Longsword by David Pilling

Friday, 14 September 2018

An announcement (fanfare). W.F. Howes, the leading publisher of audiobooks in the UK, has signed two of my books, LONGSWORD and the sequel LONGSWORD (II) THE SONS OF MONTFORT.

Longsword is available for pre-order on Audible.com and will be published on 27 September. Huzzah! 

Monday, 3 September 2018

Audio review

The first review is in for the audiobook version of SOLDIER OF FORTUNE (II): THE HERETIC, narrated by Nick Denton, and it's a beauty:

"Soldier of Fortune (II): The Heretic. This is not my normal reading genre but it proved to be excellent, great story line, superb characters, and packed full of action. Up there with the best in the genre. A good entertaining listen that grips you early on and never lets go. Narration is good and all characters are distinguishable. I was given a free copy of this audiobook at my own request, and voluntarily leave this review."

Friday, 31 August 2018

The Lions of Gwynedd

Release day, release day, release day, yay yay yay!

THE LIONS OF GWYNEDD (I): RISE is now available as an ebook on Amazon.com and uk! An audiobook will follow in due course. Rawr!

“Hail Llywelyn, Prince of Wales!” 

1246 AD. The land of Gwynedd, North Wales, is under threat from the King of England. For centuries Gwynedd has resisted the might of the English, throwing back one invading army after another. Now King Henry, the latest would-be conqueror, has marshalled all his forces to finally break the Welsh to his will. Prince Dafydd, ruler of Gwynedd, is a dying man. Unable to lead his warriors in person, he puts his trust in his young nephew, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd.

As the king’s armies advance into North Wales, burning and slaughtering all in their path, Llywelyn must lead the host of Gwynedd in a desperate effort to save their homeland. All the while he must cope with the treachery of his own brothers, who seek to topple Llywelyn and seize power for themselves.

The Lions of Gwynedd (I): Rise chronicles the rise to power of Llywelyn, Prince of Wales and one of the most remarkable and dynamic figures of the era. His lifelong struggle for an independent Wales, against a backdrop of bloody battles, constant betrayal and lethal court politics, gave rise to the deathless legend of Llywelyn the Last. This is his story.

Monday, 20 August 2018


I don't usually do reviews, but as a change of pace I just read this excellent compilation of short stories by Carly Holmes, an author based in West Wales.

Here's my effort at lit crit:

'Figurehead is a superior collection of short tales and poems, full of intellectual and emotional honesty, often not for the faint-hearted. Carly Holmes writes with a savage eloquence that grips the reader’s attention and refuses to let go. As another reviewer noted, there is an earthy sensuality to Holmes’s writing; one can almost sense the stale, hungover atmosphere of booze, cigarettes, bad sex and endless disappointment hanging over the more character-orientated stories. Blood, dirt and semen drip from every page, though Holmes is too skilful a writer to deal in mere shock or exploitation. Each one of these tales is carefully constructed and imbued with a fierce intelligence.

Holmes also has a keen grasp of horror, expressed in more traditional spiritual forms (Ghost Story, Three for a Girl) and the starkly physical (They Tell Me). Ghost Story in particular is a brilliant rewriting of the age-old ‘lonely cottage in a forest’ trope, most famously exploited onscreen in The Blair Witch Project. The author is a master of generating and prolonging tension, and possesses an apparently bottomless sack of nouns; the forest is described as a ‘gnarl of woodland’, for instance, conjuring the image of ancient wilderness, full of mystery and hidden evil. Holmes’s invention in this respect, the ability to avoid clichés and describe the humdrum with vivid clarity, puts fellow authors to shame. They Tell Me is a downright horrific account of a defenceless woman’s ordeal in a mental hospital, slowly ripped to pieces by her doctors in a vain effort to uncover the source of her ‘insanity’. Their brutal methods are described in vivid detail, both repellent and intoxicating.

 Holmes also writes with a deft touch and a keen sense of the absurd, as demonstrated in the twin-part opener, The Demon L and Miss Luna; the unlikely but compelling adventures of a murderess turned bearded lady. Sleep is the merciless tale of a single mother’s struggle to cope with her mentally damaged child, while Alter, Heartwood and Into The Woods express Holmes’s visceral fascination with nature. True nature, red in tooth and claw, rather than some bloodless story-book version. Heartwood also explores the contrast between wilderness and civilisation and how they relate to themes of human happiness. Alter and Into the Woods explore the theme of transformation, of people physically returning to the wild via altered states and consciousness.

It isn’t all savagery and horror. Gentler themes of ageing and parent-child relations occur in Strumpet and Bake Day. The latter is a touching account of a lonely mother with three young sons to look after, and how much of her individuality is swallowed up her children. They, in turn, only exist with her permission. The image of her ‘eating’ her sons by consuming gingerbread versions of them is particularly memorable. The collection ends on Rootless, an eloquent and brutal dissection of fairy tales, in which ‘tooth fairies’ appear as cruel, manipulative creatures, using the extraction of teeth to control humans. If I have one very minor criticism, it is that I would have liked to read more of Holmes’s take on ancient fairy tales, with all their blood and cruelty and dark magic (or magick, if you prefer).

