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Strange Times by Joan Szechtman

strange timesToday, we interview Joan Szechtman, an American writer who has just published her third time-travel novel about King Richard the Third.  Fans of Joan have read her books, THIS TIME, which was published in 2009 and LOYALTY BINDS ME which was published in 2011.  Her third Richard the Third novel, STRANGE TIMES, has just been published and is available on Amazon.

Joan, to begin with, what made you interested in Richard the Third?

In 2004 I read Sharon Kay Penman’s THE SUNNE IN SPLENDOUR. It turned my perception of Richard III from Shakespeare’s arch-villain I loved to hate to a sympathetic character I had to learn about. From Penman’s book I found RICHARD THE THIRD by Paul Murray Kendall.

Those are two great sources to use when researching Richard the Third.  Please tell us how you became involved with the Richard the Third Society? I believe you hold several key posts in the American branch.

As I continued my research, I realized I needed to find resources beyond my local library and found the UK and American Branch websites of the Richard III Society. In addition to joining the American Branch, I signed on to both branches email lists so that I could ask questions of other members who were far more knowledgeable than me.

At the time I joined the American Branch, the New England Chapter had just formed and they contacted me to see if I would be interested in participating. So, I joined them as well. A couple of years after joining the New England Chapter the first moderator resigned her position and I became the new moderator for the next two years.

In 2011, the American Branch needed a new editor and I was pressed into service. I’m still the branch’s editor. We have two semi-annual publications: The Ricardian Register and The Ricardian Chronicle. The Register is more academic oriented and features scholarly papers and book reviews and is published both in print and digital editions every March and September. The Chronicle is basically a newsletter, focusing on member events, Ricardian travels, and member interviews. It’s published digitally every June and December.

Amazing resources for the American students of Richard!  Your new book “Strange Times” is now available on Amazon. Can you tell us something about it?

This is the third book of the trilogy about Richard III in the 21st century. While each book follows Richard today chronologically, the books are written so there are no cliff hangers and can be read in any order, though it’s best to read them sequentially. The book does contain a brief “previously on” for those who haven’t read the first two books or need a refresher.

What fascinates me about Strange Times is that it attempts to cover the fate of my favorite person in all of Richard the Third’s life:  Viscount Francis Lovell, Richard’s closest friend.

STRANGE TIMES takes place in both the 15th and 21st century and investigates what might have happened to Francis Lovell, Richard’s loyal supporter. Currently, there is no definitive historical record of Lovell after the Battle of Stoke where Lovell fought on the losing side against Henry VII. Richard is haunted by one possible outcome that has Lovell starving to death locked in an underground chamber in Minster Lovell. The book follows Richard using the time travel device to “see” what happened to Lovell after Stoke. Then everything goes pear-shaped.

The trilogy is available on most online book sellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble for both print and digital editions, and digitally on iTunes, Kobo, Sony, etc.

I know you have a science background which has influenced your books, so can you give us some background information? And why combine that interest with Richard the Third and the time travel books?

While I do have an engineering background, having spent most of that career working on computer science and data communication, I believe my main reason stems from my love of science fiction and time travel stories. When I began my research on the real Richard III, I dreamt of having dinner with him. Since that was impossible, I decided to write him into the 21st century. I based his character on my research.

One of the things that nagged at me was Richard III was quite young when he died—32. I felt there was more to his story than his short life revealed. I wanted to examine his character in a modern setting, without imposing our modern sensibilities on his 15th century actions. By bringing him into the future, I could challenge him in ways that I couldn’t in his own time.

A primary goal in all my books about Richard III is to get the known history right. For that which is not known, I felt free to speculate as long as it was plausible. For example, there is no extant documentation as to what happened to Edward IV’s eldest sons—Edward, putative heir to the throne until parliament declared him illegitimate due to Edward IV’s bigamous marriage, and Richard of York, next in line until declared illegitimate. I developed a plausible theory that Richard hid them in other countries, such as Spain, and they survived Richard.

In STRANGE TIMES, I have Richard learn what happened to his nephews after he had “died” and solve the mystery surrounding Lovell after the Battle of Stoke.

Good for you!  It is so frustrating to try to make people understand that there is no evidence that Richard the Third murdered his nephews.  People have this need to cling to myths.

STRANGE TIMES came to my attention because you received a “Discovering Diamonds” review. Please tell me something about “Discovering Diamonds” and the review.

Rather than paraphrase what Helen Hollick’s blog is about, I will let “Discovering Diamonds” speak for itself:

“Our aim is to showcase well-written historical fiction for readers to enjoy. We welcome indie-published writers because indie writers do not have the marketing backup of the big publishing houses, but if traditionally published novels come our way we’ll be happy to read and review them! Our intention is to have a good mix of good historical fiction to share with you, a reader.

