The start of a new series is always exciting and so I’m absolutely delighted to be wrapping up this week’s blog tour for The Fate of Kings. It’s my pleasure to be your host to share this thrilling novel with you. Read on to the end for a Q&A with author Mark Stibbe.
The Fate of Kings by Mark Stibbe & G.P. Taylor
1793, As the Terror begins to cast a great shadow over France, Thomas Pryce, the new Vicar of Deal, crosses the Channel to find the missing parents of his beautiful French wife. Facing grave dangers, he makes his way to Brittany where he not only discovers the fate of his in-laws but also uncovers a plot which threatens to topple the British monarchy. Fighting against a sinister secret society in a race against time, Pryce battles to thwart the plans of a Parisian spymaster and his agents in London.
The Fate of Kings is the first in a series of gripping spy thrillers that will engross readers of C.J. Sansom, Dan Brown, as well as the many avid watchers of Poldark and Grantchester. In the first years if the British Secret Service,
TRULY IS THE ORIGINAL JAMES BOND
I was pretty excited by the blurb, it’s such an incredible combination of factors. Set during the French Revolution, a time of great unrest, with the liberty of Britain at stake and the untamed violence that went with it. The Fate of Kings is an intriguing insight into those turbulent times.
G.P. Taylor is the author of the best-selling Shadowmancer and the Mariah Mundi series. But for author Mark Stibbe, – a seasoned writer of many successful non-fiction titles – The Fate of Kings is his first foray into the world of fiction and it really works. (You can read more about Mark’s move from non-fiction to fiction in an earlier visit on the blog tour to historical fiction blogger Poppy Coburn)
The story is led by the characters that are all incredibly well written and many taken from the history books. Within the acknowledgements the authors pay tribute to Elizabeth Sparrow, and her ‘ground-breaking book, published in 1999, Secret Service: British Agents in France 1792-1815‘ for providing a wealth of inspiration and information. Through the pages of The Fate of Kings’ we are introduced to the very real first British Spy Master, William Wickham in the early days of His Majesty’s Secret Service.
Atmospheric but without unnecessary gore, The Fate of Kings was at times chilling and I keenly felt the horror and barbaric actions that some faced at that time. A time when even a King could not escape the guillotine. The protagonist, a fictional creation, is Thomas Pryce, a Vicar who provides an interesting contrast with the comparison of James Bond. Pryce is young, heroic and cunning when he needs to be. He is portrayed as being attractive and achieves his fair share of admiration from the ladies but unlike Bond, he is god-fearing and generally a good man with a conscience and a definite sense of right and wrong. Like James Bond, his courage throughout is insurmountable and I loved his resourcefulness that helped him out of difficult situations. The authors look to the weapons and innovations of the time to add another level to the story that makes Thomas Pryce stand out. Events leave him a changed man though. He witnesses horrors and suffering that he has trouble coming to terms with and I feel that this will serve to add to his character in future adventures. What he has seen has left quite a scar.
Written at a time of a great resurgent interest in 18th century history, following the success of Poldark and other period dramas, The Fate of Kings has been described as ‘the original British spy story’. Thomas Pryce, the new Vicar of Deal, crosses the Channel to discover the fate of his beautiful French wife’s missing parents –unwittingly uncovering a plot which threatens to topple the British monarchy. Fighting against a sinister secret society in a race against time, Pryce becomes locked in a desperate battle to thwart the plans of a Parisian spymaster and his agents in London… The Fate of Kings draws on a deep fascination with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era which both authors have had since childhood. Set in a time when the Illuminati was founded and the world banking order was being set up, and when economics were valued more highly than patriotism, this fast-moving historical thriller will be enjoyed by men and women alike.
This is an exciting novel and one that never felt a chore to read. I was immersed into the history without it feeling like a history lesson. It captured my interest and I found myself wanting to research some of the characters so expertly brought back to life.
Mark Stibbe & G.P. Taylor have awakened a period of time of which my knowledge although not ignorant, is certainly sketchy and I came away with a thirst to know more.
I very much look forward to the second title in this exciting new series.
If you’d like to purchase a copy of The Fate of Kings then why not ask in your local book store or you go to book recommendation site Lovereading.co.uk where there is a price comparison option with links to make ordering a doddle.
The Fate of Kings was published on the 3rd of November by Malcolm Down Publishing.
For more information do visit the author’s website: http://www.thomaspryce.co.uk/ but I’m delighted to say I had the opportunity to put a few questions to Mark Stibbe. Read on for more from this fascinating author…
Interview with Mark Stibbe, author of The Fate of Kings, the first story in the adventures of Thomas Pryce, Vicar and Spy during the years 1793-1821.
