Rebels and Traitors must seem like a new departure for me – though it’s really what I always wanted to write. Some of my friends have been hearing about this for nearly fifty years!
I was in my teens when I first started caring about the English Civil War, which has always appealed to my libertarian ideals, even though the attempt to install a republic failed and many of the great questions are still being fought over. To take one very pertinent issue, we are still debating what support should be given to soldiers who are injured in government service, and whether there should be a duty of care to the widows and children of those who are killed. The New Model Army felt passionately about that – mutinied over it even – and so do the forces who are serving today in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In this book, Civil War events are a crucial element of the story, along with the struggling Commonwealth that followed. It was the dawn of modern journalism, a key moment in publishing. ‘Ordinary’ people took up the struggle and felt able to act and speak on their own initiative in ways that had never happened before. Even civilians suffered horribly. I think that what happened between 1642 and 1658 was extraordinary and should be much better known.
In a welcome change from the first-person, single-viewpoint narratives of the Falco series, I was able to follow several characters. My hero, Gideon Jukes, fights for Parliament, associates with the Levellers, and attempts to stave off the demise of the Commonwealth by working for the intelligence service in the face of sometimes curious enemy plots. (What a relief to write about a man who is tall, fair-haired and blue-eyed too!) My heroines are primarily Juliana Carlill, who marries a professional soldier on the Royalist side and has to survive for years as a lone wife and mother while he is away fighting on both land and sea. The there is Kinchin, a scavenger for whom nobody is fighting, so she has to fend for herself at the raw end of society.
I wanted to extend my range here. There are some famous episodes, a scatter of battles, domestic and workplace scenes. There is theatre, law, surgery without anaesthetic, truly bad weather and religious nudity. A great deal of the action is poignant, but there are some jokes. Many of the most important scenes follow closely the words of people who were actually there – though I hope that the novel is absolutely my own. It is dear to my heart and I hope people will like it.
Every now and then along comes an historical novel with such scope and ambition that it takes your breath away… A magnificent evocation of time and place. Lancashire Evening Post
This new epic combines a wealth of teeming historical detail with storytelling elegance of the first order… The sense of period here is as acute as anything in Davis’ Roman novels, and shows (as if we needed reminding) that she is a novelist of immense reach. The Good Book Guide
Lindsey Davis succeeded in producing a thoroughly researched, well-written history of the English Civil War, infused with a lively fictional storyline and totally believable characters. Daily Mail
Impeccably researched and written with Lindsey’s deliciously light touch, the book brings history to life. Bournemouth Echo
Davis weaves the history of the turbulent period and — rarely for a historical novel — shows the ideas and dreams that guided the “ordinary” people of the time and the contempt in which they were held by their king and his cohorts. A work of great skill and sharp plotting. Verdict: masterful –Herald Sun, Australia