Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Prince of Prigs - a glimpse into Stuart era England - interview with Anthony Anglorus

Salutations, commies!
If you are tired of metastatic Tudor novels, I have a special treat for you - The Prince of Prigs, a novel by Anthony Anglorus set during the English Civil Wars featuring the adventures of highwayman Capt. James Hind, who robs the Roundheads to fund the royalist cause. His cause is threatened when Oliver Cromwell comes to power.

MJN: What attracts me to your work is the subject matter. I was talking to another historical novelist, and she said that she had trouble pitching her 17th century England piece to publishers, because the Stuart dynasty was not as marketable or recognizable as the Tudors. The English Civil War period often gets overlooked. Hopefully that's about to change. Do you see the Stuart dynasty gaining more prominence? Because frankly, I'm a little tired of Henry VIII. 
I suspect that interest could well move forward to the Stuarts; certainly they seemed to be a dramatic family - James I had the Gunpowder plot, still remembered every year in England on November 5th, Charles I lost his head, Charles II seemed to be trying to set up a nation of his own descendants, James II tried to convert England back to Catholicism and was deposed...every one of them seemed to be associated with high drama. Although I think anything about Charles II would probably be an X-rated drama! The English Civil War does seem to be a neglected period, however, and I suspect that it will largely remain so - it is difficult for us in our modern secular society to comprehend the reasons behind it and I suspect that this is why it tends to be avoided. Although my book is set within this period, it is in a time of comparative quiescence - I don't want to have to try to explain the reasons for a civil war.
MJN: Speaking of recognizable names and archetypes that live in people's collective knowledge. Your earlier novel's title is The Other Robin Hood. If there's a pair of star-crossed lovers, they are compared to Romeo and Juliet. If there's an ugly man with a noble heart, he's compared to Quasimodo.  And if there's a man who defies law, he is compared to Robin Hood.  Do you ever get frustrated by the fact that you have to rely on built-in archetypes?

AA: I'm not sure that 'rely' is the right word; in my case, the aim was simply to offer an idea of the subject matter in the title. I was trying to sell a book. That can't happen unless a potential reader picks the book up, and you need something to make them do that (metaphorically in the case of the internet).

Using archetypes catches the eye and no, it doesn't frustrate me as a rule. Although, given that I write mainly about highwaymen, I do get frustrated by the universal image of Dick Turpin as the archetypal gentleman highwayman. He never was gentle, he was a brutal thug with no redeeming features - most of the actions credited to him were performed by William Nevison (the ride to York), James Hind and Claude Duval (in both case, gentleman highwaymen).

MJN: Cromwell. Such a controversial figure. The Irish feel about him the same way Jews feel about Hitler.  I don't think it's a fair comparison, because Cromwell was not as bent on purity of race. He was more bent on purity of religion.  (Here we go again comparing one historical figure to another). And yet, the man was a hero to many. I see him as a very conflicted and tragic figure, especially after reading Victor Hugo's play Cromwell and writing a dissertation on it.  I am sure you are aware of the publication called Cromwelliana dedicated to the study of the English Civil War. What is your personal take on him?
AA: As I said, I have tried to avoid the actual war itself as much as possible. But I did have to study numerous books on the subject to give myself a 'feel' for the period. As Cromwell features throughout the book (and indeed the sequel, which does include the Drogheda massacre), I especially had to study him.

I felt that he was a very complicated man. Very devout Christian to be sure, but he would only tolerate Protestant Christians and had no problem with killing those with differing faiths; he believed that he was doing God's Will. As regards Ireland, he genuinely believed that the Catholics had 'invaded' Ireland in order to usurp 'the True faith'. We know this to be untrue, Catholicism was there long before Cromwell, but he was certain of it. We can only surmise how he came to be so misinformed, but I would be inclined to look long and hard at firebrand Puritan preacher Hugh Peters. Cromwell seems to have been easily influenced overall; there is a distinct possibility that his attitude towards King Charles was 'adjusted' by his son-in-law, devout republican Henry Ireton. In my opinion, the Irish look on him more harshly than is justified, but the English look at him through rose-coloured glasses. He was a consummate politician, but as a military leader, he lost more battles than he won. He is regarded here as the 'father' of modern parliamentary democracy, but I struggle to justify that accolade; the rump parliament (1648-1653) was about as corrupt as you can imagine. Cromwell threw them out and took up the role of 'Lord Protector'(1653-1658) - dictatorship, again hardly a model of democracy. He was succeeded by his son, who resigned a year later. In desperation, Charles II was offered the crown and the old form of rule was reinstated, with no restrictions. In fact, it was not until 1687-89 that any restrictions were placed upon the monarch at all.

So overall, I don't believe that Cromwell deserves his reputation, either in Ireland or England. I think there were far more notable characters around at the time.
MJN: Let's talk about the cover for The Prince of Prigs. It's very basic and minimalistic, and it features a very particular model weapon. 

AA: My publisher selected the image, and in fact I suspect it is an 18th Century model. But the principle holds - a highwayman would have carried a gun, flintlocks were just becoming available at the time I was writing about, and a successful highwayman like Hind would certainly have had the most modern equipment.
MJN: On your site you mention an incident of having your work rejected and then stolen by a publisher.  It sounds like every creative individual's nightmare.  It must happen more often than people realize. At the end of the day, people who do such atrocious unethical things must feel like they can get away with it.  What can an aspiring musician/writer to do minimize his or her chances of being ripped off like that? 

AA: Not a lot. As a writer, you can have much more protection because usually, numerous places have had a look at some of the book but in music, you're as helpless as I was way back then. It's simply down to money. As a teenager, I had no way of fighting a huge music publisher in court - all they would need to do is waste my lawyer's time as much as they could with trivial and pointless issues, and I'd have run out of money well before it arrived in court. Nothing's changed.

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