Reading Wolf Wood is like going back in time. That statement sounds really cliché, I know, but it’s very accurate. The book is extensively researched, and the historical accuracy (from what I could tell–I’m no historian, not really) was incredible.
I was intrigued by the dispute over the font, and how such a small thing could trigger such fury, and violence, and affect the entire community. These days the church and religious matters are not as important in the Western world, and I forget how essential belief was. And speaking of belief, the persistent idea that Alice (a woman working in an alms house, who was educated and a healer) could be a witch… Naturally, she was my favourite character. A spirited, educated woman in the midst of so much ignorance.
I haven’t read historical fiction in some time, so it took me a little while to immerse myself in the story. But once I became used to the world in Wolf Wood, the medieval way, the narrative kept my attention, and I had to read to the end. I’m glad to see that Part 2 is already out!
About Wolf Wood (Part 1): The Gathering Storm
In 1436 a dispute arose between the people of Sherborne and their abbot over the ownership of a baptismal font. Before it was settled, the abbey was burnt down and a bishop murdered. Some saw the hand of evil at work and blamed a newcomer to the town, accusing her of being a witch. Others saw her as a saint. Wolf Wood is set in the turbulent years of the late middle ages. The old feudal aristocracy is losing control, a new middle class is flexing its muscles, the authority of the church is being questioned, law and order have broken down and England is facing defeat in France. Wolf Wood is a work of fiction based on actual events.
Release date: June 14, 2013
Part One, ISBN 978-0-9875989-0-5.
On the author’s website: http://mikejkdixon.com
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Interview with Mike Dixon:
Q: What first bit of research or reading inspired you to write Wolf Wood?
A: I was born in Sherborne and attended school there. Even after the passage of five hundred years, the story of the Fire of Sherborne Abbey was still being told. Why a priest should have shot a flaming arrow and burnt down the abbey was a mystery to me as a boy. Many years later, on a visit to Sherborne, I started to research the background to the famous fire and discovered that a remarkable amount of information had survived. That was the inspiration for Wolf Wood.
Q: Were you able to visit some of the locations in your book as a part of your research?
A: I went to school in France as part of an exchange scheme in which I stayed with a French family and their son stayed with mine. I know the Normandy region well and have made a study of the sites that featured prominently in the final stages of the war with England.
Q: What is your favourite scene in the book?
A: My favourite character is Steven, who is entirely fictitious. My favourite scene is the Battle of London Bridge when Steven solves the problem of having a homicidal uncle who poses a severe threat to himself and his parents. The battle took place soon after the defeated English troops returned to England. Commander Gough (more correctly referred to as Captain Gough, to use the title of the day) died attempting to block the rebels passage into London.
Q: What can we expect in book 2, and in your future writings? What are your next releases?
A: Steven and other members of his generation come to the fore in Part 2. It is already written and is on sale for $0.99 as an ebook from Amazon.
I am working on Part 3 in parallel with a novel in my Hansen Mystery Series.
I was born in Sherborne (Dorset) and attended school there and (as an exchange student) in the Medoc region of France. I studied physics at Oxford and received a PhD degree in astrophysics from the University of Cambridge. Following teaching and research appointments in South Africa, Scotland and Australia, I joined the Australian Government Service and worked, for a while, as a ministerial assistant. I entered the tourist industry through public relations and scuba diving and established one of Australia’s first backpacker resorts. I have a keen interest in medieval history and I am a frequent visitor to Britain and France.
As a boy, growing up in Sherborne, I heard about the famous fire of Sherborne Abbey and was told that a priest shot a flaming arrow into the tower and set the building on fire. The marks of the fire are visible today, over five hundred years later. And there is a lot more to tell us what happened.
There was an inquiry into the dispute that led to the fire and the surviving documents tell of a bitter feud between the abbot and the townspeople. It’s highly dramatic stuff and it inspired me to write my Wolf Wood novels.
My books are fiction. Some of the characters are based on real people; others are entirely imaginary. I have done my best to be faithful to the main course of historical events and fill in the gaps with the sort of things that could have happened to my characters.