Children’s Historical Fiction: A Personal Assessment
BELINDA COPSON speaks about trends and key titles in British children’s historicals.
This article arose from a talk I gave to the Violet Needham Society in 2000, which made me consider some developments and changes in British children’s historicals in the 20th century. I have been reading children’s histfict for nearly twenty-five years, initially as a child and teenager myself and later as a collector and specialist in children’s literature. In earlier years, writers such as Trease and Sutcliff certainly helped to foster my interest in the highways and byways of history as well as providing much enjoyable escapist reading. Children’s historical fiction from the 1930s to the present day is a very rich field for readers, collectors, and researchers of children’s literature, and it would be impossible to be really comprehensive within the scope of this article – that would require a book. So this is more a personal survey which offers an overview of some of the developments of the last seventy years as I see them. During this period, children’s historicals have changed enormously in style, approach and intent, and an assessment of some of these changes may help in understanding the present state of children’s histfict.
Children’s histfict is sometimes spoken of as if it were a unified collection of writing; to my mind, as with adult historicals, it’s actually composed of several quite distinct strands, with a number of distinguished writers who were trying to achieve very diverse effects. In speaking of children’s historical fiction, we need for a start to consider definitions – are we speaking of novels of character, lightly set against a historical backdrop? Of adventure stories, which just happen to be set in a particularly exciting period? Of fictional characters involved in real events? Of fictionalised accounts of real-life characters? Do we prefer our history lightly sketched, or explored in detail? Should characters think and behave in a manner authentic to the period, or are we happy for them to be modern teenagers in period costume? Is the purpose of a good children’s historical to illumine the period, so that characters and personalities light up the great events of history – or are we happy to accept a vaguely Gothic, undated background of long frocks and candlelight against which adventures take place – a junior Victoria Holt? Should history be retold in blood, guts and violent detail, or should it be shown as romantic and pretty? Criticisms of writers have been made on both these fronts. Should the known events of history be faithfully recorded, or may children’s writers interpret, rewrite, or indeed fantasise and come up with alternative versions of history in which maps can be redrawn, and dynasties rearranged?
The body of children’s historical fiction, as with books for adults, incorporates all the above options and I see no intrinsic problem with any of these approaches – each one has its own conventions and challenges, and whilst it’s fun to debate the merits of different approaches, the particular style of writing and approach to history we prefer and are happy to offer to children must ultimately be a matter of individual taste. In serious mood, a young reader may well opt for the challenge of a Rosemary Sutcliff or a Susan Price; in more frivolous moments a teenage Point Romance in vague 19th-century long frocks may fit the bill. My personal preference is for those books in which history and character are integrated – but I’ve been known to enjoy the odd coaches-and-candlelight romance too! To my mind, all these very different ways of writing historical fiction are perfectly permissible as long as the author is clear about what his or her own rules are and sticks to them, and as long as an enjoyable costume romp is not presented as an authentic historical portrait. As with any genre fiction, consistency of style within a children’s historical fiction book or series is important; it’s no good if the first book of a series is a serious and scholarly fictionalised account of Mary Queen of Scots’ early life, if a later book unexpectedly veers into alternative historical fantasy and we find that Elizabeth of England has suddenly been executed on the orders of Good Queen Mary (this, thankfully, is not a real example!).
As a way of exploring some of these very different approaches, I’d like to look at some of the major 20th-century writers of children’s historical fiction, and consider their very different styles and aims. So let’s start right at the very beginning, with Geoffrey Trease. You’d be right to object that there were plenty of people writing children’s histfict before Trease; what about Dorothea Moore, G. A. Henty, Robert Louis Stevenson, Captain Marryat? Not to mention Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel, and Anthony Hope’s The Prisoner of Zenda, which whilst not actually written for children were certainly avidly read by them. I’ve chosen Trease as my starting point because his particular brand of historical fiction did something quite new, and was a departure from the sort of historicals which had previously been available for children. Dorothea Moore, Henty, and the like wrote some wonderful potboilers which were very entertaining reads, full of adventure and derring-do. However, the history was at times merely a setting for an adventure story, and with some writers accuracy at times came a poor second to a romanticised setting. These stories too were firmly divided along gender lines, published specifically as boys’ stories and girls’ stories; and by narrow class boundaries, with heroes and heroines drawn from the British upper middle classes and aristocracy in the main. I’m certainly not denigrating these writers, who were enormously popular and did a good job on their chosen approach; their books are still hugely entertaining and where no longer in print, are sought-after on the secondhand market. However, from the 1930s onwards, children’s historical fiction went in a very different direction.
