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Monday 20 August 2018

Tuesday Talk - Hot August Knight

Q1: Who likes Neil Diamond? 
Q2: Who remembers this album ?


I loved Neil Diamond back in the 70s - I still do. His are the sort of timeless songs that you can sing along to in the car while driving on a long journey (on your own, probably.) I have very fond memories of H.A.N... sitting in the back garden as dusk falls, bottle (or two) of wine to hand, looking at the trees as they silhouetted against the sky and Neil Diamond on the record player (yep, Vinyl back then!) It seems a lifetime ago now.  I was in my mid-20s...

Me (in the red) and a few 'Saxon' friends 

outside the British Museum way back when.

(The other lady is author and Anglo Saxon historian, Kathleen Herbert

such a dear friend, who encouraged me to write.)
It was hot in July 2018 here in the UK and those hot sultry nights reminded me of the album and those distant August nights ... but this in turn also reminded me of a different night (and yes, it is a very tenuous link, but you are not supposed to notice that!) This sort of Knight...

Knight, Fencing, Armor, Leaf

A particular knight ... King Arthur.  Except he wasn't a knight. He possibly wasn't even a king.
He might have never even existed!

The popular myths of Arthur refer to him as a knight in armour, a godly king overseeing chivalric deeds, the castle of Camelot where jousts were held and blushing maidens blushed beneath their wimples . The Holy Grail, Merlin, Lancelot and Guinevere.

I've never particularly liked any of those tales (Richard Harris in Camelot was a fun movie, but history it wasn't.)  The Arthurian Knights type tales have always seemed so false to me: I guess the 'romance' of those tales just didn't grab me. When I discovered (around the time of Hot August Night) that Arthur, if he had existed would have fitted more accurately into the late 400s early 500s - that period of chaos between the going of the Romans and the coming of the Saxons ... ah that drew my interest! That seemed more plausible! Arthur as a war lord leading bewildered and confused people against these Germanic tribes appearing along the shores of Britain's east coast - and yes, Britain - 'England' wasn't 'Englalond' until the 500/600s when places like Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Sussex, Wessex were becoming established - the lands of the North and South Folk, the East, South and West Saxons.... The old belief that the Anglo Saxons pushed the native British (or more likely by then, the Romano-British) back and back into Wales is now debunked. The incomers settled and intermarried and gradually became dominant. Took them a good couple of hundred years or more to do so though. The 'Welsh' of today (and the Cornish and probably more than a few Devonians) are the remnants of those pre-Saxon Britons. "Welsh" is actually an Old English word for 'foreigner'. 

Who was Arthur? Did he exist? If so where was he - Wales, the West Country? Scotland?

There are many, many conjectural non-fiction books expressing a plethora of different opinions about The Matter Of Arthur. One thing  every Arthurianite has in common is that we all have our own set-in-stone (just like Excalibur) ideas of the 'truth' about him and dismiss any one else's ideas as utter nonsense. 

There are as many fictional ideas dealing with the before, during and after supposed 'reign' of King Arthur. For fiction, different ideas are welcomed - there is plenty of room for imaginative stories about Arthur, be they fantasy, futuristic, knights in armour or nearer-the-truth set in the post-Roman period - and I sincerely hope Arthur continues to remain the Once And Future King between the pages of a well-written novel. But as for finding the facts about him... forget it!

I can recommend one very good fictional series: Mary Anne Yarde's Du Lac Chronicles 

"A generation after Arthur Pendragon ruled, Briton lies fragmented into warring kingdoms and principalities. Eighteen-year-old Alden du Lac ruled the tiny kingdom of Cerniw. Now he half-hangs from a wooden pole, his back lashed into a mass of bloody welts exposed to the cold of a cruel winter night. He’s to be executed come daybreak—should he survive that long. When Alden notices the shadowy figure approaching, he assumes death has come to end his pain. Instead, the daughter of his enemy, Cerdic of Wessex, frees and hides him, her motives unclear. Annis has loved Alden since his ill-fated marriage to her Saxon cousin—a marriage that ended in blood and guilt—and she would give anything to protect him. Annis’s rescue of Alden traps them between a brutal Saxon king and Alden’s remaining allies. Meanwhile, unknown forces are carefully manipulating the ruins of Arthur’s legacy."  And of course, there's Mary Stewart's Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills and Rosemay Sutcliff's Sword At Sunset.

Plus my own trilogy of course!

