Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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

Captain Burnet Rises to the Challenge~~

Jayne adds in today that she chose this post because it involves Edinburgh, her favorite British city. 

The history of Edinburgh's Town Guard stretches over almost 270 years and was marked by several highs and lows. Like all groups it served as home to the honourable and the villain in probably equal measure, although it is mainly the villains who are generally remembered (Captain Porteous for example). But today my attention is focused on the last man to hold the office of captain of the Guard: James Burnet.

Captain James Burnet
By day Burnet ran a grocer's shop at the head of Fleshmarket Close but when on duty he struck an imposing figure in his redcoat and white britches, weighing in at the impressive weight of 19 stone (270 pounds) and unlike many of his predecessors was not a military man. He was, despite his large size, a most active fellow who far preferred to spend his Sunday mornings walking near and far rather than squeezing his body into the confines of a pew for divine service. In Chambers Journal it is alluded that Captain Burnet was one of the Turners, so named from their habit of taking a turn (a stroll) on the Sabbath.  “About One O'clock,” reports the Journal, “Mr J. L might be seen cooling it through Straiton at the head of a slow procession of bellied men, his hat and wig held aloft on his cane and a myriad of flies buzzing and humming behind his shining pow. Perhaps Captain B(urnet) of the City Guard is of the set. He has a brother at Woodhouselee and they intend to call there and be treated to a glass of spirits and water for really the day is very warm.”

Captain Burnet was also a well-known member of the Lawnmarket Club, one of dozens of gentlemen's clubs which abounded in Edinburgh over the centuries. The Lawnmarket Club is described in Chambers' Traditions of Edinburgh to be a set of dram drinking, gossip mongering facetious group of men who meet each morning about seven o'clock by the post office to learn all the latest news and then retire to a nearby tavern for a refreshing glass of brandy.

Captain Burnet, it should be said, was not known to join in this early morning debauch and was more interested in learning the latest news and political machinations than anything else. However these early morning starts and regular walks ensured that the gallant captain was an active sort of fellow who was ever ready to face any challenge. And it was for this that we celebrate his memory today. 

A challenge was presented to him by a certain James Laing, Deputy City Clerk, who said that it would be impossible for Captain Burnet to climb from the King's Park to the top of Arthur's Seat in less than fifteen minutes. Those who are familiar with the great mass of grass and stone at the foot of the Royal Mile will understand that this is no mean feat for even the fittest and youngest of us to undertake, never mind a middle-aged man of huge proportions. Burnet, of course, at once accepted the wager.

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Marsha's Special Feature: An Interview with Bestselling Author Elizabeth Chadwick 

More favorites! Elizabeth Chadwick, Jayne declares, is one of her favorite authors. (And who doesn't love a great interview?)

I am honored to welcome bestselling historical fiction author, Elizabeth Chadwick.  Elizabeth was kind enough to answer a few questions about her writing, research, favorite authors, and much more. The first book I read by Elizabeth was The Greatest Knight, a novel about the extraordinary knight, William Marshal. Thus began my love affair with the Marshal and his sire, John FitzGiIbert. FitzGilbert's exciting life is told in Elizabeth's wonderful book, A Place Beyond Courage. The research and authenticity that Elizabeth puts into each book is amazing, which is one of the reasons she is often my go-to author when I want a brilliant read. Having just finished Elizabeth's newest book, The Summer Queen, a tale about Queen Alienor of Aquitaine, I am anxiously awaiting the second book of the trilogy coming soon, The Winter Crown.

 Hello, Elizabeth, and thank you for agreeing to answer a few questions.

Q: Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers? 
No, it’s always my own work.  I have adapted a film script though. I was asked by Columbia Pictures to adapt the script from First Knight starring Sean Connery and Richard Gere and turn it into a novel as part of their marketing process for the film.  Daughters of the Grail started life as a one page film treatment, but I had to provide the main story and work it up into a novel.  The film never got made – as is the way with these things so many times.  But the above are the nearest I have ever come to working with anyone else.

Q: How much research do you do? 
How long is a piece of string!  I began researching when I was 15 when I started to write my first novel about a character in the Holy Land. I knew very little about the 12th century Middle East and I wanted my book to feel as real as possible, so I immersed myself in the research to world build the stage on which my hero and heroine were going to interact. In the story they return to life in the Angevin Empire under Henry II, so I had to research the European aspect as well.  I was never, ever as diligent about the WWII history homework being handed out at school at that time! 
 I am never not reading about my historical period.  As well as the need to know material, just browsing the era for fun is tremendously rewarding and deepens my knowledge. If you are going to write about 12th century people then you owe it to them, your readers and yourself to make them as of their time as possible.  My research is in depth and inter-disciplinary.  So I read primary sources, secondary sources, archaeology reports, I visit locations where possible and I also re-enact with a living history society to get a feel for the period.  I use online research as well, but you have to be careful.  There are some fantastic resources out there but also a lot that give out unreliable information.  You need a kind of ‘garbage radar’ to keep you safe online!

Q: Do you ever get any ideas about something to write by photos you have, or 
places you remember?

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