“However, we are fussy: we only publish reviews of the best books, so we also take note of correct presentation and formatting as well as the quality of writing – and when space and time are limited we may only select a few books a month to review. …”

Getting reviews is important for any author, and can be a struggle for indie authors, of which I am one. I am therefore pleased to share the link to my “Discovering Diamonds” review:

Fantastic review.

Thanks for talking to the Murrey & Blue blog.

discovering diamonds review

 

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Cutting Crime: The Role of Forensic Engineering Science – including the undoubted crimes perpetrated upon Richard III….

University of Lincoln

This talk on April 17, at the University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool Campus, Isaac Newton Building, Lincoln, might be interesting. Among other things, the study of Richard’s remains will be discussed. I quote:

“…the talk will discuss how this adds to our insights into stabbing attacks. Finally, the audience will see how the modern forensic techniques contributed to the investigation of the remains of Richard III…”

 

THE CROSSRAIL RAILWAY PROJECT – A PORTAL INTO OLD LONDON

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No doubt archaeologists thought all their Christmases had arrived at once when first they heard the breaking news of the building of Crossrail, Europe’s largest infrastructure  –  which will be called the Elizabeth line and will open in phases from late 2018 – and the exceptional opportunities the excavations would bring.  However, did they ever imagine in their wildest dreams the wealth of artifacts that would be unearthed ranging from bison bones, 68000 years old, found at Royal Oak near Paddington, through the medieval period to Roman finds including a burial site beneath the area that once covered Liverpool Street Station.  Since the work begun in 2009 archaeologists have unearthed ‘tens of thousands of items’ from 40 sites spanning 55 millions years of London’s history and prehistory (1).The new railway will run from east to west through some of London’s most historical areas.  It has been described as a ‘layer cake of history hidden below the city’s streets’.IMG_4295.jpg

CROSSRAIL ‘LAYER CAKE’ OF OLD LONDON

 

LIVERPOOL STREET STATION

Some of the most interesting finds were discovered beneath Liverpool Street Station which stands right in the heart of what was once medieval London.  Of particular interest was the south-east corner where the ticket office once stood for this had been built over the Bedlam burial grounds (later known as Bethlehem Hospital) which had been in use since 1247 to 1815.  Eighty archaeologists worked on the site retrieving thousands of objects.  A total of 4,000 burials was uncovered including a plague pit containing 30 victims from the Great Plague of 1665. IMG_4300.JPG

One of the most poignant finds, a necklace that was found on the skeleton of a baby (modern re-stringing).  The beads are amber, white amber, cornelian, glass and bone.  

 

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Plague victim from the mass pit aged 17-25 probably male.

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Grave Marker for Mary Godfree, a victim of the Great Plague who died 2 September 1665.  

  • Excavation beneath that layer revealed a Roman burial ground.  Intriguingly several of the Roman skeletons were laid out neatly with their skulls between their legs.  The archaeologists have no explanation for this and perhaps its best left at that, a mystery.

 

CHARTERHOUSE SQUARE AND FARRINGDON

A large ditch was excavated to the south of Charterhouse Square.  It may be the remains of Faggeswell Brook which flowed into the Fleet River, the ditch formed the southern boundary of the cemetery and Charterhouse Monastery, founded in 1371 and suppressed in 1538.  Included in the items found, which had been dumped in the ditch to fill it in between 1580 and 1640 were leather shoes, parts of a horse harness dating back to the late 1500s , pottery and floor tiles dated to 1300 probably from the monastery.  The remains of a cemetery were discovered containing the remains of victims of the Black Death dating from 1348/9.  Twenty-five skeletons were discovered buried in three layers.

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TWO MEN IN THEIR 40S BURIED HOLDING HANDS FROM ONE OF THE LAYERS OF THE CHARTERHOUSE BURIAL PLOT

WORCESTER HOUSE, STEPNEY GREEN

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Reconstruction of  moated Worcester House, built around 1450 

Worcester House, a 15th century moated manor house built about 1450 probably on the site of an earlier house was previously known as King John’s Palace. Rubbish thrown into the moat gives an insight into the lives of those who lived there.  Among the many artifacts found were leather shoes, the remains of a horse harness dating from the late 1500s, dress pins, and a wooden ball which was probably used as a ‘jack’ in a game of bowls or skittles.  Henry Vlll is known to have loved bowls but banned poor people from playing it.

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16th century leather shoe

 

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Tudor Dress pin

 

Image result for crossrail charterhouse cemeteryWOODEN BALL USED FOR PLAYING BOWLS

However, this is not the end of the story for this old Manor House, for when the archeologists had finished over 4 tonnes of bricks were donated to English Heritage for restoring England’s Tudor buildings.

I have merely touched here upon a few of the wealth of wonderful finds from the Crossrail Archaeology.  Anyone wishing to delve deeper can find some excellent links to informative websites such as this.

  1. Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail (Jackie Kelly, p8).

 

 

 

 

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