Scotland, Then and Now … a Historical Mystery Novel
ISBN: 978-0986940859; Trade PB: 368 pages: $24.95 CAD
eBooks: all formats, 153, 600 words, General Audiences
Note: Smashwords allows you to download all formats for price of one book.
Front Cover photo: ©2014 Eric Said Photography taken from Stirling Castle in Scotland.
Professor Emma Walters is shocked and wary when she receives a phone call from Scotland early one morning when a thickly accented solicitor informs her she has inherited a Scottish estate and must hurry to Scotland to claim it! Arriving in Edinburgh three days later, the first person she meets is Alexander Wallace, a rather good-looking and friendly Scotsman dressed in full Highland attire. As the day progresses he tells her snippets of a fascinating tale but she will soon discover that he leaves much of the story out. Alex, it seems, is a direct descendant of a 700-years-ago Scottish hero, William Wallace … a famous Scots patriot she knows nothing about (not having seen the movie ‘Braveheart’)! When she meets the solicitor, it becomes apparent that both he and Alex have left out some important information when telling her about the estate. There are also some unusual conditions pertaining to the estate … one, in particular, shocks and warns her to be very cautious. Should she accept an inheritance that will so drastically change her life? Could she regret accepting this legacy? Why are they being so secretive?
As she learns more about the Wallace/Walters connection, she is told that it hearkens back to one of the most dangerous eras of Scottish history – the beginning of the Wars of Independence in the late 12th century. William Wallace actually began his military career as a guerrilla fighter but, with his ragtag army, he shockingly defeated the English at The Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 … a location not far from the modern bridge shown in the cover photo (© 2014 by Eric Said of Stirling) with the National Wallace Monument in the background. Totally unaware of what this history means to her, she will discover that Alex and their shared long-dead ancestors are going to make very sure she learns about her family history … and quickly! As Emma gets deeper into her mysterious and complicated inheritance, it comes to light that Alex also has a very high stake in the outcome of this mystery.
So readers, hold onto your bonnets for the most exciting historical adventure of Whittle’s career, a mystery with Robert’s delightful humour and the inevitable ton of real history. All locations are real and some were visited by Robert and Joyce on a brief first tour of Scotland in 2002. At that time, she at last met her Sandilands’ cousins and attended an Open House at Torphichen Priory where she received an unexpected and delightful welcome.
Background Story – Why did Robert write a novel about Scotland?
Robert returns to his UK roots in his 11th novel, co-authored once again with his wife, Joyce, but the Scottish setting is actually from Joyce’s heritage. Until she met Robert and began researching her family history, she did not realize how historical her father’s side of the family really was, or that she had connections to so many Scottish Clans … Douglas, Bruce, Stewart, MacLeod and McLean are in her direct paternal lineage alone. It was quite a surprise to her back in 1987, when Robert explained that the papers she had shown him proved that her great grandfather, John Hope Sandilands, was actually a Scotsman living in England and exceedingly Scottish! Knowing only a wee bit more Scots history than his wife, and being an avid history buff from England, they were soon hunting for information on her family and he was now ready to learn more about his old enemy … the Scots! He discovered the fascinating and barbaric manner in which his own King Edward I fought the Scots during these Scottish Wars of Independence … and then he read about William Wallace’s remarkable part in the story of Scotland and voila! … he had his next subject for a new novel, but he didn’t tell Joyce!
Robert discovered that these Scots were a determined bunch managing to survive through sheer tenacity … a subject very close to his own heart, having himself survived working in a very dangerous job in more modern times. The Scots certainly were not about to let an English King rule them, when for centuries, they had fought off Romans, Danes and Vikings.
Joyce has added some links below … for further info if you are so interested!
If you saw the movie “Braveheart” with Mel Gibson … then you may have heard that it was not exactly historically correct! Who cares, some said … it was a great movie. Well, we cared, and we now challenge you to discover the ‘real story’ of the Scots and William Wallace.
