Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Trumpet Blasts …

Ruby on Wheels

Any Scot with a smattering of knowledge about our history will know something about the content of a book titled “The First Blast of the Trumpet“. It can be none other than John Knox. Indeed, the novel is about Knox’s early life. The idea of finding out a bit more about his background and the issues of the time intrigued me, and I welcomed the opportunity to read a wee bit of history with a wee bit of fiction intertwined. The novel didn’t disappoint.

The novel introduces various characters such as the Elizabeth Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell, as well as John Knox, and the relationships between the characters gradually unfolds (although I must admit I was puzzled at first at the chapters devoted to life in St Mary’s Abbey). There are a few fictional characters, but most of the main action is based on historical figures. This…

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The First Blast of the Trumpet by Marie

The First Blast of the Trumpet by Marie Macpherson

 

 
When people look incredulous and ask, ‘What on earth possessed you to write about John Knox?’ I usually answer, ‘He did.’ For the founding father of the Scottish Reformation is not the most obvious choice for a hero, nor was he foremost in my mind when I started writing my novel. For me, growing up in Scotland Knox was a pulpit-thumping tyrant, a cartoon Calvinist who hated women and banned not only Christmas but playing football on Sundays. Besides, the tragic, romantic figure of Mary Queen of Scots had always held far more fascination for me than the dour Scottish reformer. But it was a series of coincidences that led to the ghost of Knox hijacking my original project.
I’d been doing some research into the Treaty of Haddington, signed in 1548 betrothing Mary to the dauphin of France, when I came across a surprising story. In the local archives I read an article about Elisabeth Hepburn, prioress of St Mary’s Abbey at the time of the treaty who had been forced into becoming a nun to protect the Hepburn family interests at this wealthy convent. Clearly she did not buckle down to a life of quiet contemplation for she was later accused of a certain misdemeanour. This made me eager to find out more about this feisty, free-spirited woman.
It just so happened that I had studied 16th century Scottish literature at university and was blown away by the works of these early writers, especially the playwright David Lindsay who wrote a scathing attack on the Roman Catholic Church, A Satire of the Three Estates. In his play he denounces a prioress for her immoral behaviour and I wondered if by any chance Elisabeth had inspired this character who cursed her friends for ‘compelling her to be a nun and would not let her marry’?
At the time Lindsay had been exiled to Garleton Castle just a few miles away from Haddington and it was not beyond the bounds of possibility that they had met. In fact, the novel, originally entitled The Abbess of Unreason, was going to focus on the intriguing relationship between these two characters.
I was then thrilled to find that Lindsay had urged Knox to preach his first sermon – to sound his first blast of the trumpet – against the Church of Rome at St Andrews shortly before he was arrested and sent to the galleys. Did Lindsay have more influence on Knox than many historians give him credit for? The radical ideas expressed in his play must have affected Knox. Perhaps he learned his preaching skills from the playwright and director, Lindsay. That, to me, suggested a close relationship and I was curious to know how and when it began.
Knox himself was notoriously tight-lipped about the first thirty years of his life. As far as he was concerned, he was born again when the Reformist preacher, George Wishart, pulled him from the ‘puddle of papistry’. What is known about his early life is that this poor orphan lad, born in Haddington in 1513 or 1514, was educated at the local grammar school and St Andrews University and that puzzled me. How could a man of base estate and condition’ have afforded an expensive education? Also unexplained was his relationship with the powerful Hepburn family, the earls of Bothwell. Unearthing these bare bones inspired me to flesh out a story with a dark secret at its centre.
It just so happens that in 2013 (or 2014 as some maintain) Knox will celebrate his 500th birthday and perhaps Knox thought it merited some kind of fanfare. He was certainly instrumental in changing the title which I borrowed from his polemical pamphlet The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. But unlike his misogynistic rant against female monarchs, my First Blast, the first of a trilogy of novels, does not rail against women but is an attempt to unveil the man behind the myth.
More information about the book

Wednesday, March 6, 2013Review: FIRST BLAST OF THE

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Review: FIRST BLAST OF THE TRUMPET by Marie Macpherson

 

 4 of 5 stars

THE FIRST BLAST OF THE TRUMPET is an energetic mix of Scottish history and an intriguing story of a young girl’s life gone awry. Elisabeth Hepburn, the daughter of the Earl of Bothwell, falls in love with the poet David Lindsay and imagines a life of love and family, but she soon finds her dream shattered when she is forced into a life as a nun at St. Mary’s Abbey. She’s a pawn in a man’s world.

