Anyone who visits the Cheshire town of Nantwich in January will very quickly become aware of the town’s unique annual civil war battle re-enactment. I had long realised that the little known story of the 1644 Siege and Battle of Nantwich was a tale worth telling. However, the inspiration for using this piece of regional history as the launchpad for the Daniel Cheswis series came several years ago, when I became aware of the revitalisation of interest in historical crime fiction. It occurred to me at the time that the backdrop of the Civil War, under-represented in literature, provided the perfect structure for a series of historical crime novels.
In particular I was fascinated by the potential offered by combining a fictional crime plot with real historical accounts of local people and events, and challenging the reader to identify what parts of the story constitute real history and what is fiction. The result was my first novel, The Winter Siege, which combines the documented history of the Siege and Battle of Nantwich with a traditional murder mystery.
In devising the main character, Daniel Cheswis, I wanted to create a reluctant hero, whose destiny is fashioned by the demands of the time in which he lives, but I also wanted to create a character with whom readers could identify and want to follow throughout a series of novels.
The Cheswis series essentially combines three stories in one – it is about the history of the civil war in Cheshire, Lancashire and Shropshire, it is about the lead character’s personal development from reluctant town constable at the start of the war in 1642, right through to the Restoration in 1660, and it is the individual murder mysteries featured in each book.
The Daniel Cheswis series currently consists of three novels – The Winter Siege, A Soldier of Substance, and The Combermere Legacy. A fourth novel, The Saints’ Reckoning is in preparation. The potential is for many more.