Please welcome today's guest, Alan Calder, who writes contemporary novels with a historical background. He shares with us some fascinating backstory behind his most recent novel, The Glorious Twelfth.
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All my novels are contemporary, in the mystery/suspense genre with their roots planted very firmly in the history of kings, aristocrats and saints.
My most recent novel, The Glorious Twelfth, was inspired by a building and an aristocratic family. The Sinclair mausoleum stands near an abandoned farmstead thirty miles south of John o’Groats, the northern sibling of Land’s End in Cornwall. The mausoleum housed the remains of the aristocratic Sinclairs for several hundred years before a larger facility was constructed. With an unusual ogive shaped roof, it is built over the remains of an ancient chapel to St Martin and surrounded by a graveyard which once contained a class II Pictish stone, conferring great antiquity and mystery on the site.
The Sinclairs have been the preeminent family in Caithness for over seven hundred years, still holding the earldom. They were the builders of Rosslyn Chapel in the first half of the fifteenth century, a unique church steeped in masonic and Templar mythology, so much so that in The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown speculates that the Holy Grail lies buried in the filled in crypt of the building. My take on history is that the then remote and inaccessible Caithness would have provided a much better hiding place for the Grail than Rosslyn. The Glorious Twelfth opens on an archaeological dig led by archaeologist, Ben Harris, on the land of aristocrat, Sir Ranald Sinclair. Ben is soon distracted both by the laird’s beautiful daughter, Fran and artefacts that point to a medieval shipwreck near a cave that he discovers is connected by a tunnel to Sir Ranald’s mausoleum.
My first novel The Stuart Agenda, gradually materialised from reading the history of the defunct royal Stuart dynasty, replaced by the Hanoverians who still occupy the British throne today. The final trigger for the novel was a report on a young man who turned up in Edinburgh claiming to be a direct legitimate descendant of Bonnie Prince Charlie, the romantic Scottish hero but loser at the battle of Culloden. He challenged the authorised version of history, ie that the Prince died without legitimate issue, providing an impressive family tree to back his claim. He was feted for a while until a suspicious genealogist found the falsehoods in the family tree and debunked him. It turned out that he was a fantasist Belgian waiter called Michel Lafosse. Despite the falsehood of his claim it did raise the ‘what if’ question in my mind. My fictional Stuart family is French and the novel opens with Robert, the eventual claimant, at Gordonston School, beginning to build his Scottish profile. It’s a political conspiracy hatched by his family who spot the opportunity that Scotland might be going independent and want its own monarch. The plot takes on more meaning since writing as the nationalists make strong ground, now forming the Scottish government and preparing a referendum on independence. It has something for everyone- conspiracy, politics, intrigue, espionage, royal romance and the locations in Scotland, England, France and Poland.
My third novel, A Pilgrimage Too Far, to be released soon, is based in France and draws on my own research into the life of a minor medieval French saint that I stumbled on while visiting a church in Normandy. Aspects of his life have a profound meaning in our own time and the book challenges some deeply held Catholic dogma.
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You can learn more about Alan Calder on his blog.