I’m delighted to welcome fellow Accent Press author, Tom Williams, to my blog. His new novel, ‘Back Home’ completes his Victorian London series, The Williamson Papers. The tagline on the cover reads: ‘Desperation can drive you to do terrible things’… Tom offers us an insight into his world followed by a short extract with links for further details.
People often think that historical novels are form of escapism, and I guess many of them are. But the stories that people tell about history often reveal more about the world of today than about the past. Many years ago, when China was just opening to the West, we were able to visit there. We soon realised that in a country where open criticism of the government was impossible the stories that people chose to tell about their history were often not especially subtly coded comments on the political events of the (then) 20th century.
My series of books about the (fictional) John Williamson and his adventures around some (very non-fictional) events of the mid-19th century was always intended to allow me to raise issues that are more about 2016 than 1850. Back Home completes the trilogy and is the most overtly political of the books.
While The White Rajah and Cawnpore explored issues around colonialism, Back Home sees John Williamson back in England and it looks at the social structures in this country that underlay Britain’s colonial adventures. The London of 1859 shares a surprising number of characteristics with the London of today. The city was undergoing a period of massive growth, much of it fuelled by cheap immigrant labour (from Ireland). The gap between rich and poor was enormous with the poor seeing few benefits from the economic success of the country. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, left-wing political extremism abroad was spreading to this country with Communism establishing itself here. The state responded with intensive surveillance and, where necessary, the substantial use of force.
We still hear, occasionally, politicians talk about returning to Victorian values. In Back Home John Williamson returns to the country where these values are being formed. Perhaps, before we blindly follow our leaders back 150 years, it is worth joining him on his journey to discover what those values actually were. This is where that journey begins:
When I had last been in England, King William was on the throne. Sailor Bill had seemed a cheery fellow. The war with France had ended less than twenty years before and King William’s reign always had something of a celebratory feel to it. Now, though, our monarch was Queen Victoria, and England presided over the greatest Empire the world had ever seen. Even in the Devon countryside, life moved with a purpose. Every man toiling in the fields, every woman hanging out her laundry – all played their part in the business of Empire, bringing, though the labourer might not have the leisure to appreciate it, unparalleled prosperity to the nation. Here was the very mainspring of that machine that sent its armies and its missionaries across the globe, to bring civilisation and Christianity to the peoples of the world, though, in my experience, they might be ignorant of their want of either.
The sight of so much industry was at once both impressive and unnerving. I felt as if I were a mere bumpkin, plucked from some obscure backwater and suddenly at the busy heart of things, but the people that I met were civil and, when I stopped for refreshment at a tavern, the ale was good and the landlord as friendly as might be. So I carried on my journey in an uncertain frame of mind, part excited and happy to be back in England, part apprehensive at the changes that I found.
The White Rajah: myBook.to/WhiteRajah
Back Home: mybook.to/backhome
And here are the stories about James Burke.
Burke in the Land of Silver: myBook.to/LandofSilver
Burke and the Bedouin: mybook.to/Bedouin
Burke at Waterloo: myBook.to/BurkeWaterloo
I blog at http://thewhiterajah.blogspot.co.uk/
My Facebook author page is https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTomWilliams/
My Twitter handle is @TomCW99