Mastodon The Writing Desk: Historical Fiction Spotlight: Freedom's Pilgrim ~ A Tudor Odyssey, by Edward James

23 April 2017

Historical Fiction Spotlight: Freedom's Pilgrim ~ A Tudor Odyssey, by Edward James

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1568. The world is a vast and dangerous place. Miles Phillips is thirteen when he sails from England with the famous Francis Drake on his third slaving expedition to Africa and the West Indies. 

Miles is escaping an unhappy childhood in Devon. He has no way of knowing what lies ahead of him. Things bode ill from the start. When the ship reaches San Juan, a battle with the Spaniards erupts.... the effects of which will plague his dreams for a long time. 

From Africa Miles travels to the West Indies. Here he discovers the beauty of the women and the rum. But life is about to throw young Miles off course. 

There is not room for all the sailors and the slaves to sail back to England. Many sailors are left behind, including Miles. Marooned on an island, he is taken prisoner and becomes a servant to a Mexican man who owns a silver mine. 

The Spanish language skills Miles has learned leads him to become an overseer in the mine, with a girlfriend named Moll. But then he is taken prisoner by the Inquisition. For self-preservation he claims to be related to the infamous privateer, Sir Francis Drake. Condemned to a hundred lashes on horseback and ten years as a slave in the Indies, he escapes when a local man takes an interest in him, and he ends up a gardener.

Here he meets Juanita, the niece of the man he is working for. She is quite fascinated with him, but Miles, now known as John Drake, and a slave, knows death could come for him if they are even seen together. That doesn’t stop them… although once again the Inquisition will. 

In the sixteen years that he is away from England, Miles’ journey will take him through war, the Armada, the Inquisition, through love and loss. He will change names, religions, and learn new languages and customs, all in an effort to simply stay alive. 

His is a story of survival. Part fiction, part fact, Freedom’s Pilgrim is a look at the life of one extraordinary boy who survived despite the odds being squarely against him.

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About the Author

Edward James is rather like his hero, the Tudor chronicler Richard Hakluyt; neither went to sea and both were fascinated by ships and seafaring.  Edward blames it on growing up beside the Thames in the days when big ships still came up river to the Royal Docks. After taking a history degree at Oxford Edward became a university lecturer in Britain and America teaching social policy and then a civil servant in what is now the Department of Work and Pensions in London.  After a stint at the European Commission in Brussels he became an independent consultant on social security to governments as diverse as Russia, Kyrghystan and Albania.  On retiring to Cheltenham he went back to history as a Review Editor for the Historical Novel Society and to writing about ships and the sea in the Age of Discovery.  His inspiration is Hakluyt's Principal Navigations of the English Nation, a work of several volumes based largely on interviews with seafarers fresh from their voyages.  In Freedom's Pilgrim and The Frozen Dream he retells two of Hakluyt's most dramatic stories, including the things Hakluyt did not dare to tell.  He is working on a third book about a stranded Tudor sailor who walked from Mexico to Canada to find his way home, becoming the first European to travel overland for the entire length of the eastern shore of the present day United States. You can find more about him, including a selection of his short stories and interviews, on his blog and on Twitter @Edward654James.

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