Christine Conlin meets a Stone author who likes company when he writes Over an armchair near the bar in the Three Crowns at Little Stoke hangs a sign you wouldn’t normally expect to find in a pub.
It reads ‘Author’s Corner’. The author in question is Graham Nolan, who is now writing the third book of his trilogy of medieval historical novels set in the 15th century. His first two books are on sale by the bar. It’s not that Graham drops into the pub to relax between writing stints. What he’s done is to make the Three Crowns his creative workspace. He’ll come in up to five times a week, get himself a drink, settle down at a table in his corner, open up his ancient laptop and start tapping away.
The Three Crowns is where most of his first two books were actually written. Just sitting in this quaint thatched pub with its oak beams, stone floor and open fire helps you travel back in time, thinks Graham. Yes, he does have a home nearby to go to, but he finds that the background noise and the bustle round the bar actually help him focus.
“A pint can last an hour when I’m in full flow,” Graham explained. “What suits me is feeling in the swing of things, but being left in peace to get on writing.”
When he first started coming in with his laptop, he would be left undisturbed to work at what people thought was his day job. Discovering what he was actually up to has indeed provoked the odd bit of banter, Graham admits. But proud of what they’ve nurtured, staff and customers are now playing their own part in helping him produce and publish his books. And to think that Graham, who works for a housing association, grew up with little interest in either reading or history.
“I didn’t even do History GCSE at school,” he reveals.
But all that was to change on his 40th birthday, when he vowed to run a marathon and write a book. A visit to Whittington Castle near Oswestry sparked his interest in researching its 15th century role in defending the English border against the Welsh. Fascinated by medieval weapons, he joined the Lance and Longbow society. Graham’s first book, ‘Retinue: Defence of a Kingdom’ is set in 1403, the year of the Welsh rebellion led by Owain Glyn Dwr. On the English side, Rowan, a young longbowman from Stone, is called up to the Earl of Stafford’s retinue to secure the English border.
In an action-packed story of friendship, courage and honour, Rowan defends Whittington Castle against the besieging Welsh and fights in the Battle of Shrewsbury, where the Earl of Stafford was killed. A pub regular proof-read his manuscript, which Graham self-published in 2012 under the imprint Three Crowns Publishing. ‘Retinue: Defence of a Kingdom’ has sold 4,000 copies on Amazon, where one reviewer compared its quality to that of established medieval historical author Bernard Cornwall.
Graham’s second book in the ‘Retinue’ series takes place one year later in 1404. The Welsh insurrection has continued unabated and many lands are now in the control of Owain Glyn Dwr. The English fortresses of Criccieth and Harlech are under siege. Moreover, England’s historic enemy, France, has despatched forces to aid the Welsh resurgence. King Henry assembles his men-at-arms and longbowmen to counter the invasion which threatens to overwhelm the country. Once more Rowan, now esquire to Sir Robert de Ferrier of Chartley Castle in Staffordshire finds himself facing his old adversary, William de Movran in a desperate bid to defend England from its enemies.
When ‘Retinue: A Bloodied Kingdom’ was published in December 2012, the Three Crowns celebrated its launch with a historical event featuring medieval costumes, staged fights with replica weapons and a knight mounted on a horse! The event proved so popular that the pub put on another medieval celebration for St George’s Day this year.
Graham’s third book in the ‘Retinue’ Series will deal with the turbulent events preceding the battle of Agincourt in 1415. Though the battle story has come down to us through Shakepeare’s ‘Henry V’ its history is far more complex, he’s discovered. For example, Henry had to first overcome a rebellion at Southhampton before he could embark for France.
The ‘Retinue’ books ‘Defence of a Kingdom’ and ‘A Bloodied Kingdom’ by Graham Nolan are on sale at Amazon at £6.99 in paperback, for £1.18 on Kindle. Alternatively, you can pick up a copy for £6.00 at The Three Crowns (using the honesty box at the side of the bar). Graham also has a website www.grahamnolan.co.uk