Books: I now live a lot of my life in the 16th century, says Rory Clements
John Shakespeare returns to
feature in a fifth historical thriller set in the murky times of 16th century Elizabethan England as Rory Clements releases The Heretics.
England has survived the Armada threat of 1588 but seven years on the country is in danger again when Spanish ships land troops in Cornwall. As intelligencer John Shakespeare gets to grips with unfolding events, slowly all his network of spies are horribly killed.
How are these deaths connected to Thomasyn Jade, a girl driven to the end of madness by the rituals of exorcism? And what is the connection to a group of priests held prisoner in Wisbech Castle?
"It's set in 1595 when the Spanish made a strange invasion on Cornwall," says Clements, who is visiting Lincoln just a week after the book is released for a talk and signing event at Waterstones, High Street. "They did it with just 400 men. What were they trying to do? This is how I came up with the idea for The Heretics and is part of the book.
"Another main theme is the exorcisms which were taking place a lot back then. It wasn't just the Catholics but the Protestants who liked it as well, it was considered big theatre. What they were really doing was treating mental illness and depression. But they were making it worse. They would be looking at the body and thinking they could see demons beneath the skin and try to stab them with needles."
Moving between the torture rooms of the Inquisition in Seville, to the wild coasts of Cornwall and the sweat and sawdust of London, The Heretics leads to a terrifying climax that threatens the life of the queen.
Clements, who lives in Norfolk, was the winner of the 2010 CWA Ellis Peters Historical Fiction Award. A TV series based on the books is currently in development.
"I have already been commissioned for three more John Shakespeare books as well," says Clements. "I think readers like him because he is very human, lives in a time which was pretty brutal but is not brutal himself. That's not to say he is a wuss – he is a tough guy but he is not cruel and not deceitful. I love writing the books and now live a lot of my life in the 16th century.
"I like trying to imagine myself in that period. It's so similar in many ways and so different as well."
The Heretics by Rory Clements. Publisher: John Murray, hardback, £17.99. Also available as an ebook. Out on February 28. Rory Clements will be appearing at Waterstones, High Street, Lincoln on Thursday, March 7 (7pm) for a talk and signing event. Tickets: £3. Call 01522 540011 or pop in store to book and find out more.