Friday, 12 January 2018

New blog posts, new books, new website - so much to enjoy!

It's a Friday and I generally post on my blog on a Friday, but Christmas has disrupted the normal flow of things and I posted on Tuesday. Go and have a look at that. It’s got photos of fireworks and pretty pictures of snow.

I have also blogged as a guest on three other blogs this week. I do recommend them. I'm on Sandra W's blog outlining my plans for 2018 and then I pop up with Jennifer Macaire to talk about researching Burke in the Land of Silver. Finally (for now) Jenny Kane had me over to her place to talk a little about the real James Burke. That surely excuses me from writing much here today, doesn't it?

This flurry of activity is all because Endeavour Press are now republishing all of the Burke books, starting with Burke in the Land of Silver. Hopefully, some of the thousands of people who read this blog will shell out the fairly insubstantial £2.99 that is all that is being asked for the Kindle edition, now available on Amazon. (North American readers will continue to be able to buy their copies through Simon & Schuster.) If £2.99 seems more than you are happy to spend (really?), then the second book in the series is currently available to pre-order at a ludicrously cheap 99p.

I haven't just been writing blogs. Today's authors have to be multi-talented creatures, and I have been turning my mind to designing a website. It's not totally finished yet, but I suspect it never will be, so I am turning it loose on the public. Please go and visit it at and let me know what you think. You can even contact me directly through the site or by e-mail at 

For now, this blog will appear both here and on the new website (at Eventually I'm hoping you will all move to reading it on the website and new posts will no longer appear here, but old posts will be here as a sort of archived resource for anybody who is interested in reading what I've written about the Indian Mutiny or the Battle of Waterloo or, indeed, making new friends in a dance hall

So, even without my usual Friday blog post here, there is plenty for you to read and enjoy.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

New Year, New Books

A belated happy New Year to everybody.

New Year fireworks at Tignes

I've had a few weeks away from my blog because I've been on holiday for Christmas and the New Year. We spent Christmas in Wales, arriving after the snow that would have cut us off had vanished, leaving us with grey misty days that could have been dull but, where we were, were strangely beautiful. 

The snow returned just as we were leaving.

There wasn't enough to stop us coming back to London where we were able to enjoy an afternoon of dancing tango at the Royal Festival Hall before we were off again to see the New Year in in the French Alps. There the snow fell rather extravagantly, but when the resort wasn't closed down because of the avalanche danger, we had some lovely skiing.

I wouldn't normally apologise for taking a holiday during what so many people (admittedly mainly Americans) now call “the Holidays”, but it was an unfortunate time to be away as it meant that we were still in France when Endeavour press published Burke in the Land of Silver.

When Burke in the Land of Silver was first published, I didn't really understand how vital it is for writers to promote their books. I thought this was something I could leave to my publisher. I was wrong. Nowadays a good part of an author's life – any author, from bestsellers like JK Rowling to less well-known writers like me – is spent promoting their work. With their publication of Burke in the Land of Silver, Endeavour have given me a second chance to make a first impression. Perhaps being out on the ski slopes when that chance came along wasn't a great idea, but sometimes family commitments and the difficulty of organising everybody's diary so we can holiday together is arguably more important than getting my blog out on time.

Still, even if I haven’t been busy on my own blog, you will have had the chance to read things I have written elsewhere. Sandra W has kindly offered me the chance to share my hopes and plans for 2018 on her bookloverwormblog while Jennifer Macaire has allowed me space to talk about the research that goes into a book like Burke in the Land of Silver. On Thursday there will be a piece about the real James Burke on Jenny Kane’s blog ( and there will be other stuff coming soon – watch out for details on my Facebook page and Twitter. And if you have a blog and would like to write something (or would like me to write something for you), that would be just amazing.

Anyway, just in case you haven't worked it out, Burke in the Land of Silver is now available on Kindle on Amazon. It's a thrilling story based on the real-life adventures of James Burke who was spying for Britain in Argentina at the beginning of the 19th century. It's just £2.99 on Kindle. A paperback edition should be along soon.