There are many YouTube videos of Wallace’s story, excellent and from the History Channel. We were unable to link to them due to their copyright, the info below will aid your search.
Videos about Scotland and William Wallace on Youtube: (Go to YouTube for direct links)
1. Lost World: Braveheart’s Scotland|History Documentary (45:22)
Note: although the content of the movie ‘Braveheart’ is greatly Hollywoodized, thus inaccurate in all areas of the story, Wallace has become known by that name in modern times. This documentary is produced by the National Trust of Scotland.
2. The story of Scotland, King Alexander and William Wallace (56:38) BBC Scotland Documentary.
3. Tales of William Wallace (30:00) Full Documentary – includes comments by Mel Gibson and others on the movie, Braveheart. It also mentions the very long, historical and very famous poem by Blind Harry (Henry the Minstrel), written 150 years after Wallace died (see below in list of books). This poem offers a unique look into the history of the times but know one knows how historically accurate it is!
More information (including a list of books):
1. http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/scotlandshistory/warsofindependence/williamwallace/ Links etc. The first page includes the Transcript of Wallace’s Trial in 1306.
2. Lochleven Castle – taken from the English in early 1300s by Wallace.
3. Bothwell Castle built by Wm Murray, uncle of Andrew Murray, Wallace’s sidekick. This castle was only partly built in 1297 when Wallace attacked it.
4. Many statues and pictures have been produced showing an image of what artists of the day imagined William Wallace would have looked like. No pictures actually exist in known history.
The same is true of the actual story of The Wallace, Scotland’s first national hero. So there is much fabrication about his life, including the Great Sword on display in Wallace’s Monument near Stirling.
“The Deeds of Wallace of Elderslie” by Blind Harry
The original Wallace book, written in the 1400s, by Blind Harry, a wandering minstrel, who told stories of Wallace for his supper. This is the second biggest seller in Scotland- of all time! Braveheart was scripted from it too. It is in the form of an epic poem, but it will seem dated and perhaps archaic to modern sensibilities. One for real aficionados though.
There is much in Harry’s work that is fantasy, coupled with actual events, so it should not be taken as a true account of Wallace’s life, but it gives us a window back in time to see how the people of Scotland perceived Wallace in medieval times.
William Wallace by Andrew Fisher 1986, 2002 and 2007. ebook in 2012
An academic book on Wallace, careful to quote sources for all its detail, and probably the best historical work on Wallace available. The author does make one or two suggestions regarding Wallace that I disagree with. One such is that Wallace may have honed his craft fighting in English campaigns- for the English! Putting this thought aside, this is one book I would suggest people read, if interested in Wallace. It may be a little dry for some tastes, but it certainly covers most of the data available on Wallace.
“On the Trail of William Wallace” by David R. Ross (http://www.thesocietyofwilliamwallace.com)
I tried to write the book on Wallace that I always wanted to read myself! I approached it in a different way by telling the story of Wallace, but also pinpointing the places associated with the man. I have spent much of my life exploring Scotland, and had stood on the spots where Wallace had carried out many of his feats, so I wanted to give people the opportunity to do the same. I hope that I have also given an insight into the way that Wallace is perceived. Very much a populist book, with line drawings and pictures. Almost a travelogue as well as a book on history.
“For Freedom, the last days of William Wallace” by David R. Ross
Again, a populist book, the first 6 chapters describing the last month of Wallace’s life in August 1305, and the second 6 following the events which took place to commemorate Wallace on the 700th anniversary of 2005. It gives the detail of the route that Wallace was “dragged” through London, and as much detail as possible of his gory execution.
“Robert Bruce” by GWS Barrow.
Although a book about Bruce, the hero King of Scots, it is the bible of this era in Scotland’s history, and those who wish to understand the political climate and events of Wallace’s time should not leave this off their reading lists. It gives all the factual detail known on Wallace, and lets us see where he stands in the scheme of things. Perhaps a bit “heavy duty” for the casual reader who just wants to learn a little more about Wallace, but a well-researched and invaluable guide.