If you thought a life as a nun was one of peaceful contemplation, you’d be wrong. There is nothing peaceful about this story set in Scotland in the 1500s. The author weaves a fantastic story of intrigue and political maelstrom involving Elisabeth, her godson John Knox, the Catholic Church, Scottish nobles and even the English king, Henry VIII. I thoroughly enjoyed this story especially with so much Scottish real-life history integrated into the story. The characters are expertly portrayed and you’ll feel their triumphs and heartaches. My only complaint is that there is not much resolution at the end of the book. I’m anxiously awaiting the sequel to see what happens next to Elisabeth and John Knox, Scotland’s great reformer.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 

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The First Blast of the Trumpet by Marie

The First Blast of the Trumpet by Marie Macpherson

March 12, 2013 by  Leave a Comment

BLAST

The First Blast of the Trumpet by Marie Macpherson
Publisher: Knox Robinson Publishing
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (400 pgs)
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Water Lily

Hailes Castle, 1511. Midnight on a doom-laden Halloween and Elisabeth Hepburn, feisty daughter of the Earl of Bothwell, makes a wish—to wed her lover, the poet David Lindsay. But her uncle has other plans. To safeguard the interests of the Hepburn family, she is to become a nun and succeed her aunt as Prioress of St. Mary’s Abbey, Haddington. However, plunged into the political maelstrom and religious turmoil of the early Scottish Reformation, her life there is hardly one of quiet contemplation. But her greatest struggle is against her godson, John Knox. Witnessing his rejection of the Roman Catholic Church, she despairs that the sins of her past may have contributed to his present disenchantment. As he purges himself from the puddle of papistry, Knox finds his voice, denouncing everything he once held dear, but will that include his godmother, Prioress Elisabeth?

Sometimes I open a book, read the first couple of lines and congratulate myself on picking a really, really good read. Then I giggle to myself, lock the bedroom door and dive in. That was my experience with Marie Macpherson’sThe First Blast of the Trumpet, because…as the first line states, “There’s no rhyme nor reason to it. Your destiny is already laid doon.” At least mine was by opening the book.

I connected with the characters instantly and was pulled into the book from the opening scene. I loved the slightly awkward, historical language and found it added to the texture of the book. The multiple points of view included on most pages might cause some readers problems, but it did not give me pause. It brought to life characters whose time was limited but whose part in the story was essential. I found myself thinking of this book and the characters when I wasn’t reading—a true sign of a good book in my opinion.

If you like well researched, rich, historical stories full of the sights, sounds and scents of a past era, embroiling real people in the messy mélange of honest emotions and frequently misguided ambitions that make up human history, then this may well be the book for you. I certainly enjoyed it. Frankly, this is my preferred way of learning about the past. History through the eyes of those who lived it. Ms. Macpherson brought early 16th century Scotland to life and showed how the Battle of Flodden was truly the first blast of the trumpet that changed the course of Scottish history. I highly recommend The First Blast of the Trumpet.

 

 

INTERVIEW: MARIE MACPHERSONMarch 6, 2013 by The Long and Short

INTERVIEW: MARIE MACPHERSON

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Dr Marie Macpherson. Her historical novel,The First Blast of the Trumpet, Book One in The Knox Trilogy, about John Knox, releases today.

She’s currently working on the second part of the trilogy with a working title ofThe Second Blast of the Trumpet, unless she can come up with a better one.

“What I’ve found surprising is that John Knox, the author of that notorious polemic The First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women was not a rampant misogynist,” she told me. “In fact he loved women and perhaps, more surprisingly, women loved him. So, in the next part I want to continue exploring his relationship with the women in his life; two wives, an interfering mother-in-law, several female correspondents, including one who leaves her husband to join his ever-increasing household, his godmother and, of course, members of the monstrous regiment. Perhaps John Knox – Ladies’ Man would be a more appropriate title?”

Since Dr. Macpherson writes historical novels, the plot has more or less already been written, leaving her free to focus on the main players.

“Historical accounts rarely give insights to what they were thinking, how they were feeling: exploring the personal relationships and often hidden motivations of historical figures drives my interest,” she explained. “For example, while reams have been written about the Scottish Reformation surprisingly little is known about its founding father, John Knox. God’s Trumpeter he may be to some people but in the popular imagination Knox has become a caricature of himself – a cartoon Calvinist who hated women, a pulpit thumping tyrant who banned Christmas and football on Sundays.

“Knox was notoriously tight-lipped about the first 30 years of his life and this fired my curiosity to find out more about the man behind the myth. But while doing so I came across a dark secret and a surprising love story.”

She’s had people stop her on the street to tell her how much they’ve enjoyedThe First Blast–and especially because they can identify local historic locations mentioned in the novel. If you can’t travel to Scotland, you can view the mini-documentary made to accompany the novel—Dr. Macpherson narrates it herself.

“One book group wrote to the local paper to suggest: ‘We unanimously agreed (and the unanimity is unusual!) that Marie MacPherson’s, The First Blast of the Trumpet, should be included in any book list (and not just in Scotland!),’” she shared with me.

Dr. Macpherson told me that as long as she can remember she would make up stories in her head—what her mother would call “falling into a dwam,” or daydreaming. And then, when she learned to read and write it was magical for her.

“That marks on paper could form words that then conveyed a story hit me like a thunderbolt – that’s what I wanted to do, and not only when I grew up,” she said. “I was bitten by the writing bug when I won a prize at primary school (aged 10) for a story about my pet dog. Before at last turning to fiction, I relieved the itch with academic writing: the topic for my PhD thesis was the Russian writer Lermontov, said to be descended from the Scottish poet Thomas the Rhymer, another famous daydreamer.”

