first the story was overloaded with information.  It was all too much, so I cut and cut and rewrote, until only essentials were left. I gave most of what remained to the ‘actors’. In finding ways of allowing the characters to deliver vital research through their thoughts and speech, people came to life and I improved as a writer.

TB:  Will there be a sequel?

HN:  There will be a sequel, I’ve done a good deal of research for it.  I’m still reflecting on what circumstances might arise for Tom’s people – but I will not truly know until the ink touches the paper.

Writing Tom Fleck brought a rich four years; I had another world, just by my side, that I could step into – wherever I was. Now the book is published I do miss those characters; they had become real and I loved them all – even the bad guys.

‘Sharp as quivering hares are the Flecks. We’ve eyes and ears for things other folk miss.’

Much later, in the aftermath of Flodden, a young man finally understands his father’s words.

The year: 1513. The place: North-East England.

Tom Fleck, a downtrodden farm worker but gifted archer yearns to escape his masters. He unearths two objects that could be keys to freedom: a torque of ancient gold and a Tudor seal ring. He cannot know how these finds will determine his future.

Rachel Coronel craves an end to her Jewish wanderings. When the torque comes to rest around the neck of this mysterious woman, an odyssey begins which draws Tom Fleck into borderlands of belief and race.

The seal ring propels Tom on a journey of self-knowledge that can only climax in another borderland, among the ‘flowers of the forest’ on Flodden Field.   

The book is available on Amazon and other online outlets.

ISBN-13:  978-1908147769

Paperback price:  £7.99  ($12.99)

Kindle version:  £2.14   ($2.99)

Harry is happy to send out signed copies.  (£1.50 postage within the UK; overseas please contact Harry direct for postage price.)

Buy The Book (1)

8 Feb

Exciting news!  I have two friends with books out.  I’ll tell you about one today and one tomorrow.

The first is Tom Fleck by Harry Nicholson:

Tom Fleck

‘Sharp as quivering hares are the Flecks. We’ve eyes and ears for things other folk miss.’

In the aftermath of Flodden, a young man finally understands his father’s words.

 

The year: 1513. The place: North-East England.

Tom Fleck, a downtrodden farm worker but gifted archer, yearns to escape his masters. He unearths two objects that could be keys to freedom: a torque of ancient gold and a Tudor seal ring. He cannot know how these finds will determine his future.

Rachel Coronel craves an end to her Jewish wanderings. When the torque comes to rest around the neck of this mysterious woman, an odyssey begins which draws Tom Fleck into borderlands of belief and race.

The seal ring propels Tom on a journey of self-knowledge that can only climax in another borderland – among the flowers and banners of Flodden Field.

Harry Nicholson now lives near Whitby in North Yorkshire. He grew up in Hartlepool from where his family have fished since the 16th C. He had a first career as a radio officer in the merchant navy. A second career followed in television studios.

Since retirement he has devoted himself to art (the cover is one of his paintings), poetry and the teaching of meditation. This is his first novel. 

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I’ve read Tom Fleck; I loved it.  It has a sweet romance but the heart of the book is Tom’s journey: a road trip for the 16th Century.  What I loved most about it is Harry’s gift for interesting detail, the fascinating stuff that’s usually left out and shouldn’t be.

Buy it!  You’ll love it, I promise.

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You can get it from Amazon and other online retailers, or from the author himself; go to his blog for a taster. 

 

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