Hello everybody! Today, I’m delighted to be part of the blog tour for Stand & Deliver, a book I’m really looking forward to getting to. Onto the post!
Why I wrote Stand and Deliver
When I was a kid, I was thrilled to read the old stories about highwaymen and their infamous exploits. Dick Turpin is, of course, the best-known of these villains, immortalised in the late 70s and early 80s by a long-running television series which featured Richard O’ Sullivan as the title character. The series chose to tell a more sympathetic version of the man’s story, but the truth is Turpin was a vicious lawbreaker, who chose to pursue a life of crime rather than working hard for a living.
When I was considering ideas for a new novel, I remembered how excited I’d been by those old stories and it occurred to me that it was an idea that hadn’t been explored in fiction for quite some time. So, as ever with a historical book, I set about researching the era and eventually decided to set my book in the year 1735, in and around Epping Forest (where Turpin genuinely had a secret hideout).
Of course, there needed to be somebody for the reader to root for and so I created Ned Watling, a fourteen-year-old boy who is, to all intents and purposes, an orphan. We learn how he has been tricked into working for the dreaded highwayman, Tom Gregory, and how he longs to escape from his master’s clutches in order to pursue his dream – of becoming a master carpenter.
I rather liked the idea of a highwayman who sees himself as something much more than a common thief. Tom Gregory identifies himself with Robin Hood and talks fondly of how he has allowed those old stories to influence his career, pointing out to Ned that he only ever robs from the rich. (He conveniently ignores the bit about giving any of his booty to the poor.)
Every villain needs a nemesis – and make no mistake, while Gregory may be charming and dashing, he is a villain – so I created the character of William Parbold, a ‘thief-taker.’ In the eighteenth century, policing was in its infancy. Thief-takers were mercenaries, who accepted money from the victims of people like Tom Gregory in return for ending their careers. Retribution could be swift and brutal. This was an age when the theft of a horse was considered a hanging offence.
I decided that Parbold should have a daughter, so I added Eliza into the mix – a bold, headstrong young woman who refuses to follow the conventions of the time and is determined that she shall work alongside her father, taking on a role that at that time would have been considered totally inappropriate for a female.
The stage was set and I was ready to start writing…
Thank you so much for reading! Are you planning to read this book? What are your thoughts on highwaymen?what’s your favourite historical period to read about? I’d love to chat in the comments!