Mr Pepys and the Primrose Hill Mystery by Malyn Bromfield
March 10, 2022
Mr Pepys and the Primrose Hill Myster by Malyn Bromfield
Today I am on the Blog Tour for Mr Pepys and the Primrose Hill Mystery and I am here with an author interview for you all.
Before I share that though, here’s some information on the book.
Title: Mr Pepys and the Primrose Hill Mystery Author: Malyn Bromfield Publisher: Clink Street Publishing Published: 1st March 2022 Format: Paperback Source: N/A Summary: On 17th October, 1678, Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey, a justice of the peace, is discovered dead in a ditch at Primrose Hill, run through with his own sword.
Suicide or murder? This has been the historian’s dilemma for three centuries.
King Charles II had awarded Godfrey a knighthood for his bravery following the great plague and the fire of London. But is Godfrey all he appears to be? During his final days, Godfrey confesses to friends that he is master of a great secret and will be hanged. Titus Oates, arguably the most audacious liar history has ever known, had visited Godfrey claiming to have discovered a Jesuit plot to assassinate King Charles II and overthrow Parliament.
Following a £500 reward from the King for information about Godfrey’s death, murderers are named and Samuel Pepys, Secretary of the Naval Office, discovers that he has an enemy who has accused him of orchestrating Godfrey’s murder. He must seek the truth to save himself.
Readers will accompany Mr Pepys to coffee houses, taverns, palaces, to his home where his marriage is in crisis, to Newgate prison, and to the trials of men who are accused of murdering Godfrey.
Who lies and who is telling the truth? Who killed Edmund Godfrey?
What is your favourite thing about writing books? Writing historical fiction involves a great deal of research and I enjoy the research as much as I enjoy the literary process but my favourite thing about the writing process is getting inside the mindset of my characters and in this current novel, Mr Pepys and the Primrose Hill Mystery, there are several compelling historical characters to get to know. There is Samuel Pepys, the diarist whose wife describes him as a false rotten hearted rogue and Titus Oates, just as nasty a character as Dickens’ Bill Sykes and probably the most audacious liar history has ever known. The relationship between Charles II, his wife Catherine and his mistresses has been most interesting to portray.
I suppose the very best part of being a writer is holding the published book in my hands after so many years of research, writing and editing and knowing that other people are going to read it.
Who is your favourite character in your book and why? Sir Edmund Bury Godfrey is a man with a mission. A diligent justice of the peace, he remains in London during the plague months and is knighted for his bravery during the Great Fire of London. He is active in the parish vestry which is responsible for charitable works in the community. He also gives his own money to a baker to bake bread for the poor. These philanthropic works are at odds with his dealings as a businessman – a wood and coal merchant who also owns property. After the fire he increases the price of fuel. Subsequently, the Woodmongers’ Company, of which he is master, is fined because of the financial impact on the poor.
Godfrey is a compelling character not just because of his contradictory actions. He is man with serious issues. He is known as a melancholy man. In our modern world he would probably be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He also has a hearing disability which makes social interaction difficult for him. A devoutly Christian man, he befriends Valentine Greatrakes, a faith healer and I detect homosexual feelings from his letters to Greatrakes. In an age when homosexuality was deemed to be sodomy, a sin against God, there is surely conflict here between Godfrey’s religious faith and his sexuality of which he appears to be in denial. The big question to keep readers guessing about Edmund Godfrey is surely this: was his death murder or suicide?
What is your favourite drink to consume while writing? I write in the early morning and drink nothing stronger or more interesting than camomile tea.
Do you have any bad habits while you’re writing? Since I became a writer I have not yet experienced writers’ block: quite the opposite. My characters tend to come to me in the night and I am writing sentences, indeed, whole paragraphs in my head while I should be sleeping, so I suppose this is a bad habit. I just cannot let my characters rest and they won’t leave me alone.
How did you research your book? I was planning to write a different novel about Samuel Pepys and his wife. I had already read the diary but I re-read this and then read general history of Charles II’s reign and Restoration London. This led me to the curious death of Edmund Godfrey and I was hooked, so my novel became a murder mystery. Now I needed to find out as much as I could about the circumstances of Godfrey’s death and there was plenty of primary evidence for this. Research is ongoing for me, for example, I wanted a scene where Edmund Godfrey was playing bowls so I needed to research how this game was played in the 17th century. When I wrote the chapters about the plague and the fire I referred to John Evelyn’s diary for an additional contemporary account. There is an extensive bibliography for the novel which gave me access to Edmund Godfrey’s letters to his friend, the faith healer, Valentine Greatrakes, and to his will. Online I found websites where I could access the trial records of men accused of murdering Godfrey. The most valuable research was a collection of eyewitness statements collected a few years after Godfrey’s death by Roger Le Estrange who interviewed people who saw or spoke to Godfrey on the day he was last seen alive.
Some research was done on foot. I walked the London streets where Godfrey lived and worked and visited Somerset House where it was claimed he was murdered.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Writing a historical novel with real historical people means that history has already laid out the bare bones of the plot. For my first novel, Mayflowers for November, I began by writing the first and the last chapter, so I knew where the story was going, For Mr Pepys and the Primrose Hill Mystery the characters informed the plot so I began by introducing Godfrey to the readers. The next stage was to bring the villain,Titus Oates, to the readers’ attention. The chapters follow in chronological sequence, which gave me my plan. As for the ending, I could have written half a dozen possible ways Godfrey met his death, and I did actually write two separate endings. My final decision about the ending is firmly based on my research guided by my characters and my own intuition.
If you could live in any fictional world, which would you choose and why? I would like to travel back into history and live with the Tudors and Stuarts but this would not be a fictional world. I very much admire Salman Rushdie’s writing and I would love to be transported into one of the fantasy worlds he creates. My favourite book is Shalimar the Clown so I would choose to travel on a magic carpet to Kashmir to watch Shalimar doing acrobatics on his tightrope.
If you could befriend any fictional character, who would you choose and why? I would choose Ayla, from the Earth’s Children series of novels by Jean M. Auel, set in prehistoric times. Ayla is a Cro-Magnon girl, who is orphaned after an earthquake and taken into the care of a Neanderthal clan. Later, after she is thrown out of the clan, she learns to fend for herself, including making medicines and hunting. I could learn a lot about survival techniques from Ayla. She is brave, and has a caring nature. There is also a spiritual side to her personality. She has a special relationship with wild animals and adopts a wolf cub and a lion cub. When she meets other Cro-Magnon people Ayla is popular and makes firm friendships. I would love to journey through prehistoric times with Ayla.
About the Author
Malyn Bromfield is a retired teacher. She has a background of post graduate study with the Open University including a fiction writing course. She has been fascinated by Tudor and Stuart history since childhood and enjoys researching as much as she enjoys writing historical fiction. Her first historical novel, Mayflowers for November: The Rise and Fall of Anne Boleyn was published in 2016. She grew up in Warwickshire but has lived in the north of England since her student days. She is a volunteer at the Museum of North Craven Life at The Folly in Settle, North Yorkshire.