Longsword by David Pilling

Monday, 26 November 2012

A White Hawk! A Bolton, a Bolton!

 The White Hawk - cover art by Martin Bolton

Hard on the heels of The Half-Hanged Man, comes Book One of my family saga set during the bloody conflict remembered as The Wars of the Roses. This period, with its murderous dynastic feuding between the rival Houses of York and Lancaster, is perhaps the most fascinating of the entire medieval period in England. Having lost the Hundred Years War, the English nobility turned on each other in a bitter struggle for the crown, resulting in a spate of beheadings, battles, murders and Gangland-style politics that lasted some thirty years.

Apart from the savage doings of aristocrats, the wars affected people on the lower rungs of society. One minor gentry family in particular, the Pastons of Norfolk, suffered greatly in their attempts to survive and thrive in the feral environment of the late 15th century. They left an invaluable chronicle in their archive of family correspondence, the famous Paston Letters.

The letters provide us with a snapshot of the trials endured by middle-ranking families like the Pastons, and of the measures they took to defend their property from greedy neighbours. One such extract is a frantic plea from the matriarch of the clan, Margaret Paston, begging her son John to return from London:

"I greet you well, letting you know that your brother and his fellowship stand in great jeopardy at Caister... Daubney and Berney are dead and others badly hurt, and gunpowder and arrows are lacking. The place is badly broken down by the guns of the other party, so that unless they have hasty help, they are likely to lose both their lives and the place, which will be the greatest rebuke to you that ever came to any gentleman. For every man in this country marvels greatly that you suffer them to be for so long in great jeopardy without help or other remedy..."

The Paston Letters, together with my general fascination for the era, were the inspiration for The White Hawk. Planned as a series of three novels, TWH will follow the fortunes of a fictional Staffordshire family, the Boltons, from the beginning to the very end of The Wars of the Roses. Unquenchably loyal to the House of Lancaster, their loyalty will have dire consequences as law and order breaks down and the kingdom slides into civil war.

If that whets your appetite, then please check out the paperback and Kindle versions of Book One below...

The White Hawk - paperback version

Kindle version


  1. Dear David,

    I've just read about The White Hawk on Historical Novel Review and here on your blog, and been intrigued by the idea of showing the Wars from the Lancastrian point of view. I myself am a sworn Yorksist but eager to put myself in the enemy's shoes. (Although 'one minor gentry family'- and I believe that your fictional Boltons just like the Pastons want merely to survive the turmoil of the war- does not sound like a formidable enemy at all :-)).
    Personal question perhaps, are you a Lancastrian or Yorksist at heart? I should probably assume that the former, but perhaps you decided to make your characters the Lancastrians to have greater possibilities as a writer (more defeats, tragedies, although a victory in the end)
    I'm just trying to guess.

    Forgive me my bombarding you with questions, but I am truly intrigued,

    Kasia Ogrodnik

    1. Hi Kasia! No problem, I'm glad of the response :)

      I'm probably a Lancastrian at heart: my father was born near Wigan, and even though the Lancashire/Yorkshire rivalry is a historical nonsense, old loyalties still die hard.

      Having said that, the real inspiration for The White Hawk (along with the Paston Letters) was the lack of fiction written from a Lancastrian perspective. I suspect that the enduring interest and support for Richard III make the Yorkist cause in general more popular and appealing. The book and its sequels will attempt to see things from both sides of the conflict - York and Warwick are both POV characters - though the focus is on one family's attempts to survive.

      Hope that helps :)



  2. Thank you David for your exhaustive reply :-)
    I suppose I could call myself a Ricardian (goose-flesh all over my body after the last year's discovery at Leicester was a telling proof, I guess :-)), albeit it's Edward IV whom I admire most.
    As for the Pastons, I have Blood and Roses by Helen Castor covered in dust on one of my bookshelves- somehow I haven't managed to read it so far- and would like to ask whether you have read this one and whether it's worth reading?

    Thank you in advance,


  3. Hi Kasia,

    No problem :)

    Must admit, I haven't read Blood and Roses, though I really should. I have heard good things about it, though.

    Are you on Facebook, perchance?


  4. Unfortunately (or fortunately :-)) I haven't created my FB account so far. I admit that right now I cannot afford it. My duties keep my occupied elsewhere, but I really like your blog (although I have discovered it quite recently via Kathryn Warner's brilliant forum), and find it both very entertaining and informative. I think I'm going to be a frequent visitor to your writing corner :-)

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