With the publication of Bows Against the Barons in 1934, a reworking of Robin Hood, Geoffrey Trease changed all existing expectations of what children’s historical fiction could and should be. His stories were adventures, full of plot and interest, but always firmly in the carefully researched setting of an actual historical event. The history itself was important; not just a light backdrop, but integral to the development of his characters, who were shown reacting to particular historical events, being changed and challenged by them. Trease aimed for accuracy and did plenty of research; he was rarely caught out in a slip or anachronism. He also had a real passion for history and aimed to bring events alive for his young readers. His interest in theatre and the arts produced some of his best books, including the much-loved Cue for Treason (1940) about spies and the stage in Elizabethan England; I encountered this as a set book at school, and it was one of the books that sparked off a curiosity about history which has remained with me ever since. I’m sure many others had a similar experience with one of his books. Geoffrey Trease also deliberately set out to write books which would appeal equally to both boys and girls; his usual tactic of a male hero with a strong supporting female lead worked well from a sales point of view, and also meant that he could show strong, independent female characters within the limits of plausibility for a particular period. Trease turned away from the aristocratic and romantic school of historical fiction, deliberately taking a more egalitarian and realistic approach. He wrote about the lives of ordinary people caught up in extraordinary events; artists, teachers, farmers, minor gentry, younger sons, musicians, strolling players. Real characters also appear in the books: Samuel Pepys is involved in the plot of Popinjay Stairs, interacting seamlessly with the fictional hero.
Geoffrey Trease died in 1998 in his 90s; he wrote over 100 books, many still in print, and children’s historical fiction owes him a very great debt. He set standards for accuracy which established expectations for later writers. He wrote for both sexes when this was relatively unusual, and encouraged girls in a taste for adventure at a time when many other writers were producing home and family stories for girls. He was the first to explore children’s historical fiction consistently from a viewpoint of ordinary people. He also neatly solved the problem of how to represent speech in other times, dispensing with what some writers have called ‘gadzookery’ by the simple tactic of writing in modern dialogue whilst avoiding out of period slang. You will find no ‘ho, varlets’ and ‘verily, kind sirs’ in Trease; the dialogue is naturalistic and accessible. I think of Trease as the first ‘modern’ writer of children’s historicals; an innovator who made history itself as experienced by ordinary people really integral to the novel. He raised expectations of just how good children’s historicals could be, and made it possible for later writers to move in new directions whilst following the high standards he had set.
In 1950 the Chronicles of Robin Hood appeared, by the then unknown Rosemary Sutcliff. Her first book attracted relatively little attention; there had been many previous versions of Robin Hood, and in this pleasant yet undistinguished first book she hadn’t yet developed her particular voice. Other early books were also less assured, but with the publication of The Eagle of the Ninth in 1954, a major new talent emerged. This was the first of her series about Roman Britain, and follows the story of a quest for a lost legion of soldiers in northern Britain. As with many of her books, it’s also a story about friendship and conflicting loyalties. A later title in the series, The Lantern Bearers, won the Carnegie medal in 1959. Rosemary Sutcliff’s contribution to historical fiction was one of a profound creative imagination which recreated a sense of immediacy within very specific historical settings, a feeling for place and for time and continuity, and for the unfolding of stories over generations. Her style is literary, her prose precise and carefully worked out.
My own favourite Sutcliff is Warrior Scarlet (1956), a book set on a Sussex South Downs hill fort in the Bronze Age. This is a rite-of-passage story of a boy becoming an adult and growing into the life of his tribe. It’s a book full of light and shade, which contrasts the Golden People of the tribe, who are sun-worshippers, with the little Dark People of an earlier age, now servants to the tribe, who worship different gods and hold other allegiances. Rosemary Sutcliff’s vivid style conjures up bright woven cloth and beaded jewellery, sparkling summer days, flickering firelight and the dark of winter. Her books are full of layers and a sense of time and movement. One people flourishes, wanes and another takes its place. The Romans have their heyday in Britain and then depart. The old gives way to the new, as precious possessions are passed down the generations. In the Roman Britain series, the family heirloom is a signet ring; in The Capricorn Bracelet, a set of linked stories first broadcast on radio, the stories are connected by a soldier’s arm-ring which is passed down a family over hundreds of years.
As well as being exciting stories, her books are full of wider literary themes about time, place and the nature of history; and her legacy is a body of work which recreates from the limited archaeological evidence available, and a powerful imagination, some of the most obscure and least documented periods. She continued to produce new titles regularly until her death in 1992, and her final book Sword Song appeared posthumously in 1997. It was edited from a draft version and does bear the signs of this, lacking the tightness of her earlier work – though it’s perhaps unfair to criticise a book which she wasn’t able to complete fully herself.