The second book in the James Burke series, Burke and the Bedouin, will be published on 19 January. It is available to pre-order at the ludicrously cheap price of 99p. Get your pre-order in soon!

If you live in North America the books continue to be available from Simon & Schuster.

Anyway, that's all from me for now. Do look out for the posts that will be appearing on blogs all over the place and for news about my much promised new website, which really should be up and running very soon. Most importantly, do all have a very happy (if belated) New Year.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Merry Christmas!

Well, that's all from me until after Christmas. I hope you all have a great one.

I took the picture below from across the Thames a few years ago. The building is Ham House, built in 1610.

Friday, 15 December 2017

It’s that time again …

With Christmas falling on a Monday this year, I think most people are going to be taking an extended break for the winter holidays. That means that this will be the last "proper" blog post of 2017 (if these ramblings constitute a "proper" blog post). I usually post on Friday and next Friday everybody will be far too busy thinking about trees and mulled wine and mince pies and Christmas pudding. At least I hope you will be. It's been a funny old year, but if you're reading this you're still here and I hope that you're going to be able to enjoy Christmas with your loved ones.

It's been a particularly strange year for me as an author with six published books, none of which have been available in the UK for the past six months. This is because I've been changing publishers, a process which takes rather longer than I had realised. Accent (who used to publish my books) were amazing in getting me to sit down and write and their editorial team were great, but there have been a lot of changes there and both my editors have moved on and the company is being restructured. It seemed like a good time for somebody else to take responsibility for getting my books out. I have been very lucky to get taken on by Endeavour Press. Endeavour come highly recommended by writer friends as a new and exciting press with a lot of historical titles. I particularly enjoy Sally Spencer’s Inspector Blackstone books, set in the London of a few decades after Back Home.

I'm hoping that Endeavour will be able to get my books to a larger audience. They are republishing all six novels, starting with Burke in the Land of Silver on 5 January – so by the time you see the next blog from me, the book should be available. I had hoped it would be on pre-order by now, but some things are not to be, so I don’t have a buy link yet. I do have a cover, with a brooding Argentinian rider wrapped against the weather. It could be James Burke about to set off across the Andes, as he does in the story.

It does look vaguely familiar from our own trip where, like Burke, we faced snow covered passes and the joys of a night at 3,000 metres without electricity or gas. There’s not much in the way of shrub at 3,000 metres and what there is burns to ash in minutes, so it was a cold night.

I’m hoping that the final version of the cover will highlight Paul Collard’s comment: “James Bond in breeches.” (You can just about read it at the bottom of the page.) James Bond in breeches was pretty much what I was aiming for, so I did appreciate that comment from an author I admire.

In celebration of my new publisher, I've got a fancy new website. It's a work in progress at the moment, but here's a screenshot that gives you some idea what it's going to look like:

This blog will transfer there, hopefully early in the New Year, but don't worry – existing posts will still be available here and I'll be sure to let you know the new address.

So here we are at the end of a busy year with a pause for festivities after which I'll be rushing around promoting my books to an audience who haven't had the chance to see them yet. Given that I know far more people read this blog than have ever bought my books, I'm guessing that includes some of you. You have a treat in store. I'll be letting you know full details of the when, the way and the pitifully small cover price very soon. All I can say at the moment is that come 5 January, if you check out Amazon, you should find the e-book of Burke in the Land of Silver. The paperback will be along soon.

Until then, have a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year, with lots of great reading ahead in 2018.

Friday, 8 December 2017

James Burke

People often ask where writers get their ideas from. In my case, they can come from almost anywhere but, because I write historical novels, my starting point is often a person or an incident that catches my eye in a work of non-fiction. I've been lucky in that I haven't had somebody sitting over me and demanding that I produce a book straightaway so I can usually be quite relaxed waiting for something to strike me.

The James Burke books, though, came from a straightforward search for a commercially viable historical character to write about. I mentioned to a friend that I was struggling and she said that I should look for inspiration in the lives of Europeans living in the area that is now Argentina during the period of Spanish rule and immediately afterwards. She had met me in Argentina and knew I was interested in the country and its history and she told me that there were fascinating lives amongst the early pioneers.

