Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Best of The Review: Favorite Posts From the First Half Year (Volume II)

Paula's People: Interview with Mr. Bernard Cornwell~

Bernard Cornwell, who hardly needs introduction, has written a fabulous collection of books and established himself quite firmly as a favorite of many. Here our Paula interviews the author, and what a smashing job she has done!


First question: I see that you are now settled and living in the US. Do you ever miss the UK and do you come back often?
I do miss it!  I normally visit a couple of times a year, so I get my ‘fix’. I married into America and have now spent half my life here, and I’m sure I’ll spend the rest of it here, but Judy, my wife, loves Britain, so we do visit as often as we can.  What I miss most is cricket!  That and rugby!
Second Question: What was it like growing up in England and what or who were your early inspirations in writing?
Growing up in England was horrible, but that wasn’t England’s fault. I was adopted into a ghastly family of Christian fundamentalists who tried to beat me into a state of salvation, an effort that failed totally. But that was all a long time ago, and despite them I discovered a passionate love of history. I suppose the biggest influence on my writing was C.S. Forester’s Hornblower series which I discovered as a teenager, and Sharpe is really just Hornblower on land, though of course he’s a very different character!  

Third Question: Have you always written historical fiction, or have you ever, or will you ever dabble with another genre?
I dabbled in thrillers some years ago and wrote, I think, five. I enjoyed them, but not as much as I enjoy writing historical fiction, and it seemed sensible to stick to what I enjoyed most. I doubt I’ll dabble again, though who knows? 
Fourth Question: Where do the ideas for your books come from?
I wish I knew! I suppose they come from reading . . . endless reading of history. I suspect it’s an unconscious process. I read a lot of history and some eras appeal, and some events trigger an idea.  Right now I’m in the middle of writing the stories of Uhtred. The ‘big’ story in that series is the making of England . .  a process about which the English are extraordinarily ignorant!  There wasn’t always an England, and it had to be made by warfare, and that was a story I long wanted to tell, but to tell it I needed a smaller story – the tale of, say, one family. So I had a basic idea – the making of England – but the spark for writing the series didn’t occur till I met my real father much later in life and discovered he (and me) was descended from Uhtred of Bebbanburg. And that provoked the stories. So it’s a complex process, and not entirely rational!

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Major Weir--The Wizard of the West Bow~

A love of history, especially where witchcraft and devilment are concerned, is cited as the inspiration behind this fabulous choice. Wizardry in all its historical forms has long captured the imagination, and Stuart here seals the deal with his thrilling account of the major.


Edinburgh has had many notorious criminals through the centuries; some achieve a sort of immortality by having pubs named after them such as Maggie Dickson or Deacon Brodie. Other become the focus for the silver screen such as the serial killers Burke and Hare where their deeds are retold in a dozen different ways. Others however seem to have largely slipped from the public mind despite being almost too notorious for words in their own day. One such figure who seems to fit that category is Major Thomas Weir – The Wizard of the West Bow.

Born in Lanarkshire at the end of the sixteenth century little is known of his early life other than he served as a lieutenant in the regular army suppressing rebellions in Ireland before returning to Scotland in the 1630's. He was one of the signatories to the Solemn League and Covenant which called for the protection, by any means, of Scottish Presbyterianism from any outside influence, chiefly Charles I and his attempt to introduce an Anglican style of worship in the Church of Scotland. 

To protect their vision of the true faith the Scots formed the Covenanting Army which Thomas Weir enlisted in and rose to the rank of major earning a reputation as a reliable and able commander of men on the field of battle.

At the age of 50 he retired from active service in the field and took up position as commander of Edinburgh's fledgling Town Guard. However it was his time in the Army of the Covenant which seems to have shaped the remainder of his life. He was imbued with the fiery zeal of the evangelist and would preach long and loud to anyone who would listen about the snares set by Rome and Satan for the unwary Protestant to fall into. From his home on the West Bow which ran from the Lawnmarket down a steep doglegged slope to the Grassmarket and where he lived with his sister Grizel, he would hold powerful prayer meeting with like minded Calvinists earning the group the sobriquet The Bowhead Saints. Such was Weir’s prominence in the Presbyterian community that it was said “if four met together, be sure Major Weir was one.” 

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