In the 1950s, as Rosemary Sutcliff was becoming widely known, another writer with a very different style and approach was also attracting much interest. Cynthia Harnett wrote slowly and was a meticulous researcher. She published only six children’s historical novels between 1949 and 1971, but they are outstanding examples of what might be called the domestic children’s historical. Her books are exciting stories but are also packed with minute domestic detail. Her books are set in real places and her concern for accuracy meant that she paced out distances between surviving buildings herself, referring to mediaeval street plans to ensure her details were correct. She illustrated her books herself with tiny line drawings of domestic items.
Cynthia Harnett writes about families at times of historical change which affected everyday life, documenting the development of the wool trade (The Wool Pack, Carnegie Medal winner for 1951), the advent of printing (The Load of Unicorn, 1959), or the development of new styles of architecture (The Great House, 1949). Her characters are not modern boys and girls in costume, but behave in period, accepting parental discipline, arranged betrothals, expected roles or religious duties in the mindset of the time. Her books do not form a series, exactly, but very minor characters do loosely connect four of the novels (Wool Pack, Ring Out Bow Bells, Load of Unicorn, Writing on the Hearth), which together span the period from 1415, after Agincourt, to 1493.
Cynthia Harnett’s last book was published in 1971. She was in her 80s by this point and as her books took her years to research, had decided that enough was enough. Sutcliff and Trease were still regularly producing new titles, but to many fans of children’s historical fiction, the 1970s were the decade of Barbara Willard and Mantlemass, starting with The Lark and the Laurel, in 1970. This novel describes the busy, active life of an almost self-sufficient forest community in the earliest days of Mantlemass, and the transformation of Cecily Jolland, brought up in London to be spoilt and helpless, into a useful and independent person. Between 1970 and 1981 Willard wrote a series of eight Mantlemass novels and one collection of short stories. The series was originally a five-novel set, and three further novels were written retrospectively and integrated fairly seamlessly. The short story collection, The Keys of Mantlemass, fills some of the gaps in the series. The books are set in Sussex in the Ashdown Forest a few miles from Lewes, and cover the period from 1485 immediately after the Battle of Bosworth, up to the English Civil War in the 1640s. Very different again from Trease, Harnett and Sutcliff, Barbara Willard’s Mantlemass series may be characterised as regional historicals. The Mantlemass books have an extremely strong sense of place, reinforced by authentic Sussex forest dialect and good research about local customs and place names. Barbara Willard lived close to Ashdown Forest herself for much of her life and had very good local knowledge; she wrote the 1965 Batsford guide to Sussex, worth seeking out secondhand for Mantlemass fans as it is full of local interest relating to Ashdown Forest and the surrounding area. Unfortunately this series is not currently in print but copies of most titles can still be sourced secondhand fairly easily.
Barbara Willard portrays history on two levels: the wider world impinges on the small local community of Mantlemass, and national events such as the dissolution of the monasteries and the conflicting loyalties experienced by many in the Civil War are seen in terms of their effect on the Mantlemass families. The broad sweep of history is distilled into one community’s story by a carefully focused imagination. The books are not flawless – the male characters are often weak and indecisive, and readers tend to either love or hate the mild romances portrayed between some couples – but there are some strongly drawn, independent female characters, complexity of human relationships is allowed for, not all endings are happy and characters are not uniformly good or bad. The series also has a following amongst Richard III fans: for devoted Ricardians, there is an extra thread to follow of a Plantagenet mystery running through the series, signified by The Sprig of Broom (Latin name planta genista) which is the title of the second book of the series. Another of the series, The Iron Lily, won the Guardian Children’s Fiction award for 1974.
Trease, Sutcliff, Harnett, Willard: I’ve looked briefly at four very different writers of children’s historicals, whom I sometimes mentally characterise as the ‘Big Four’ of their time. One aimed for accuracy, modernity and equality; another is renowned for literary and creative imagination; another focused brilliantly on domestic and family detail; a fourth was strong on place, custom and belonging. All four produced quality children’s fiction but were doing this in very different ways. All were good writers; but for breadth of imagination and felicity of style, Rosemary Sutcliff is surely the greatest writer of children’s historical fiction of the 20th century.
I can’t stop at this point, though, when there are so many other good books I haven’t discussed. Historical timeslip certainly deserves a mention; Alison Uttley’s A Traveller in Time (1939) slips from a setting of around 1910 into the England of Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots and the Babington Plot; Penelope Farmer’s Charlotte Sometimes (1969) moves between the late 1960s and the 1914-18 War as experienced by schoolgirls, while Mabel Esther Allan’s Time to Go Back (1972) slipped back to World War II. Ronald Welch’s The Gauntlet (1951) allows a modern boy to share his ancestors’ adventures in a 14th-century Welsh castle, and I’m glad to see that this title, after years out of print, has recently been reprinted in paperback. Susan Cooper’s Kingdom of Shadows is a recent and welcome addition, a timeslip in which a modern boy is enabled to experience the Globe Theatre in the time of Shakespeare. The timeslip technique, also much used in adult historicals, allows the author to explore a particular period with hindsight, and offers a creative tension between two different periods of history and sets of attitudes.