 No hesitation in awarding five shiny gold stars.'

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Stoned grunts!

This blog has been very quiet recently, so to kick it back into life I thought I’d share an article I wrote for today, the anniversary of the Batle of Falkirk in 1298.

 STONED GRUNTS - by David Pilling 

‘To Edward I the longbow owes its original rise to favour.’ - Charles Oman, The Art of War in the Middle Ages

The Battle of Falkirk, fought on this day in 1298, has been presented by Oman and others as a watershed moment in English military history: the day when the Welsh longbow made its bow (pun intended) on the world stage by mowing down hordes of Scottish spearmen. Edward I, it is argued, had acquired painful first-hand experience of the weapon during his Welsh campaigns. After the conquest of Wales he turned his pain to gain by employing thousands of Welsh archers in his armies, who obligingly shot the Scots to pieces at Falkirk. This joyous event heralded the English domination of the Hundred Years War, in which Scottish and French armies were massacred by the sturdy yeomen of Olde England (the Welsh tend to drop out of the narrative here) armed with the deadly longbow or war bow.

 The popular image of longbows at Falkirk rests on a single line from an account of the battle given by Walter of Hemingburgh: “But our foot-soldiers shot at them with arrows, and then, securing a quantity of round stones, of which there was abundance near, stoned them.”

And that’s it. None of the other chronicle accounts put any emphasis on archers, while some don’t mention missile troops at all. The chronicles of Lanercost and Rishanger claim the battle was won by Edward’s cavalry, who outflanked the schiltrons. It’s difficult to see how this achieved very much, since Wallace’s spearmen were arranged in rings and you can’t ‘outflank’ a circle. The cavalry certainly charged, as the loss of over a hundred horses listed on an expenses roll afterwards shows. These were merely the horses lost by the paid cavalry; the unpaid probably amounted to two or three times that number. Casualties among the riders, however, were very light. Only two English knights were killed, one of them the Master of the Templars, and a handful of squires. Hemingburgh says that the cavalry wiped out Wallace’s archers, but were unable to break the massed spears. This job was done by the bowmen, who opened enough gaps for the cavalry to charge in again and sweep Wallace’s men from the field.

A glance at the wage lists for Edward’s army suggests the battle was realy won, not by archers or mounted knights, but the P.B.I. (Poor Bloody Infantry). Edward’s army was huge, and the total number of English and Welsh footsoldiers during the period up to 20 July, two days before the battle, was 25, 781. For the next period, covering the battle, this number is reduced to 22, 497, a drop of 3284. Granted, the army was suffering from lack of supplies, and some of these men may have deserted. Yet such a dramatic cut in numbers cannot have been due to desertion alone, and the likelihood is that most of the missing men were casualties, killed or wounded on the day of battle. The Welsh contingent of Edward’s army numbered 10,584, and from 21 July six contingents of Welsh suffered a total loss of 195 men. Thus, even though the Welsh made up almost half of Edward’s infantry, the majority of the casualties were suffered by his English troops.

Who were these faceless grunts? Most are recorded only as numbers on a payroll, with few names given. The chroniclers generally ignored them, though the Chronicle of Bartholomew Cotton does at least give one account of how footsoldiers were raised in this era. According to Cotton, a commission of array was set up in the southern counties for service in Gascony in 1295. Hugh Cressingham and William Mortimer came into Norfolk and summoned from the local towns and villages a large number of potential recruits at Newmarket. The men were inspected there, and those not up to standard sent home. Those who remained were issued with white tunics, sword and knives, all provided for at the expense of local communities. Shortly afterwards the muster was abandoned, and the tunics - called ‘blaunchecotes’ - stolen and sold off by local profiteers. The blaunchecotes were worth 3 shillings each, suggesting they were padded jackets or aketons rather than simple tunics dyed white.

We may picture, then, the mass of Edward’s infantry as conscripted peasants, kitted out in their white aketons and armed with swords and knives. They were paid 2d (pence) a day and arranged into units of twenty, each unit commanded by a vintenar. Five sections of twenty men were combined under the command of a centenar, a fully-equipped cavalryman with a barded horse. As desertion or death thinned the ranks, units would be combined together and reformed. The rolls show that archers carried a quiver apiece with no more than two dozen arrows, which explains why they ran out at Falkirk.