“If you could have one paranormal ability,” I wondered, “what would it be?”

“Apart from being able to ‘see myself as others see me’ -– time travel would be a fantastic paranormal ability. I’d love to be able to go back in time and see what life was like in the past, particularly the 16th century. It would be great to snoop on the characters in my novel to see how they actually lived in their castles and hovels, what they ate, wore, how they dealt with sanitation and disease … On second thoughts, perhaps not – it would be just my luck to catch the plague,” she told me. “But, I’d like to spend the day with the daughter of debate, Mary Queen of Scots, but one day might not be enough for all the questions I’d want to ask her. Did she love him James Hepburn, Lord Bothwell? Was she forcibly abducted by? Was she already pregnant by him? Who strangled Darnley? Did she know of the plan to assassinate Elizabeth 1? What did she think of John Knox?”

When she’s not writing, she spends a lot of time reading—not only for research, but also Scottish and Russian authors for enjoyment. A favorite historical fiction writer of hers is Dorothy Dunnett. Dr. Macpherson admires her clever wit and ability to spin a complicated web of deceit in a plot.

“I usually tell everyone that seeing the film Dr Zhivago inspired me to study the Russian classics in the original language – but I blame Omar Sharif. Still, it led me to Tolstoy and Dostoevsky arguably two of the greatest writers ever,” she said.

Many people find it surprising that she doesn’t have a television, but she feels it gives her more time to indulge in other activities. She had dreamed of becoming a tap dancer, but in school they only did Scottish Country Dancing. She’s since taken tap dancing lessons but admits she’ll never be able to match the skill of Ginger Rogers, who not only danced backwards but in high heels.

“Now I’m happy to rediscover the joys of jigging and reeling at Scottish Country dancing which is not only great exercise for the legs and feet but, with its complicated moves, keeps the old grey cells ticking over,” she told me.

About the Author:3_6 Marie Macphersonjpeg Hailing from the historic Honest Toun of Musselburgh, six miles from Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, Marie Macpherson (née Gilroy) developed a love for literature and languages from an early age. Brought up on the site of the Battle of Pinkie and within sight of Fa’side Castle, she was haunted by tales and legends from the past. The Ballads of the Scottish Borders stirred the romantic in her soul and the works of Sir Walter Scott kept her enthralled during the long, dark winter evenings (and more often nights, reading with a torch beneath the bedclothes).
While she studied French and German at school, followed by Spanish and Italian at university, none of them enthused her so much as seeing the film, Dr. Zhivago, which sparked a desire to read the works of the Russian literary giants in the original. After gaining an Honours Degree in Russian and English, she spent a year in Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg) researching her PhD on the work of the 19th century Russian writer, Mikhail Lermontov, said to be descended from Thomas the Rhymer of the ancient Scottish family of Learmont. Though she has travelled widely, teaching languages and literature across Europe from Madrid to Moscow, she has never lost her passion for the rich history and culture of her native Scotland.
Now retired from the hurly-burly of academia, her life in the foothills of the Lammermuirs is hardly quiet. With all the various activities organised in her village, from reeling at Scottish Country Dancing to hill-walking, from book clubs to film shows, she has to make time to research and write.
Having attempted various genres, she has found her niche in historical fiction which combines her academic’s love of research with a passion for storytelling. Her inspiration not only comes from historical records and documents but from the landscape of the Scottish lowlands where she tries to conjure up what life was like for the inhabitants of those now ruined castles and deserted abbeys. Exploring the personal relationships and often hidden motivations of historical characters drive her interest.

3_6 INTERVIEW history other TFBTemailHailes Castle, 1511. Midnight on a doom-laden Hallowe’en and Elisabeth Hepburn, feisty daughter of the Earl of Bothwell, makes a wish – to wed her lover, the poet David Lindsay. But her uncle has other plans. To safeguard the interests of the Hepbum family she is to become a nun and succeed her aunt as Prioress of St. Mary’s Abbey, Haddington.
However, plunged into the political maelstrom and religious turmoil of the early Scottish Reformation, her life there is hardly one of quiet contemplation. Strong-willed and independent, she clashes with those who question her unorthodox regime at St. Mary’s, including Cardinal David Beaton and her rival, Sister Maryoth Hay.
But her greatest struggle is against her thrawn godson, John Knox. Witnessing his rejection of the Roman Catholic Church – aided by David Lindsay – she despairs that the sins of her past may have contributed to his present disenchantment.
As he purges himself from the puddle of papistry, Knox finds his voice, denouncing everything he once held dear, but will that include his godmother, Prioress Elisabeth? And by confessing her dark secrets, will Elisabeth steer Knox from the pernicious pull of Protestantism or drive him further down the fateful path he seems hell-bent on; a path that leads to burning at the stake?
In a daring attempt to shed light on a wheen of unanswered questions about John Knox’s early, undocumented life, this novel throws up some startling claims and controversial conjectures.
Book one of The Knox Trilogy.