Once I had discovered him, I fell in love with my Arthur. MY Arthur was the down-to earth sometimes ruthless war lord version. A man who had to fight hard to gain his kingdom and fight even harder to keep it... MY Guinevere (Gwenhwyfar as I call her) has more sense than to go off with a 'loves himself' type knight (sorry, I can't stand Lancelot!) in my story she loves Arthur. Their relationship is turbulent (to put it mildly!) but at heart they respect - and love - each other. They have the good times and the bad to face, they have happiness and tragedy to endure, friends to embrace, enemies to kill. My Arthur, to me, is very real and whether it be hot or not... he will always be MY Hot August Knight. Along with Mr Diamond's wonderful voice.

An excerpt from The Kingmaking

Gwenhwyfar dressed quickly. She began to braid her hair but her fingers shook. Until this moment, she had not regretted the decision to leave her maid behind. She told herself not to be foolish, to stay calm and not worry - her husband would survive. Sensible advice, which she did not take. Abandoning the braids, she left her hair loose, ducked from the tent.

The air was fresh, washed clean by the rain that had fallen earlier in the night. It had ceased an hour since, leaving the sky vaulted bright with speckled stars. Her boots scuffed the clinging wetness from the grass as she walked to where the men were assembling beyond the rows of leather tents.

They parted before her. She heard murmurings as she passed, allowed the glint of a smile to break. She guessed how she must look in this dim, flickering torchlight. She had chosen a simple dress of soft green wool, embroidered at neck, hem and cuff, and a darker cloak. She wore few jewels: Arthur’s ruby ring on her marriage finger and a gold torque around her neck. Her hair, cascading in rippling copper waves over her shoulders and down her back, provided all the finery she needed.

Arthur watched her approach, felt his stomach knot with wanting at the sight of her. A cheer, muted in awareness of possible danger, swelled as he held out his hand to her and brought her to him in an embrace. No soldier watching would deny he would give anything to be in Arthur’s position, to feel that lithe, beautiful body against his own; but then, no soldier would ever allow another to take advantage of their lady.

Grinning, Arthur leapt atop a small hillock that raised him about four feet higher than his men. He helped Gwenhwyfar up to stand beside him, his arm encircling her waist.

“You are putting on weight, my lass,” he said cheerfully as they waited for their audience to settle.
Gwenhwyfar made some flippant answer, turned the subject back to the waiting men. Her heart steadied as Arthur began to talk.

By the Mother! If he should suspect she was carrying a child he would be furious. It had taken all her cunning, all her wits, to accompany him here! As it was, she knew she would have to face his anger when he learnt she had deliberately flouted danger in such a condition. It would make not the slightest difference she was but a few months gone and that the babe was threatened with no more danger than the rest of them. Men were so stubbornly protective in these matters.

Arthur spoke only briefly. He emphasised the necessity for caution, for as little noise as was physically possible. “We have men posted; we are as sure as we can be that not one of Hengest’s scouts will take word to him.” He gestured, and an older, experienced soldier dressed in a simple tunic but wearing a magnificent wolfskin cloak, stepped forward. He carried something in his hand. “Mabon brought a trophy back with him when he came in a short while since.”

The man called Mabon, who had fought with Uthr and now served the old Pendragon's only son, lifted the thing he held. None had doubted Arthur had spoken the truth, but the sight of an enemy scout’s head, still dripping fresh blood, well proved the point.

Arthur's stallion, Eira, was brought up, stamping and snorting, a light excited sweat darkening his arched neck. Arthur swung easily into the saddle and nudged the horse forward, thought again. He reined the animal back, leant from the saddle and scooped Gwenhwyfar up to his level. She laughed, grabbing hold of Eira’s long mane for support. Arthur kissed her and swung her back down to firm ground.

She cried out: “Take care, my Lord! Bring me back a trophy!”
“I will," he answered. "Hengest. Dead, or alive as a captive.”

UK editions
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US editions
Buy from Amazon or order from any US bookstore
The Kingmaking in German
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NOTE TO SPAMMERS: I like Neil Diamond and I write books - however this blog is NOT a review blog, nor is it a gateway for you to ask me to review your book/ script / song or whatever no more spam please! If you are an author of HISTORICAL FICTION go to DISCOVERING DIAMONDS which IS a review site 


  1. Yep - had the album and many others. Still play many of the songs and actually peformed 'Solitary Man' at a charity do! Arthur is the most charismatic figure in fiction and probably the longest lasting. and now you add even more to my huge Must Read list!!!

    1. One of my biggest regrets is not taking up the opportunity to see him live in concert ... Neil Diamond I mean, not King Arthur! :-)

  2. Your Arthur Trilogy is without a doubt the best I have read. I remember telling you, many moons ago, “I’m looking for something without the magic, without Merlin, and without Lancelot”...... your series certainly fit the bill! And I am forever recommending them as a more historical look at “what if”.


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