Sunday, September 7, 2014

As a Black Prince on Bloody Fields

One of my novels, “As a Black Prince on Bloody Fields,” is seeing the light of day.  I’ll let the words on the back cover speak for it.

"An uncertain sixteen year-old in black armor steels himself to lead the vanguard of his father’s army on a muddy battlefield.  It is a stormy day in August, 1346.  He is Edward Plantagenet, called “the Black Prince.”  The place is “The Valley of the Clerks,” near the town of Crecy, France. 

This is the story of his youth and adulthood as he tells it, from a childhood among lions in the Tower of London to his love for a woman whose life is as wild and exceptional as his own.  She is Joan, called “the Fair Maid of Kent,” renowned for her beauty.

At 26, after years of vast social and economic change and the desolation of the Black Death, Edward returns to France in another desperate gambit to save his father’s kingdom and discover who he truly is.  Before Henry V and Agincourt there was Edward and Crecy and Poitiers.  And Joan.”

If you’re reading this, hopefully you’re wondering whether you would be interested in reading the novel.  Maybe you’re wondering why I wrote it.

When I was fourteen and first starting to write a lot I wanted to write the kind of books I liked to read.  They were the books of adolescence, the books you live inside, the books for which you grieve when they end, sometimes to the point of tears.  And I devoured them.  I remember reading The Lord of the Rings over two rainy summer days mostly outside.  The snow-tipped mountains visible from our backyard never looked so green.

Later, in graduate school, I wondered if that was sentimentality.

Now, much later, I perceive that response as proportional and proper for anyone at that time and place in life.  The books were creating whom I aspired to be, who I was and who I am now.  They merit tears.  I never would have been able to love and live in War and Peace that first time through if it hadn’t been for reading J. R. R. Tolkien four years before.

What were the books?  I’ve already mentioned Tolkien, (who 41 years after his death amazed me with his translation of Beowulf beautifully assembled by his son Christopher.)  There was T. H. White who may been one of the first since Chaucer and Thomas Mallory to portray the medieval world as intimate, which it was.  There was Mary Renault, whose novels of ancient Greece, particularly the Theseus and Alexander novels, imagined and portrayed sexuality and gender with the breadth and nuance that had escaped even the more literal members of the lost generation.  Then there was Dumas, Hemingway, Faulkner and, surprisingly late at 18, Shakespeare, the greatest love of my literary life.

Quite simply I’ve tried to write a book I would have wanted to read then and would read now.

I have no illusions about belonging in that great company mentioned above but their influence is evident and might be a clue as to whether you’d want read my book.

It concerns the Hundred Years War, the same hundred years of devastation that inspired George R. R. Martin’s “Fire and Ice” fantasy books and the HBO “Game of Thrones” series.  That period of European history has its vast share of dramatic and fictional treatments, from Shakespeare to Bernard Cornwell.  But, to my knowledge there are few, if any, that attempt to imagine the personal experience of the Black Prince, which must have been amazing.

That's why I wrote it.  If you're interested in a review, you can find one on the Kirkus Reviews website:

The wicked cool cover was designed by Carolina Fiandri, CirceCorp Design.  You can purchase the paperback and the Kindle eBook directly from Amazon now.

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