Historical Novelist Edward James Delights in the Cotswolds

Historical novelist Edward James writes:

photo of Edward James

Edward James, historical novelist and reviews editor for the Historical Novel Society

The delights of HULF began even before I arrived at Hawkesbury Upton.  What a soaring view over the Severn valley as we drove along the Cotswold Edge, along a road never travelled, although I have lived in Gloucestershire for over a decade! It was a cold, windswept day (our rotary dryer blew away during my absence) but marvellously clear.  And that was before I discovered Hawkesbury Upton, a delight in itself.

I arrived in time for the opening ceremony and laid out my books on the display table.  Alas, nearly all of them were still there at the end of the day.  After the readings from the schoolchildren’s poems and Brad Borkan’s inspirational speech, I followed Brad across the road to listen to his stories of the Heroic Age of  Antarctic exploration. I am writing a feature article for the Historical Novel Society on historical fiction with a Polar setting, so I booked Brad for an interview later in the month.

cover of TheFrozen Dream by Edward James

A novel set in Arctic Russia

After a leisurely lunch at one of the two local pubs I listened to Rod Griffiths and Lois Parker give their poignant presentation on dementia before taking another break to chat with other festival goers at the school and the Methodist Chapel.  Then it was time for the literary tour ‘Around the World in 8ish Books’ at the Bethesda Chapel. My 15 minute slot was on Arctic Russia, introducing my novel The Frozen Dream, an adventure story about England’s first contact with Russia in the 16th century.  I read the passage where the ships first meet the pack ice.

Not that I write exclusively about cold places.  Freedom’s Pilgrim is set in Mexico and I am currently writing Beyond the Big River, which begins in Texas (the Big River being the Rio Grande).

cover of Freedom's Pilgrim by Edward James

Freedom’s Pilgrim is set in warmer climes

And so to the closing ceremony and collecting my unsold books.  At least they earned me a place on the HULF programme, which is one of the things which makes being an author worthwhile.  Thank you Debbie for making it possible.

Edward James is a review editor for the Historical Novel Society and has published two historical novels, The Frozen Dream and Freedom’s Pilgrim.  He is retired and lives in Cheltenham.  See more on https://busywords.wordpress.com/about-myself  .

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A High Time at HULF by Maureen Armstrong

What a buzz!! Arriving in the school hall at the start of the day, we found the place crowded, and humming with conversations. We set up our books in the allotted space, got my Author badge, and sat with a cup of coffee to absorb the atmosphere.

The good folk in the cafe were working flat out from the moment we arrived (Photo: Angela Fitch Photography)

The good folk at the “Alice in Wonderland” themed food counter were working flat out. There were excited children from the school, whose book of poems was being launched at HULF. (What a good idea to make sure every child’s poem was included.) Authors were busy setting up their displays, and Debbie Young was gathering her speakers for the opening ceremony. Then the Festival began in earnest, with an introduction by key speaker Brad Borkan, and some of the Hawkesbury Upton children reading their poems.

The programme was so extensive, it was hard to decide which talk to choose. We went to the Village Hall, to hear Dr Gerri Kimber talk about New Zealand author Katherine Mansfield. It was a fascinating look into the life and works of a woman who was a ground-breaker in early 20th century literature, and one of the first to focus her work entirely on short stories.

photo of Gerri Kimber addressing the audience

We enjoyed Dr Gerri Kimber’s talk about Katherine Mansfield (Photo: Angela Fitch Photography)

After lunch it was our turn to talk, as part of  the Panel Conversations in the Bethesda Chapel. With the 75th anniversary of D-Day, and the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War Two, this year, it was appropriate that our session featured novels about the impact of WWII on civilians.

Richard Vaughan-Davies‘ novel In the Shadow of Hitler portrayed the utter devastation of Hamburg, and raised serious moral questions about victory and defeat.

cover of Bombweed

Bombweed was written by Maureen and Gillian’s smother

Then we discussed our novel Bombweed, originally written by our mother in 1947, which tells how women in England survived bombing, evacuation, rationing, and bereavement, but still found fun, friendship, and even love.

Finally Rosalind Minett introduced us to her trilogy, A Relative Invasion, in which the relationship between two boys develops through the war and post-war years. I found the descriptions of bullying painfully real. The message that your own family is not necessarily the one to give you love and support came over very clearly.

We then hurried back to the Village Hall to be thoroughly entertained by Lucienne Boyce‘s presentation “Make More Noise!”, which was actually a programme of silent film clips about the Suffragettes. We were both laughing and angry at some of the “comic” films – who would have thought that women were supposed to be punished by being made to wear trousers for two weeks!

Finally, it was back to the school for more tea and delicious cakes, and the closing ceremony.

We had a lot of interest in our novel Bombweed. Full information, including reviews and how to order, is available on our website www.gfmortonbombweed.com.

Gillian Fernandez Morton and Maureen Armstrong