December 10 2013 Latest news:
Nick Ames, Reporter
Monday, July 16, 2012
Angus Donald’s latest novel Warlord is out
Best selling historical novelist Angus Donald from Tunbridge Wells is now on the fourth volume of his series concerning the exploits of Robin Hood.
Warlord is set in 1194 and sees Richard the Lionheart in Normandy engaged in a bloody war to drive the French out of his continental territory.
Using the brutal tactics of medieval warfare – siege, savagery and scorched earth – the king is gradually pushing back the forces of King Philip of France.
By his side are Robert, Earl of Locksley, better known as the erstwhile outlaw Robin Hood, and Sir Alan Dale, his loyal friend, and a musician and warrior of great skill.
Donald’s Outlaw series has become a fixture in the best seller lists and gained great reviews. His Robin is charismatic and a great leader, but a much more complex man than is usually portrayed with a far darker side – not really a “merry man” in any shape or form.
Fellow historical writer Robert Low called the works: “A ruthless, muscular history of England……a stunning portrayal of the dark side of the Robin Hood legend. This is the outlaw Russell Crowe should have played” while The Times called the books: “A glorious, gritty, violent fast-moving recreation of an English legend.”
With historical and historical-based films and TV series currently hugely popular – from Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood, to The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones – Donald has been in discussion to have his work filmed.
But nothing has come of the talks so far and no-on has bought the rights.
However Donald thinks he knows who would be the best actor to convincingly put across his version of Robin Hood.
“Johnny Depp would be fantastic,” he said. “He has got a good sense of humour and would bring alive the mischievousness of my Robin. But he could do the hard-stone cruelty as well. Plus he has got that charisma, so you could see why people followed him.
Whereas much debate has taken place over whether Robin ever existed there is no doubt about the reality of the latest book’s “co-star”.
King Richard I, whose statue on horseback with raised sword stands outside the Palace of Westminster, is one of England’s most famous rulers.
And he was very much a “man of his time” said Donald
“I think he was a hero but he did some pretty terrible things,” he said. “But you have to put them into the context of medieval warfare, which was a pretty bloody thing as warfare always is.
“One of the most famous incidents occurs in my second book Holy Warrior where Richard massacres 2,000 Muslim prisoners of war, women, children, old people, the lot.
“It occurred at Acre and he was stuck there with all these prisoners but wanted to march on Jerusalem as part of the Third Crusade but he couldn’t so he killed them.
“There was an agreement to hand over the captives for ransom, a fragment of the ‘true cross’ (on which Jesus was crucified) plus a huge sum in gold.
“But (Muslim leader) Saladin realized that Richard was pinned down while the negotiations were taking place and he couldn’t move. When the deadline passed Richard realised he was being manipulated.
“You could say Saladin broke his agreement, but it was still horrific. Richard lined up all these people outside the walls of Acre and hey had their heads chopped off.”
When researching true historical figures such as Richard, Donald said he draws on authoritative works by historians as well as what he calls “optical research, a fancy name for going there and looking over the ground”.
He said: “You think, these guys would have been charging over that hill, probably avoiding the supermarket.
“The ground often hasn’t changed, you can see a valley, folds in the ground and the remains of a wood which was once there.”
A couple of decades ago the character of Richard was attacked by revisionists historians and he was accused of – among other things – being a homosexual.
This view was based on his having no children, enjoying male company and not being particularly good to his wife Berengaria of Navarre. He is also believed to have shared a bed with the King of France.
Donald does not agree with this assessment.
“Sharing a bed was common as there were not many to go around,” he said.
“I think he was kind of a man’s man. He did get married and didn’t have any children which is unusual. But he wasn’t a home loving father figure.
“He was a warrior, a lord and a king and he spent most of his time trying to defend his land. And, I think, he adored fighting.
“As a person I think he would be inspiring, absolutely charismatic with an absolute belief in himself. He was reckless, but that came off so you see it as brave.
“In Warlord, at the Battle of Gisors, he had about 50 knights and was up against the whole French army of 600 to 700 men, including 300 knights and he just charged straight at them.
“And of course it worked. He was also very clever when it came to the strategic application of force. At Gisors he shattered the French line and then focused on the king and put him to flight. He was a risk-taker, but it paid off, more often than not.
“A lot of people were in some way entranced by him. He had his weakness, he suffered from chronic shaking hands which could have been a surfeit of adrenalin or even Parkinson’s disease, we don’t know.
“He had a softer side, he loved poetry and music. He was great patron of the troubadours, such as my character Alan, which is why they get on so well.
“I think he was complex man, generous as a lord, kind, warlike, but probably quite funny as well with a quick wit.
“He would have been quite fun to be with – but in that society. You wouldn’t want him rampaging through Kent today.
“He was man of his times and a shining hero.”
Angus Donald will be signing copies of his book at the Tunbridge Wells branch of Waterstones on Saturday July 28 from 11am until 3pm.