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"Knave of Swords/ King of Coins" by Nicholas Carter

annis
Bibliomaniac

"Knave of Swords/ King of Coins" by Nicholas Carter

Postby annis » Wed September 3rd, 2008, 1:22 am

I originally mentioned these books in the "What are you Reading?" thread, but then thought it might be useful to add them here as well.

I’m currently reading “King of Coins”, the sequel to “Knave of Swords”, by mysterious British author, Nicholas Carter. I say mysterious because I haven’t been able to find out anything about him. He wrote the two books I’ve mentioned plus a series about the English Civil War back in the late 1990s and then just disappeared from the scene.

I’m really enjoying the two I’ve read so far. They’re set in Renaissance Europe and are adventures featuring a motley group of soldiers, mixed English and Scottish, who were the warband of an English Marcher Lord until he lost them to a devious mercenary warlord in a card game.
They are led by a young English captain, James Eldritch , who’s an interesting character—morose, touchy, proud and quick-tempered . Before I read these stories I had the impression that he might be somewhat similar to Francis Crawford of Dorothy Dunnett’s “Lymond’ series, but he’s much more like Cecelia Holland’s mercenary knight Laeghaire in “The Firedrake”.

The complex machieavellian nature of Church and State politics and power play in the sixteenth century is the background to battles between France and the Holy Roman Empire, with the many small European states swinging wildly in allegiance as the balance of power shifts. The details of life as a mercenary soldier are fascinating. These guys were a law unto themselves- wild, ferocious and totally avaricious, and made up of many nationalities including the German Landsknechts and the fearsome Swiss. If an employer didn’t pay them on time, they were known to start up negotiations with the opposing side in the middle of a battle! Even their clothing was different. To defiantly emphasize their place outside conventional limits they often wore unusual outfits, ripped, slashed and striped. For some reason in medieval and Renaissance times, striped clothing signified that the wearer was a social outsider. Maybe someone here knows why that was?
There’s an image of a typical Confederate mercenary (he's the one holding the head!) in this 1517 painting called "The Execution of John the Baptist" by Niklaus Manuel.

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Nicholas Carter Ph.D.

Postby Margaret » Wed September 3rd, 2008, 5:16 am

This is kind of wild, but there's a Nicholas Carter Ph.D. on the faculty of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaigne, who is a computer engineer and published a book called Computer Architecture in 2002. There must be more than one Nicholas Carter in the world, but I noticed that some of the references to his novels indicate that he is a Ph.D.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Wed September 3rd, 2008, 7:13 pm

Margaret, I'd love to solve the mystery. The last of these two books was clearly set up so that the story could continue, but obviously it never did. Maybe the author died? Didn't make enough money out of writing?
The miserly amount of author information on the cover of "King of Coins" describes NC as a journalist living near Bath in the West Country (England) for seventeen years (since leaving school), married with three children and a member of the Sealed Knot in his remaining spare time.
The Sealed Knot is an English Civil War re-enactment society, and NC's earlier "Shadow on the Crown" series were set during the Civil War.

It is a pity there were no more of these Renaissance-era books as they cover an aspect of history which isn't usually dealt with in HF, and give a good picture of European politics, the role of mercenary soldiers, and of those little European states precariously existing in the space between the major players. Usually they consisted of only a few acres and a fortress ruled by some bandit chief who titled himself Count, Marquis or whatever took his fancy!

User avatar
Margaret
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA
Contact:

Postby Margaret » Wed September 3rd, 2008, 7:58 pm

Seems unlikely, then, that he morphed into a computer expert in Illinois in the meantime. Here's something - I'll bet he was one of the co-authors of this article: http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-1417250_ITM. Could he possibly be teaching now at the University of Trieste in Italy? If so, this site has a photo of him: http://www.richardgraves.org/html/paris.htm. And if so, he's an expert in the poetry of Robert Graves: http://cfp.english.upenn.edu/archive/2004-03/0216.html

One of my ancestors was a mercenary soldier in Germany during Holy Roman Empire times. Weird way to make a living! The mercenaries really ravaged the country during the Thirty Years War. Many of them really didn't care what side they fought on, and they were not paid during the winter, so they lived off the country - i.e., they stole the peasants' food supplies. By some estimates, parts of Germany had only 1/5 the population at the end of that war than when it started.
Last edited by Margaret on Wed September 3rd, 2008, 8:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

annis
Bibliomaniac

Postby annis » Thu September 11th, 2008, 3:39 am

Thanks for your detective work, Margaret. As i don't have an author photo of Nicholas Carter, I can't confirm whether your man is the same one as my elusive author.
I'm jealous of people who have interesting ancestors. I know very little about mine and I'm afraid to get started on the search, having seen what an obsession genealogy becomes!

A while ago I came across Hans Jakob Christoph von Grimmelshausen, who wrote a series of picaresque novels set during the 30 Years’ War in Europe, written in the C17th and probably based at least partly on the author’s experiences as a mercenary soldier, so not technically historical fiction
Not all have been translated into English from the original German, but a few are availablei:

“Adventures of a Simpleton” aka “Simplicissimus”

The Life of Courage: the notorious Thief, Whore and Vagabond”
The story of Simplissimus’ cast-off mistress

Bertolt Bretcht’s play “Mother Courage” was inspired by this novel

Tearaway” aka “The Singular Life of Heedless Hopalong”,
Continuation of the tale of Simplicissimus and his old comrade Tearaway


Brian Deming has more recently written a historical adventure set during the 30 Years’ War
“Wind Song, Wolf Song”
which I enjoyed. It was pretty good on the historical detail- I learnt a lot about European continental politics in the seventeenth century.


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