Former journalist uses Covid-19 lockdown to focus on writing latest historical novel
- Credit: Richard Humphries
A former journalist used the coronavirus lockdown in summer to focus on writing his latest historical novel on slavery and murder.
Richard Humphries of Wisbech – who worked as a reporter in London for 50 years – has released ‘Mrs Holland’s School of Murderous Whores’.
The story is set in late 1830, after the elderly William IV has ascended the British throne.
He is about to have Parliament declare his niece, Princess Alexandrina Victoria, as his lawful successor because he has no legitimate heir. Or does he?
Humphries, who lives with his wife and seven-year-old grandson, said: “At the time of the story, the United Kingdom is in turmoil.
“There is trouble with the rioting working class in England; trouble with Irish rebels; an unstable Government; abolitionists pressing for an end to slavery in the colonies; slave-owners pressing for massive compensation that could bankrupt the nation.
“To top it all, London is hit by a wave of society murders that the newly-formed Metropolitan Police has no hope of solving because it does not, as yet, have any detectives.
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“Step forward Mr Soloman Vaisey, senior officer at Bow Street magistrates court, the best ‘detectorist and thief-taker in London’.
“He is charged with bringing the murderer, or murderers, to justice.
“What Mr Vaisey and his adopted, mixed-race grand-daughter Hannah uncover is a plot by a group of society abolitionists to embarrass the Government into ending slavery by producing a black claimant to the Throne.
“There are those who will stop at nothing to prevent him, even murder...and the trail leads right to the very top.”
The story is based on William Henry Courtenay, William IV’s actual son from an early relationship when he was a young naval officer stationed in Antigua in the West Indies under the command of Horatio Nelson.
By 1830, London was estimated to have a black population of around 10,000 people and the story is set principally around the area of Charing Cross and Westminster.
This is the second novel published by Richard. His first, ‘On the day we got to Heaven’, and a collection of short stories, ‘Tales from the Fire Hills’, were both published last year.
For his next book there is a departure from fiction, with the impending publication of his father’s World War II memoirs, entitled ‘Being Prepared’.
He added: “Like others of his generation, my dad was an ordinary man doing extraordinary things, he volunteered for the Royal Navy in 1940 when he was 18.
“Within the space of a few years had gone from being a Boy Scout and promising dance band ‘crooner’, to being one of the first Commandos, then rising to become commander of a major warship – all by the time he was 24. Proper heroic stuff!”
The next novel from Richard, ‘The Elephant, the Oik and a ginger pussy’ is due out next year.
Set in South London in the 1950s and 60s it is based largely on his own experiences growing up through the birth of British Rock ‘n’ Roll and at a time when London was controlled by violent gangs – including the Krays and the Richardsons, some of whom Richard knew personally.
Prior to retirement, Richard was a working journalist and, latterly, as senior communications manager at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn.
‘Mrs Holland’s School for Murderous Whores’ is available on Amazon as a paperback, price £7.99 or a Kindle e-book, price £5.99.