The number of casualties on the Scottish side is impossible to ascertain. No wage lists exist for Wallace’s army, and the English chroniclers gleefully exaggerated the losses: Guisborough claimed that fifty thousand Scots were killed, while Rishanger went for sixty thousand. Lanercost went the whole hog and suggested a hundred thousand. Rishanger also claimed that the Scots had the larger army, which seems unlikely. We can only rely on scraps of evidence. Geoffrey Barrow, for instance, noted that between forty to sixty of the free tenants of Coldingham fought for Wallace at Falkirk, and many killed. The most conservative figure on the English side comes from the official report of the Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield to the mayor and aldermen of London. He stated that 200 Scottish men-at-arms and 20,000 infantrymen had died on the field. For a very rough estimate, it may be permissible to halve this figure. A 3-1 kill ratio, given that most losses in a medieval battle occured when one side broke and ran, seems realistic.

There was a darker element to the Edwardian military system. From 1294 onwards the king was at war on several fronts and in desperate need of men. One solution was to empty England’s prisons and fill the ranks with convicts. A number of these criminals most definitely served at Falkirk. In the weeks after the battle, Edward pardoned over 150 men for various crimes in return for doing military service in Scotland, Flanders and Gascony. Of these, 125 received their pardon for service in Scotland, which must have included the battle. Most of these men were murderers, with the occasional rapist or thief among them. One man, William le Fevre of Haydenbrigg, had been hanged at Newcastle for robbery, taken for dead and removed for burial to a local church. He was found to be alive, and so sent off to Scotland to fight ‘for the honour of God and the reverence of St James.’ None of the convicts received wages, and their pardons were conditional upon good service. If they misbehaved, the gallows beckoned.

With twenty-four arrows apiece in their quivers, Edward’s archers must have killed a fair few Scots. Once the ammo ran out, they were apparently reduced to lobbing stones. The loss of over three thousand men from the infantry suggests the grim work of tearing apart the schiltrons was still not done, and had to be achieved at close quarters. We may imagine the chaos and the bloodshed as Wallace’s spearmen fought hand-to-hand against untrained peasant levies and murderous convicts. Thousands of English footsoldiers were killed, but they had served their purpose. Once the schiltrons were ‘softened up’, Edward sent in his cavalry again to finish the job. They probably galloped over a fair few of their own infantrymen in the process, but who cares about those guys?

Saturday, 19 May 2018

A day in the life of a voice actor...

Something different for this post. Nick Denton, the very talented voice actor currently working on my Soldier of Fortune series, has uploaded some informal footage of himself working in the studio. Well worth a watch. From about 5:20 onwards he reads some lines from Soldier of Fortune (II): The Heretic.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Sons of Montfort!

My latest, LONGSWORD (II) THE SONS OF MONTFORT, is now available on Kindle. As the title suggests (or rather, shouts), this is a sequel to LONGSWORD, released back in December. Get it while it's hot!

"Beware the fangs of the wolf..." 

1267 AD. Civil war continues to rage in England between the supporters of King Henry III and rebel barons known as the Disinherited. The memory of Simon de Montfort, butchered on the field of Evesham, is kept alive by his devoted followers.

Disturbing rumours reach London of fresh trouble in distant Northumberland, where royal agents have vanished without trace. At the same time a band of discontended barons have formed an alliance against the crown and occupied Alnwick Castle, one of the strongest castles in the north.

Hugh Longsword, now a full-blown spy in royal pay, is sent north to investigate the rumours. Scarred by his recent experiences, he is also haunted by the memory of Esther, the beautiful Jewess of York. Along the way he encounters an assassin known only as the Wolf, a gang of fanatical Montfortian cultists, and a ruthless, sadistic clergyman who dreams of gaining power at all costs.

LONGSWORD (II) THE SONS OF MONTFORT is the second of the adventures of Hugh Longsword, swordsman, spy and assassin in the turbulent, war-torn England of the late 13th century.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Folville's Law on audio!

My very first novel - FOLVILLE'S LAW (I): INVASION - published back in the mists of 2011, is now available on audio, narrated by the wunderbar Steve Fortune!

England in 1326 stands on the brink of civil war. Due to the incompetence of Edward II's government, the north is virtually overrun by the Scots, while an invasion fleet is massing across the channel, led by Edward's estranged queen, Isabella, the 'She-Wolf of France'. The first book in the Folville's Law series follows the adventures of Sir John Swale, knight of Cumberland, as he investigates a murder that threatens to bring disaster to Edward's failing kingdom. Along the way he clashes with Eustace Folville and James Coterel, two of the most notorious and brutal outlaws in England. As the death toll mounts, it remains to be seen who will survive and who will perish in the savage game of war and politics.

Friday, 9 March 2018

New review!

