The Legend of the Swashbuckling Pirate


The Legend of the Gypsy Hawk by Sally Malcolm is a swashbuckling pirate tale. In this fascinating post, the author describes some of the legends that inspired her novel …


A pirate is hanged at Execution Dock.

Pirates have a special place in the heart of all romantics, especially those with a taste for adventure and a healthy disregard for authority.

They are the ultimate rebels, the punk rockers of their day, thumbing their nose at social convention.  Scandalous in the silks and brocade reserved exclusively for the upper class, pirates flaunted their wealth and sexuality, even allowing women to join, and occasionally lead, their crews.

Pirates thrilled and shocked their contemporaries, and very quickly legends sprang up around these fascinating rebels.

Trials of infamous pirates like Captain Kidd were reported in salacious (although not entirely accurate) detail in the eighteenth century scandal rags, and that’s where the pirate myths really began.  So captivating were the stories woven around these men that, while awaiting death, renowned pirates were visited in their cells by dazzled women eager for a little pirate stardust …


The Flying Dutchman, or, The Demon Ship, published 1839.

By the 1830s, with an increasingly literate population eager for entertainment, the ‘penny-bloods’ began to dip into pirate legends from the Golden Age of Piracy. One of the earliest was The Flying Dutchman, published in 1839, telling the tale of the legendary ghost ship and designed to horrify, thrill and delight its eager readers.

And so began an industry. From The Pirates of Penzance and Treasure Island, to movies like Captain Blood and Pirates of the Caribbean, our fascination with the outrageous, dangerous and rebellious pirate remains as enduring as ever.

Long may it continue, say I.

If you enjoyed Sally’s post on pirates, why not give her novel a go? The Legend of the Gypsy Hawk is now available in paperback from all good bookshops and stockists. Purchase it here:

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:

If you need more convincing, watch the fab book trailer here:


Christina – When Research is Fun!

devonmeleatherjsmallThe very word “research” sounds a bit dry and boring, at least to me. And I freely admit I’m not one of those writers who gets totally absorbed in researching my next WIP and forgets about actually writing the book. On the contrary, I can’t wait to finish the research. I’d rather just tell the story, without having to read up on anything beforehand.

Unfortunately, that’s not possible when you write historical novels – I have to have the background knowledge of the period, as well as a grasp on the clothing, social conventions of the time, and things like food and travel. And of course, I need to know all the facts about the specific events that occur in my story (if it’s based on real ones).  But once I have all that, I only look up things as and when I need them, rather than storing facts in my brain “just in case”.

Obviously, there are great ways of making the research more fun, which don’t involve trawling through musty tomes that send you to sleep within two pages. For example, I love going to museums to see the artefacts that would have been used and handled by my characters. I also really enjoy watching films set in the right era, even if the filmmakers don’t always get the details right. And then there are the places you can visit where whole “sets” have been built up, including the relevant smells in some cases, or where they let you experience things belonging to certain eras for yourself. That can really help!

devonfemaleclothingsmallA couple of weeks ago I made a research trip to just such a place, Torrington 1646 at Great Torrington in Devon. There they have a permanent exhibition about the time of the English Civil War. Visitors are given talks on things like clothing, weapons and medicine for this period and I had a wonderful time imagining myself back in 1646.

Although I didn’t get to try on the women’s clothing (someone else did that), I wore a man’s leather jerkin (which was amazingly heavy due to the fact that it was made of thick buffalo hide!), a Puritan style felt hat and I was given a musket to hold.  Later, I learned how to load and fire the musket (in principle only, I didn’t actually shoot anything) and how to fight with a pike as part of a “hedge-pig” formation.  Finally, I had a lesson in medicinal plants, which was extremely interesting.

(This is NOT me in a beard)

(This is NOT me in a beard)

Now all I have to do is incorporate it all into my edits!

Anyone else done any fun research recently?

(The Gilded Fanset during the Civil War, will be published in February 2013)