Robbery is Karen’s inspiration...
Robbery is Karen’s inspiration
A convict fell out of a teacher’s family tree when a spot of genealogical research revisited a crime that split the community of Ponteland.
Teesside teacher Karen Charlton has now used the true story of the biggest robbery Northumberland had ever known—during the heyday of Kirkley Hall—as the basis for her first historical novel.
She has gathered so much information about the arrest, and subsequent trial of he husband’s ancestor, impoverished farm labourer, Jamie Charlton, along with the unpopular steward of Kirkley Hall, Michael Aynsley, that Catching the Eagle is but the first book of a planned trilogy.
It begins with the day in April 1809 that £1,157 in rent money gathered from the estate was stolen.
One Stephen Lavender, a principal officer with the Bow Street’s magistrates court in London, was dispatched North to investigate.
But far from solving the crime, the ensuing miscarriage of justice caused a public outcry.
‘In 2004 we were startled to discover that we had a Regency convict in the family tree.’ said Karen.
Not only that but he was a criminal with a very dodgy conviction. I had always wanted to write historical novels and now the perfect plot had just landed in my lap.’
Just like those other great investigative novels of recent times—Julian Barnes’ Arthur & George and Kate Summerscale’s The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher--Catching the Eagle holds up the true story of a 19th century crime for analysis.
What had begun as a hobby for the Charlton family quickly turned into a quest as they trawled through the offerings of numerous archives.
The novel spans a period of two years from April 1809 to June 1811, and the story is told from the viewpoint of Jamies’ brother, William, while desperately trying to save him from the gallows.
Catching the Eagle, the first of The Regency Reivers trilogy published by Knox Robinson Publishers, will be on the book shelves by December 8th.