Tag Archives: A Just and Upright Man

“Historical crime fiction at its very best”

A Just and Upright Man cover R J Lynch updated June 2014

This is some review from Book Viral for A Just and Upright Man

It is 1763. James Blakiston, overseer of Lord Ravenshead’s estate and a newcomer to the Durham parish of Ryton, is determined to solve the mystery of old Reuben Cooper’s murder – but he has no idea how to go about it.

Compelling historical drama unfolds in A Just And Upright Man by author RJ Lynch, as he commendably peels back the veneer of Georgian society to deliver an uncompromising tale of murder and mystery. Admirably eschewing the more popularly toted incarnations of the period, in favour of an altogether darker and more damning exploration of time and place, Lynch brings distinct flair to his enthralling tale with a meticulous eye for detail that is ever present. It is evident in the intricacy of his plot, but never more so than the verve with which he imbues his characters. Capturing humour and dark intent with turn of phrase that colours his telling in vivid detail; elevating this tale of detection and the dictates of a blinkered society to a class of its own.

Uncommonly authentic, highly engaging, A Just And Upright Man is historical crime fiction at its very best and rightly raises high expectations for future novels in the series. A credit to R J Lynch and recommended without reservation.

I’m the new Thomas Hardy :-)

A Just and Upright Man cover R J Lynch

Well, maybe that’s a bit OTT. But this is a very good review of A Just and Upright Man from Francine in Romance Reviews Magazine:

It’s the North of England (1763) and the Enclosures Act has yet to be passed by Parliament (1773). Even so, small plots and common land are enclosed without application to Parliament, which occurred right through from the time of Charles II’s restoration. And this is where the author’s hero, James Blakiston, rides forth and affords insight to his position as overseer (land agent/steward). He is the very man who mediates in disputes and or negotiates terms between a landowner and his tenant cottagers, smallholders and farmers. Subsequently, Blakiston comes to know of the shady secrets of all the parishioners, the rector, and his lusty bible spouting curate.
 As if Blakiston doesn’t have enough to contend with in his duties to his master, (his lordship), a rape and murder occurs in one of his lordship’s villages, which James must initially investigate as part of his working remit. But rumour abounds of hidden treasure spirited away, and what at first seems a simple case of murderous revenge, becomes a far more complicated puzzle to solve. Undaunted, Blakiston sets out to unravel the mystery of a man everyone despised: including the deceased’s own children. Such is no mean task for Blakiston hails from the lesser landed gentry, being that of a squire’s son. While subjected to sideways mistrusting glances from many, others benefit from his fair-minded policies. One young lady, below his rank, sees him for what he is, a lonely young man at heart. Little does Kate Greener know that Blakiston has a past he’s ashamed of, and although she stirs lust from within, he is what he has made of himself: A Just and Upright Man.
 Blakiston treats Kate with respect, and while beating his heart into retreat, she too knows her place in the overall scheme of what is socially acceptable. But can social divide keep them apart, or can love overcome all obstacles set by society? J. R. Lynch has brought to life the country folk from up north, and that of the era in which they exist. This novel is on a par with Thomas Hardy’s meaty offerings of country life and the hardships of the less well off: those beholding to the super-rich of their day. The men who could make or break a family with one word: eviction. Although there’s a large cast of characters, the author introduces each with clarity through the eyes of Blakiston. A Just And Upright Man is nothing short of a very enjoyable and worthwhile read. As this is Book 1 of a series, I can honestly say I’m looking forward to reading book 2.

How true historically is A Just and Upright Man?

A number of readers have asked me just how accurate the historical detail in A Just and Upright Man is. Well, it’s a work of fiction. But that doesn’t mean it’s all invented.

It happens in a real place, but I made up the events and most of the people. The Greener and Laws families have been in and around Ryton for a very long time, but none of them did what their namesakes do here. A lot of other names were common in Ryton – Bent, Cowan and Saunders, to name only three of the more prominent ones – but they never did me any harm and I have left them alone. There was never a Rector there called Thomas Claverley. There was a Blakiston, but he was not Lord Ravenshead’s farm agent. If it comes to that, there was never a Lord Ravenshead – I have changed the name from Ravensworth (though the real Baron never had a son called the Earl of Wrekin). The Blacketts, on the other hand, really were the Blacketts. They did live at Matfen Hall and Hoppyland was one of their estates.

There really was a Sticky Bainbridge, and he really did get his nickname because he had a wooden leg, but I have moved him back in time 150 years and relocated him from South Moor to Ryton. The original provided the occasion for one of my Great Uncle Jot’s celebrated one-liners, repeated through three generations, which is how I first heard of him. Martin Wale was never Curate in Ryton. There really was a James Batey in Bolam and he really was a boot maker of repute as well as being my 4 greats grandfather; there was never a blacksmith in Hexham called James Meader.

The story of the disputed tithe on turnips is true. Ambrose Crowley really was the philanthropist described in these pages, though he was a businessman first. The Ryton Church bells really were cast and fitted when I said they were, the total eclipse happened exactly when I say it did, the Piper of Wall really did marry Jean Middlemas when he was ninety and she was twenty-five and the extravagant claims for his physical performance really were made. If someone could make their way here from the Ryton of the 1760s they’d find nothing to question in my description of the food they ate, the furniture they used, the houses they lived in or the clothes they wore. (I’ve actually had emails challenging the suggestion that women in 18th century England wore no underwear below the waist; I assure you, it’s true.

Oh, yes–and their really was a Kate Greener, too. If there hadn’t been, there wouldn’t now be a Me.

I could go on. What it comes down to is: If it is part of the story of murder, mayhem and love, I made it up. If it isn’t – if it is external to all that – it’s true. Whatever true means in this context. History is a fertile ground for the followers of every creed, whether political, religious or sociological. They’re all right, and they’re all wrong. There is a widespread belief that primary sources will take us back to ground zero and show us what really happened. Sometimes that’s so. And sometimes it isn’t. For example, “everyone” knows – and it’s certainly in all the text books I’ve come across – that there were no workhouses in rural parishes in the north east of England till after 1835. But go back to the primary sources and read Ryton parish’s Account Book of Overseers, including Assessments of Poor Rate, Receipts and Memoranda (Durham Registry Office, EP/Ryt 7/1). Woodside Poor House is there, starting in 1759, and the poor were given the choice of entering it or going without assistance. As so often, what everyone knows to be true is, in fact, wrong.

You can, though, read all the primary documents there are and still come up with differing versions of the truth. A Just and Upright Man is mine. Please. Feel free to see things otherwise.

If you want to discuss this, use the Comment space at the foot of this post. Or you can email me on rjl@mandrillpress.com