A Smuggler’s Tale By Andy Clancy Published by Pegasus
Imagine you are at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, with Sergeant Major Daniel Sibson and his lifelong friend Corporal Ralph Masters, fighting for your lives and your country facing Napoleon’s army in the fighting square of the Sussex Regiment. Your determination to survive brings you back to your hometown of Hastings hoping for a hero’s welcome.
But Hastings has changed since you’ve been away.
With no money, jobs or shelter the town’s people have fallen to smuggling for survival. Our two heroes join the smugglers’ gang. Daniel falls for the daughter of Dobson, the gang leader. Meanwhile, the local magistrate Sir John Rutherford is determined to return order to Hastings, but what will become of Daniel and Ralph as they confront their conscience?
This is a story about the struggle for survival both at war and in peace, and at the mercy of government law. The novelist, Andy Clancy, is a former police officer, now working as a security contractor. This book explores brotherhood and the moral code among men.
Andy Clancy takes you back in time with historical details, clearly-drawn characters and a fast-paced plot. This is a well-crafted read with characters and storyline expressed in a taut prose style with plenty of action and reasons to keep turning the page.
The narrative is stripped down to its most necessary components, and so it’s two hundred pages move quickly and with a depth sufficient to know and feel the characters, and also to observe how ordinary people get caught up in the games of government and evil men.
When a smuggler, Harrison, is asked why he chose a career in crime, he says:
“First of all, loyalty, and the same reasons as the other men we use. The boss picked me up from the streets when I was nothing and I owe him. There’s another reason, I hate the law, I hate authority, if they gave you, me, all the people here an honest way to make a living we wouldn’t do this. Instead, they give us nothing and I won’t submit to them.”
The consequences of this logic upon ordinary lives are explored within the novel. However, the optimism of the story is for those who choose to stand against tyranny, whether it be in the form of Napoleon, local criminal gang-lords, or a detached seemingly uncaring government.
This novel is set in the early nineteenth-century at the tail-end of a technological revolution in agriculture, where jobs disappeared overnight and government legislation confiscated common land, leaving ordinary people with a stark choice: starvation or criminality.
I think there is a valuable place for historical fiction in our present-day lives to hold up a mirror whereby, whilst appreciating how far we have moved on, we can also see ourselves.
REVIEW BY RICHARD LEWIS
• Andy Clancy’s first novel Sullivan’s War, about The Great Siege of Gibraltar was an Amazon hit. For more information on his novels, visit his website.
• Andy Clancy will be giving a book reading of A Smuggler’s Tale on Saturday 12th May 4 pm at Bookbusters where signed copies by the author will be available.
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