The Historical Novel Society announced the shortlist for its 2015 Indie Award on Friday, and included in the list is A Just and Upright Man . The winner will be announced and the award presented at the society’s annual conference in Denver, Colorado, in June.
I was stunned when I got the news. Of course you always hope to be recognised, and the book has had some very good reviews, but still it’s a surprise. To know that they started out with so many historical novels and, after they’d whittled them down to just nine, mine was still in there – it feels like a validation of all my hard work.
A Just and Upright Man is the first in the five-book James Blakiston series of historical romance/crime novels set in northeast England in the 1760s (with one set in the American colonies as revolution looms). So much historical fiction is written from the viewpoint of the rich and aristocratic, or at least the well-off. I wanted to write about the lives of the people at the bottom of the heap – the agricultural labourers, shepherds, cotton spinners and miners from whom I (and, in fact, almost everyone) am descended. You think at first that these people are invisible but when you sit for hours, day after day, (as I have) poring over the notebooks and other records kept by vicars and overseers of the poor – and, indeed, the courts – individuals start to emerge from the darkness and speak to you. I wanted to tell how their lives unfolded when enclosure took away their livelihood of the past two or three hundred years and to show that they, no less than the gentry, fell in love, married and had children; that they knew happiness and grief; that they mattered. The reviews I’ve been getting suggest that I’ve succeeded, which is rewarding in itself.
Poor Law, the second book in the series, is also available and the third book, The First Greeners in America, is well advanced..
The book is available here, for Kindle or as a paperback