Robin Hood and the Castle of Bones – a beginning at last
I’ve finally made a start on my new Robin Hood novel and I’ve found a kind of zen-like calm from writing about my familiar characters: gangster-like Robin, loyal Alan Dale, Hanno the Bavarian and foul-mouthed Little John . . .
In recent weeks, I’ve been having difficulty concentrating on my work; this murderous coronavirus is the main reason, obviously, but the recent spate of lovely weather, the Easter holiday looming, persistent money worries and trying to promote Robin Hood and the Caliph’s Gold (recently published; go on, buy it here), are all playing a part in keeping me from getting words down.
But I’m off now and running with the Castle of Bones, and enjoying the process. I’ve written a complete outline of the plot, and the Foreword – some light-hearted nonsense about a descendant of Alan Dale discovering an old manuscript in the attic – and I’m on Chapter One. It might not sound like much but my path is clear. I know where I’m going with this new tale.
So what’s the Jackanory?
Without giving away too much, it is set in Burgundy in the spring and summer of 1192. I didn’t know much about Burgundy when I started except that it produced famous wines but I now have a firmer grip on the local politics – the low-level feuding between the County of Burgundy – which was part of the Holy Roman Empire, and ruled by Otto, the son of the Emperor Frederick I (Barbarossa) – and the Duchy of Burgundy, allied to France and ruled by a regent called Eudes (later the Duke of B.) because his father the present Duke, Hugh, is off in the Holy Land on the Third Crusade.
The novel will have two story strands, intertwined, one about Robin trying to make trouble and foment a much larger scale war between the County and the Duchy – both of which are enemies of England and King Richard the Lionheart, and one about Alan Dale falling in love and running madly after a beautiful local girl to Robin’s intense irritation. Needless to say, there will be plenty of fighting, a few jokes and a big, bloody battle at the end.
The final battle will take place in a fictional castle, which is held by a fictional bad guy. The reason for that is the sources in English are scarce on Burgundy in 1192, and I cannot find (so far, although I’m still looking) a suitable real battle to co-opt for my fictional purposes. When I was thinking about my fictional bad guy’s lair, I remembered a TV programme I saw a few years ago about Guédelon Castle (below), which is a 13th-century-style fortress that is now being built from scratch in France, not all that far from Burgundy, and – get this – only using the authentic medieval technology.
The Guédelon Castle project is fascinating, all the materials – stone, timber, bricks, tiles, etc – used are local and they use wooden man-powered cranes and lead plumb-lines and hand-built wooden frames and scaffolding to create this rather beautiful medieval structure. They have a website here.
When this tiresome coronavirus thing has gone away, I really hope to visit Guédelon for a few days and make some research notes. Something to look forward to, perhaps, if I can afford the time and expense. Anyway, I’ve a book to get on with now, so I’ll sign off. And if you want something to read before I’ve finished the Castle of Bones, may I suggest you buy a copy of the Robin Hood and Caliph’s Gold here – if enough people buy that book, I may be able to afford to go to Guédelon in the summer to research the next one.