Smashing review for the audio version of SOLDIER OF FORTUNE (I): THE WOLF CUB, narrated by the splenfiderous Nick Denton:

"I received audible version of this book for free from the narrator in exchange for an unbiased review. In addition, I got the ebook from Kindle Unlimited, so I was able to read along. I love Historical Fiction, along with "Alternate History" (like Man in the High Castle). If the book contains a well known historical figure or group or empire, it's so much more tempting to me. Thus, when I had stumbled upon this book, I was very much eager to listen to this. This book is full of hours n hours of action packed adventure of a knight. Once the recounting starts, it moves fast from one story to another, not having any dull or boring moment. It was like watching a historical fantasy tv show and I enjoyed every moment of it. Nick Denton's performance in the audiobook breathes life into the story. His accent work was top notch. One of the better narrated books I've listened to in past few weeks. Would recommend."

Thursday, 22 February 2018

ARTORIUS on Audio!

The second in my Arthurian series of novels, LEADER OF BATTLES (II): ARTORIUS, is now available as an audiobook, narrated by the very talented, dashing and thoroughly gorgeous PAUL JENKINS 😃. The book is currently available on Audible.com, and will soon be up on iTunes and Amazon.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Audio review

The first review on Audible is up for SOLDIER OF FORTUNE (I): THE WOLF CUB, narrated by the very dashing and talented Nick Denton. Slightly odd at first to hear my work read out by a different 'voice', but interesting, and it's always good to have a satisfied customer...!

"I wish I knew more history and geography but the story is great. The story never wanes. As soon as a screen is done you're into the next, but not so fast to overwhelm. It reads like history. The touch of English accent sets the stage and is easy to listen to and brings a full story and characters to life."

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Soldier of Fortune on audio

Soldier of Fortune (I): THE WOLF CUB is now available on audiobook, narrated by the very talented Nick Denton. First released on Kindle and paperback in 2016, the novel is currently available on Audible and will be available on iTunes and Amazon in the next few days.

1453 AD. The great city of Constantinople, last remnant of the once-mighty Roman Empire, falls to the Ottoman armies of Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror. An English knight named Sir John Page is taken prisoner by the Ottomans, and forced to entertain the Sultan with tales of the West. Page chooses to tell the story of his own long career as a soldier of fortune in France, Bohemia and the Italian city-states.  

Page’s tale begins in the year of Agincourt, Henry V’s famous victory over the French. As the bastard son of Thomas Page, a famous mercenary captain known as The Half-Hanged Man or The Wolf of Burgundy, Page soon acquires the nickname of The Wolf Cub. After slaying his cousin in a duel, Page flees his home and joins a band of outlaws in the forests of Sussex. At last - tired of the brutality of his companions - he decides to leave England and join the English army in Normandy. There he endures brutal sieges, vicious combats, torture, betrayal and imprisonment, all to win glory and redeem his father's name.  

Trapped in the Sultan’s prison, Page must hope his story is enough to save him from the executioner’s blade....at least for another three days...

Friday, 12 January 2018

More downloads

Following up on my last post, here is a batch of free downloads for my new audiobook, LEADER OF BATTLES (I): AMBROSIUS, narrated by Paul Jenkins. As before, please follow the instructions to access your free version of the book. There are 25 codes in all and I will post another batch soon. Enjoy!

Download codes:


Download instructions:

1. Go to the book on Audible.com - Link

2. Add the audiobook to your cart.
3. If you are prompted to sign in, please create a new Audible.com account or log in. Otherwise, proceed by clicking “Do you have a promotional code?” beneath the cover artwork of the audiobook.
4. Enter the promo code, and click "Apply Code."
5. A credit for the audiobook will be added to your account. Click the box next to “1 Credit” and click the “Update” button to apply the credit to the purchase.
6. After you select “1 Credit” and click “Update” to modify your shopping cart, the price for the audiobook will change to $0.00. You may proceed through the checkout by clicking “Next Step” and “Complete Purchase” on the subsequent page.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Free audio download

Leader of Battles (I): Ambrosius, the first novel in my Arthurian series, is now available as an audiobook, brilliantly narrated by Paul Jenkins. As an added bonus, I have up to 25 free downloads of the audiobook to give away. For anyone interested, please follow the download instructions below the cover pic. The download code is below, as well as instructions on how to use it - this is very much a first-come, first-served deal, so you will have to be quick! If this proves popular, I will post more download codes in the near future...

Download code:


Download instructions:

1. Go to the book on Audible.com - Link

2. Add the audiobook to your cart.
3. If you are prompted to sign in, please create a new Audible.com account or log in. Otherwise, proceed by clicking “Do you have a promotional code?” beneath the cover artwork of the audiobook.
4. Enter the promo code, and click "Apply Code."
5. A credit for the audiobook will be added to your account. Click the box next to “1 Credit” and click the “Update” button to apply the credit to the purchase.
6. After you select “1 Credit” and click “Update” to modify your shopping cart, the price for the audiobook will change to $0.00. You may proceed through the checkout by clicking “Next Step” and “Complete Purchase” on the subsequent page.