Tuesday, August 03, 2010


By George MacDonald Fraser

You could say that The Steel Bonnets is the sort of history a novelist would write, conversely you could say that The Candlemass Road is the sort of novel a historian would write.

George MacDonad Fraser is the author of the hugely popular Flashman novels. He also wrote a compelling history of the Scots-English border in the 16th century, titled The Steel Bonnets. Fraser is border-born and bred and he took that history to heart, from it came The Candlemass Road.

The novel is about Lady Margaret Dacre, raised at the court in London and now returned to her father’s lands in the North. She discovers that the Dacre family has been running on reputation for a long time past and now face the prospect of survival in lawless land of feuds, plunder, and murder. Her only help is the outlaw Hobbie Noble. In classic Western style Lady Dacre and Noble defy the counsel of those who insist on not rocking the boat and proceed to capsize the gol-durn thing.

This is very familiar country for those who’ve read The Steel Bonnets, Fraser even includes a historical postscript to round out this novella. It is the kind of writing that one sees all too seldom: historically literate, tightly paced, filled with characters that grab a reader's interest, but not by re-imagining the past to suit the prissy sensibilities of the present. The Candlemass Road is a lean wolf in a field with too many lumbering oxen.

-Dave Hardy

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