I started reading books about South America, looking for people who were doing exciting enough things to be worked up into a novel. I think my friend was hoping for a serious tale of exploration and triumph over hardship – something like Elizabeth Morgan’s Ticket to Paradise, a brilliant story about early Welsh settlers in Patagonia. What I found instead was the story of James Burke: soldier, womaniser, spy and a crucial figure in the little-known British invasion of Buenos Aires in 1806
There is very little that is definitely known about James Burke, but the little that there is forms the basis for a wonderful story. Starting his military career fighting for the French, he changed sides and worked as a spy for the English. It seems likely that his lovers included a queen, a princess, and the mistress of a Spanish viceroy. He travelled extensively around South America, riding across the Andes in the snow and gathering vital military intelligence throughout the area. It's likely that the information he obtained was crucial to the British invaders in 1806. (He can hardly be blamed if the occupation was so badly handled that they were soon driven out again.)

With such gripping raw material, the first book about James Burke, Burke in the Land of Silver, sticks pretty closely to the facts – at least as far as we know them. The story takes Burke from the West Indies to Argentina, Brazil, and Spain. There are devious plots, thrilling fights, wicked women and a villain all the more deliciously evil for being a real historical character. Buckles are swashed and bodices are ripped. I had huge fun writing it and I hope you’ll have fun reading it. And at the end, you will find you have painlessly acquired a basic understanding of Spain’s role in the Napoleonic Wars and some of the early history of Argentina.

Burke in the Land of Silver will be republished by Endeavour Press on 5 January, to be followed by the other two books I have written about James Burke. Two new James Burke books are all ready to follow if all you lovely people buy the first three.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Nice things said about my books

In my last blog post I reviewed a couple of historical fiction books by authors I enjoy. In this post, with the republication of my books drawing ever closer, I’m going to take the opportunity to mention some of the things that other reviewers have said about my efforts.

Burke in the Land of Silver

"James Bond in breeches" - Paul Collard
"A well-crafted adventure yarn with exotic settings and plenty of suspense." Historical Novel Society

Burke and the Bedouin

“A “Boys’ Own” adventure (but also very suitable for ladies who like a little derring-do!) … at its best in the vivid action sequences and set pieces, such as the Battle of the Pyramids and the climactic Battle of the Nile.” Historical Novel Society
“An entertaining light read, set in a corner of the Napoleonic Wars which is often neglected.”  The Review

Burke at Waterloo

“Historical fiction as it should be written.” – Paul Collard

The White Rajah

“An involving tale of adventure, intrigue and unlikely love.” Historical Novel Society
“This book works on so many levels.” The Review
“It's ages since I've started reading a book and then been 100% annoyed at the world that it won't let me just sit there and finish it all in one go, but The White Rajah by Tom Williams has totally been that book!” By Slanted Light
"An interesting tale, well told." Bloomsbury Review


“All that historical fiction should be: absorbing, believable and educational.” – Terry Tyler in Terry Tyler Book Reviews
“For anyone who has a love for this period, Cawnpore is probably one for you.” Historical Novel Society

Back Home

Back Home was runner-up for historical fiction in the awards that Rosie Amber’s book review team give out following an on-line vote.

"I enjoyed every word of this novel. It's so cleverly written, with low-key humour in parts, the research used subtly and unobtrusively." – Terry Tyler in Terry Tyler Book Reviews

“It is perfectly paced and has an authentic voice which gives a real sense of time and place.” Whispering Stories blog

Save the date

Burke in the Land of Silver will be republished on 5 January and should be available for pre-order before that. I'll let you know the date as soon as I do. The other books will be coming out every couple of weeks, until early March.

If you live in North America, all my books are currently available through Simon & Schuster. Can I mention that they make excellent Christmas presents?