1. Where did your inspiration for protagonist Thomas Pryce come from?
It was in the New Year of 2013. I had just been to Bleak House in Broadstairs (Kent) and looked round the smuggler’s museum in the basement there. Many of the exhibits were from the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic era. Of course, the coastline of Kent is itself punctuated by Martello Towers from this time frame. All these factors stirred my imagination and within several weeks I had my USP – the Vicar of Deal who becomes a spy in the embryonic British Secret service. As soon as he began to emerge, the story lines for the novels followed quickly.
2. Can you tell us anything about the next novel in the series?
Yes, I’m well into writing it and it’s a lot darker and more complex than the first one. All I’ll say is that the title is The Drowning Man and it’s about the mass drownings in Nantes at the end of 1793 and the start of 1794. These were instigated by the cruellest city governor during the Terror, a very sinister and brutal man by the name of Jean Baptiste Carrier. In this novel, Pryce is going to be given a very tough mission by William Wickham, spy master at Walmer Castle. He will, however, be aided by a new character, Helin – a Chinese spy working for the British Secret service.
3. Do you have a typical routine to your writing process?
Every fulltime writer tends to have a set routine. I am a lark, not a nightingale. My optimum time for creativity is between about 0600 and 1300. I am very disciplined about this and seek to get at least 1500 words done every time I get to my desk. Good, strong, lattés are indispensable.
4. How did you meet G.P. Taylor and how did the project come about?
I’ve known Graham for many years. I had already written the first draft of The Fate of Kings when I invited him to join the project, particularly with a view to writing the screenplays. He was very down in May 2015, so I gave him this role to boost his confidence after five years of him not writing anything. This gave him a lift and it also gave me an expert in storytelling as a collaborator – someone with whom I could share and refine ideas.
5. Who are your writing heroes?
The first author I admired was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. My father heard that I had become interested in the Sherlock Holmes stories. He drove from Norfolk to Oxford and bought every book by him in hardback. Dad had been an undergraduate at Oxford and a star pupil and friend of CS Lewis and he’d always loved Blackwell’s. Anyway, when he returned, he brought all the books into my room at bedtime. I must have been about 7 at the time. He gave them to me as a gift even though it wasn’t my birthday or Christmas. I was dumbstruck by his kindness. I have these books to this day. I believe this single act of extreme generosity was the catalyst for my calling as an author.
6. What books do you remember reading as a child?
We had holidays in Scotland as children, near Ullapool, overlooking Loch Broom. There was no TV so I went to the bookshop and bought an Enid Blyton novel, one of the Secret Seven books. I read all of them. Next came the Willard Price stories. Then Agatha Christie. In fact, I remember my parents taking us on a world cruise. When we got to the Holy Land I sat on a bus and read Murder on the Nile while the guide pointed to significant landmarks from ancient history. I missed all of them. I was too preoccupied with Poirot’s investigations. On the way back to the cruise liner, the same thing happened again, only this time I was reading Watership Down…
7. How important is accuracy of facts in historical fiction?
If you’re going to write historical fiction, you’ve got to be committed to a faithful recreation of the times in which your characters lived, even if some of your characters are fictional. However, this doesn’t preclude you exercising some artistic license where necessary. I have done this with The Fate of Kings in the matter of one or two details, but not in the broad picture. I have tried to provide the reader with an accurate picture of what was going on in the first three months of 1793, particularly on the Kent coast in Deal and Walmer, as well as in London, Paris, Jersey and Brittany.
8. There are many themes within the story that are highly relatable today, was this your intention from the outset or did they just evolve with the story?
I didn’t set out with the intention of commenting on the similarities between 1793 and 2017. These surfaced during my research and convinced me that we are living in similar times – or, more precisely, with similar challenges, particularly relating to immigration and Terror. This is one of the delights of writing historical fiction – discovering the extraordinary parallels between past and present history, and then using these resonances to enrich the landscape of your story.
9. Was the story born from your research or vice versa?
The story emerged first, the research followed. When I talk about the creative process, I describe the four phases of inspiration, incubation, investigation, and incarnation. With Thomas Pryce, I was already well on my way when I read Elizabeth Sparrow’s ground-breaking book on The Secret Service. This tour de force was a game changer in that it proved that what we would now recognise as the British Secret Service emerged in the 1790s, not during the first decades of the twentieth century. Her research proved to be invaluable and once I’d assimilated it all, I could truly say with Sherlock Holmes, ‘the game’s afoot!’