I’m catching up on books I’ve had on my shelves for a while or reviews that I’ve not yet written and one of the other things I’ve been really lax in posting is this Q&A session I did with S.G. MacLean, who writes the fabulous Damian Seeker novels.
If her name looks familiar it’s because she also wrote the amazing The Redemption of Alexander Seaton which I read and adored and reviewed here. I’ve read the first Damian Seeker book, simply titled The Seeker which won the 2015 CWA Historical Dagger and my review of that will be up soon.
Her latest book Destroying Angel has been longlisted for the CWA Sapere Historical Dagger award and her next Seeker book, The Bear Pit is out on the 11th July 2019. Below is the blurb of both Destroying Angel and The Bear Pit and the Q&A.
Captain Damian Seeker has gone north. Charged with preparing the way for the rule of the major-generals, he is now under the command of Colonel Robert Lilburne at York. But when Lilburne orders him to a small village on the North York moors with details of the stringent new anti-Royalist laws, Seeker finds that what should be a routine visit will reveal a plot to rival anything in scheming London
An invitation to dinner at the house of local businessman Matthew Pullan lifts the lid on the bubbling cauldron of grudges and resentment that is Faithly village. The local constable, drunk on the tiny bit of power he holds, using it to avenge old resentments. The hated lord of the manor, the last of a staunchly Royalist family who has managed to avoid suspicion of treachery – for now. The vicar on trial for his job and his home, accused of ungodly acts. And the Pullans themselves, proudly Puritan but disillusioned with Cromwell’s government, respected and despised in Faithly in equal measure. The man for whom this unlikely gathering was organised – The Trier, the enforcer of Puritan morality for the local villages – hasn’t shown up. And by the end of the night, on of those gathered around Matthew Pullan’s table will be fatally poisoned.
Seeker must find out the motive behind the death – mushroom misidentification, petty revenge, or part of a larger plot against Cromwell’s government in the north? But who in Faithly, if anyone, can he trust? And when the most painful part of his past reappears after eleven years, will the Seeker meet his match?
Purchase link: Amazon UK
For any readers of my blog who are unfamiliar with you and your work, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Inverness in 1966. My parents were hoteliers and I grew up in small, traditional Highland hotels, with my brother and three sisters. I studied history at Aberdeen University and have a PhD specialising in C16th/C17th Scottish history. I’m married (to a secondary school head teacher) with 4 children, and it was being at home with small children, and living in a northern Scottish town (Banff) which still has lots of remnants of the C16th and C17th in buildings, street layouts and street names that galvanised me to write my first book. About 8 years ago, we returned to live in the area I grew up in. Although my youngest child is now 15, and the rest have left home, the arrival of a Labrador puppy has seriously impacted on my work rate!
You’ve studied history and write historical fiction. Where did your interest in history come from?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in history. Any old building, tumbledown wall, evocative name will get me wondering about what that place used to be like, who used to live there. I’ve always been like that. I spent several of my early years in the Seabord village of Balintore, and as children we were very aware of the area’s Viking heritage, although nowadays there is much greater awareness of the importance of that area for Pictish history. My Dad, who was a tremendous reader, would sometimes come home from trips to Inverness with history picture books for me.
What got you into writing?
It was something I’d often day-dreamed about. My uncle was the thriller writer Alistair MacLean, so it always seemed a perfectly possible thing to do. It was really only when I’d reached the stage of progressing my academic career after I finished my PhD, but finding myself living too far from the nearest university to commute, and with young children to look after, that I turned to writing to occupy my mind and interest. Writing was my ‘me time’. Living in Banff, as we were, and so close to the North East ‘Castle Trail’, there was inspiration everywhere. I found some of the characters I had spent years studying came back in to my mind, and I used them as ‘types’ in my story.
Your first book was The Redemption of Alexander Seaton and your recent books, including Destroying Angel, feature Damian Seeker as the lead character. Do you have any plans to re-visit Alexander Seaton, write more Damian Seeker books or do you have a new main character in the pipeline?
I’m just preparing to submit the 4th Damian Seeker book, and am contracted for a 5th. I would like to go back to Alexander Seaton – there are things I would still like to do with him and his friends, and I’ve always known how his story will end, but it’s a question of what the publishers want. They made it fairly clear they didn’t want another Alexander Seaton unless I sent him to London, where neither he, nor I, wanted him to go. That lead eventually to the Seeker books which are mainly set in London. My agent advised me that other publishers don’t tend to be keen on picking up a series another publisher has started. My publisher (Quercus) are planning a redesign of the Alexander Seaton covers, because the books are continuing to sell steadily, so they may at some point become more open to letting me finish off his story. My next plan after the Seeker books is for a Scottish standalone set in the 1830s society of Cromarty on the Black Isle. There may be a murder. After that I might be in a better position to go back to Alexander Seaton
All of your books to date are set in the 17th Century. If you could visit that time would you, or would you choose to visit a different period in time?
I’d love to go to Aberdeen in the seventeenth century, and meet some of the characters I studied, and some that I’ve written about – George Jamesone the painter, Lady Rothiemay and others.
What are your plans for the next few years?
Finish the Seeker series, write my Cromarty standalone, read more for pleasure, cycle more, train my dog!
The Bear Pit
London, 1656: Captain Seeker is back in the city, on the trail of an assassin preparing to strike at the heart of Oliver Cromwell’s Republic
The Commonwealth is balanced on a knife edge. Royalists and disillusioned former Parliamentarians have united against Oliver Cromwell, now a king in all but name. Three conspirators, representing these factions, plan to assassinate the Lord Protector, paving the way back to the throne for Charles Stuart once and for all.
Captain Damian Seeker, meanwhile, is preoccupied by the horrifying discovery in an illegal gambling den of the body of a man ravaged by what is unmistakably a bear. Yet the bears used for baiting were all shot when the sport was banned by Cromwell. So where did this fearsome creature come from, and why would someone use it for murder?
With Royalist-turned-Commonwealth-spy Thomas Faithly tracking the bear, Seeker investigates its victim. The trail leads from Kent’s coffee house on Cornhill, to a German clockmaker in Clerkenwell, to the stews of Southwark, to the desolate Lambeth Marshes where no one should venture at night.
When the two threads of the investigation begin to join, Seeker realises just what – and who – he is up against. The Royalists in exile have sent to London their finest mind and greatest fighter, a man who will stop at nothing to ensure the Restoration. Has Seeker finally met his match?
Purchase link: Amazon UK