If you want to check out other books on these blogs, here are some useful addresses:
Whispering Stories:

Friday, 1 December 2017

Two historical novels you might be interested in

The Last Legionnaire by Paul Fraser Collard

This is the fifth Jack Lark story. It starts with Jack coming back to his childhood home and takes a while to get into its stride with the return of Ballard, the spymaster from Lark's earlier adventures. Ballard, for reasons he refuses to explain to Lark, is determined to find a man who is serving with the French Foreign Legion in Italy and to bring him back, by force if necessary, to his home in England.

The plot rambles a bit, with some implausibilities here and there, but the point of it is to get Lark to the Battle of Solferino. Never heard of it? Neither had I, but I should have.

Ballard's summary of the politics behind the battle (basically the French and the Sardinians were trying to drive the Austrians out of northern Italy) neatly provides the historical background that you need. From then on it's just a matter of manoeuvring Lark into a situation where it seems perfectly natural for him to disguise himself as a French legionnaire and join the fighting.

Lark finds his man, who is duly returned to England, but the story does not quite resolve itself. I think there is supposed to be a shock revelation toward the end, but I doubt it will come as that much of a shock to many people and the end of the story leaves Lark very clearly set to start straight into another adventure.

One thing I have always respected Collard for is that he does not flinch from the brutality of 19th century warfare and, if there is a certain repetitiveness as Lark thrusts his bayonet into victim after victim, that probably represents the reality of battle. Solferino was, as Collard’s usual useful historical note explains, a battle that left nearly 40,000 casualties. For Lark, it represented his first contact with the reality of what we might think of as modern warfare, with rifled artillery enabling whole units to be mown down before they even engage the enemy. The historical note explains that the horror of Solferino led eventually to the formation of the International Red Cross.

This is far from the best of the Jack Lark books, probably because it is really about a single battle rather than a campaign, so much of the book is filled out with sub-plots, some more engaging than others. Still, it told me a lot about a battle that I had not known anything about before. Solferino did mark a development in the way that men wage war and it deserves to be better known. Collard has done us a service by writing about it, and, if the book does not entirely work on its own, it has set the characters up well for the next in the series. If you are Jack Lark fan, you will enjoy The Last Legionnaire, but if you have not read him before it's probably not the place to start.

Circle of Shadows by Imogen Robertson

It's always disconcerting to pick up a book and discover that it's the fourth in a series where you haven't read the first three. I would definitely have enjoyed the book more if I had started at the beginning of the Crowther and Westerman books, but Robertson provides enough background to the characters and their history for you to get along even if you are, like me, starting in the middle.

Circle of Shadows is a mystery set in late 18th-century Germany. Germany at the time had many tiny independent states where the rulers compensated for their relative obscurity, as rulers go, by building ever more elaborate palaces filled with courtiers who took part in ever more elaborate ceremonials. This fictional state is about to celebrate a royal wedding, so the amount of ceremonial has been dramatically ramped up. The last thing anybody wants in the middle of all this is a mysterious murder, let alone the series of mysterious murders that confront Crowther and Westerman when they arrive from England to sort all the confusion out.

Although the killings are ritualistic and quite unpleasant, this is essentially a traditional "cosy crime" story, albeit with a well realised historical background. I am generally irritated when books present 18th-century women doing things that they would be unlikely to have got away with in real life, but readers clearly enjoy female detectives and, in Harriet Westerman, Robertson has produced a credible character. Harriet is a widow – a position that gave women of the period a degree of independence. She is also presented as an unusually feisty lady and would probably be even more convincing if I had read the first book in the series. In any case, it is the background that is historically well observed. The story is not intended to be wildly realistic and there is a definite hint of magic about the resolution.

If you enjoy detective stories and you enjoy historical novels, this nicely written combination of the two should serve well for Christmas. But you might like to start with the first book in the series: Instruments of Darkness, as you ask.

A word from our sponsor

What of my own books? If you look at the next blog post, you will see some of the nice things people have said about them.

If you are living in North America, you can buy my books either as e-books or as paperbacks (because paperbacks always look better under the tree) from the Simon & Schuster website. If you are in the UK, you will have to wait until January when Endeavour will start republishing the book series, to be followed by the John Williamson Chronicles in February. Make a note in your diary!