May we Live in Peaceful Times

I was walking by the sea this morning when I saw a crowd of people all looking towards the square near where I live. It’s Menton’s Fete de Citron on Sunday and I assumed that this was some theatre company or dance band giving an early show.

Not a bit of it. A large van had crashed into a motor-bike, there was debris everywhere and the object of the crowd’s attention was an unconscious man who was being strapped into a stretcher.

I cut up alongside and headed home. On my way I saw two old ladies racing to see what was happening. One of them was going so fast I thought she might slip and fall, or even suffer a heart attack. Her friend was some yards in front of her. I guess they were after a ring-side seat.

It made me think of a curse which goes: ‘May you live in interesting times.’ Because although it’s marvellous to read about interesting and exciting times or watch them in the cinema, it’s often the opposite of marvellous for those who have to live through them.

I guess this is one of the reasons I write historical fiction. I am not physically brave and if I lived in medieval times I would be the first to flee a battle and join a monastery, or even a nunnery if that was all there was in the vicinity. Yet I can place my characters in the utmost jeopardy, as callous as a pirate captain making his prisoners walk the plank. If pirate captains ever did such a thing outside the fevered imagination of my fellow, stay-at-home, authors.

Not that I write gratuitous violence. And I avoid giving detailed, gruesome accounts of battles where you wonder how anybody is left standing let alone alive. One of my mild-mannered friends loves such scenes, the bloodier the better, applauding every abattoir of death and blood. 800px-Bayeux_Tapestry_4

I do write about desperate, dangerous situations but I remember the dictum of Alfred Hitchcock and often draw a discreet veil over the details. It’s much more interesting to consider the effect such trauma has on people, or doesn’t.

At the moment, I’m going to tone down the opening scene of my novel about Alfred the Great. It needs to be grim to understand the motivations of characters later in the novel. Yet, now I’m re-reading it, I realise that the people at the scene would have intervened to stop the cruelty at an earlier stage than I’ve allowed them to.

‘Get real, master,’ they seem to say to me. ‘Walk in our shoes a little more carefully.’

May we all live in more peaceful times. And let’s hope the man in the accident gets better soon.


About Martin Lake

Martin Lake lives in the French Riviera with his wife. After studying at the University of East Anglia he worked as a teacher, trainer and company director. A serious accident shattered his arm and meant that he had to rein back his work. He decided to concentrate on writing and is now writing full-time. He writes a wide range of fiction. His main interests are historical fiction, short stories and fiction for young adults. Martin has a series of novels 'The Lost King' which are set in the years following the Norman Invasion of England. They concern Edgar Atheling, last representative of the ancient English royal dynasty and his fight to regain the throne from William the Conqueror. Martin has also published 'Artful' the further adventures of the Dodger and 'Outcasts' a novel about fall of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem. His latest novel, 'A Love Most Dangerous' is about a maid of honour who becomes the lover of Henry VIII. Martin’s work has been broadcast on radio. He won first prize in the Kenneth Grahame Society competition to write a story based on 'The Wind in the Willows.' You can get the collection, 'The Wind in the Willows Short Stories' from Amazon.
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6 Responses to May we Live in Peaceful Times

  1. keaneonlife says:

    Interesting post. I’ve thought about that idea a lot. It makes me think about the many groups who play with the idea of living in past times, making costumes and going to events. It would be an Interesting concept for a book if one of them returns home from a weekend event and finds there is no electricity, penicillin or inside plumbing.

    What is “I cut up alongside”?

  2. I loved “A Love Most Dangerous” but questioned the abundance of books at that time of history. Now I am reading “Resistance” and it really bothers me that a great pile of books was captured from the British in 1066, AD. Is that historically correct?

    • Martin Lake says:

      Hi Naomi, I’m so very sorry that I haven’t replied but I don’t always remember to check for replies to my posts. I saw a comment about the pile of books in Resistance. Was this yours? It made me think more than any other comment and I scurried back to the sources, thinking that I might have to rewrite this scene. In the end I decided to keep it in for these reasons. The Normans ransacked the churches of England and amongst their loot would have been hundreds of ‘books’ whether bibles, lives of saints, chronicles and prayer books. I think they would have made a sizeable pile. Even if there were less than I think I imagine that no one, including Edgar, would have seen so many manuscripts gathered in one place. So, given these considerations, I decided to keep with my original scene. But I really appreciated the comment.

      Regarding A Love Most Dangerous I think it’s likely that an intellectual king such as Henry would have had a fairly extensive library of books. Ian Mortimer quotes Briggs and Burke in saying that in 1500 there were 250 printing presses in Europe which had produced an estimated 27,000 editions of books. They suggest that each print run may have had 500 copies (I think this may be an overestimate) which would have meant there were 13 million books in Europe at the time.

  3. Ron Monninger says:

    When are you writing a sequel to Outcasts..? What a great book!!

    A big fan

    Ron M

    • Martin Lake says:

      Hi Ron, thank you for your lovely comment. I have begun to plan the next book in the Outcasts series. With any luck, and a following wind, it should be published in 2017, perhaps in 2016.

      • Ron Monninger says:

        Thanks Martin. Can’t wait.

        I just discovered you recently. I’ve read 8 of your books in the last month. Your very creative and talented. Keep up the great work..


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