Why stick to actual history, though, when we can make it up? Alternative history, or historical fantasy, is a strong strand in children’s historical fiction; perhaps seen at its best in Joan Aiken’s long and loosely connected series starting with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase in 1962, set in an England where James III is King, the Pretender is called George, and wolves have returned to the British mainland. A slight tweak to the succession, and hey presto, an alternative historical landscape with potential for plenty of plot and adventure – tremendous fun. I first read this over 25 years ago, and still enjoy it enormously. A related and very entertaining branch of children’s histfict is Ruritania, perhaps best exemplified by Violet Needham, whose books sadly are long out of print but still enjoy a devoted following amongst adult fans. Where writers such as Joan Aiken take liberties with recorded history, writers of Ruritania are free with their geography, and their literary maps of the world feature additional countries, usually small, Balkan and monarchical. This offers an excellent setting for ripping adventure stories with an historical setting, and often a chance to explore courtly themes of honour, duty and chivalry.
World War II is a popular theme in children’s histfict. Hester Burton’s In Spite of All Terror (1968) about a schoolgirl evacuee is one of the best books in a very strong field of contenders here; a field which includes two novels by Jill Paton Walsh, Fireweed (1970) about the London Blitz, and The Dolphin Crossing (1967), about the evacuation of Dunkirk. (As this is historical fiction, I’m not including in my list the excellent contemporaneous books about WW2 such as those by Kitty Barne and Mary Treadgold).
Rites of passage and the getting of wisdom are enduring themes in children’s books, of course, and Rosemary Sutcliff wasn’t the only histfict writer who dealt brilliantly with this. Barbara Leonie Picard’s One is One (1965) uses a setting of mediaeval knighthood to explore issues of personality and maturity. It’s out of print, but well worth seeking secondhand. Violet Bibby’s Many Waters (1974), about the period just prior to the draining of the fens in the 1640s, and Iona MacGregor’s An Edinburgh Reel (1968), about the aftermath of 1745, are both excellent reads. Gillian Avery’s The Greatest Gresham (1962), was another childhood favourite of mine, and the sudden challenge to the assumptions and values of a family of conventional Victorian suburban children when a more Bohemian family come to live next door is still a delight to read.
Any overview of children’s historicals must include Leon Garfield too, although his history is more a matter of atmosphere and impression rather than dates and events. Garfield’s particular brand of historical fiction, which in titles such as Smith and Devil-in-the-Fog combines picaresque adventures with what has sometimes been described as a Dickensian combination of squalor and high comedy, has appealed to many readers. Many of his novels are hard to categorise as being for adults or children, but comfortably occupy the grey area sometimes described as Young Adult.
This selection is intentionally partisan, so I make no apology for omitting Henry Treece’s account of Viking battles, Stephanie Plowman’s recreation of Czarist Russia, and Ronald Welch’s series about the Carey family. These three still have many supporters, even though they are mainly out of print, but personally I’ve found their novels rather distant and unengaging. There are also authors whose books I would like to know better, but to date I haven’t read enough of them to comment on; one of these is Scottish writer Mollie Hunter.
The mid-1930s to the late 1970s really was a Golden Age of British children’s historical fiction, both in quantity and quality, with an abundance of really good writers bringing history alive in a variety of fresh and exciting ways. Then came rather a slump. The children’s historical fiction market at the end of the 1970s was dominated by a few major writers, but they were getting older and newer writers were not appearing in the same numbers, or receiving anything like the same critical attention. At the same time, the chronological teaching of history in schools was out of fashion, and this must surely have had an effect on the potential readership. The 1980s really were a low point for children’s historicals. Geoffrey Trease and Rosemary Sutcliff books continued to appear, but not perhaps their very best work; Cynthia Harnett died in 1981 and Barbara Willard’s last Mantlemass book, The Keys of Mantlemass, appeared in the same year. By the end of the 80s, the Mantlemass series was out of print in the UK and has not been reprinted here since. Many other good children’s historicals also went quietly out of print. Cynthia Harnett’s books too went out of print for some years in the UK, although happily The Load of Unicorn and The Wool Pack have recently been republished by the Mammoth paperback imprint. So there was a period in the 1980s and early 1990s when, with little new writing being published and older titles going out of print, there was relatively little available.
One writer from this period worth mentioning is Frances Mary Hendry, whose Quest for a Queen trilogy about Mary Queen of Scots is highly enjoyable and reads rather like a Geoffrey Trease. So far I have only located the first in the trilogy, (The Lark, 1992) which is about Mary’s childhood and early marriage and has lots of detail about life at the French court; but I will certainly be looking out for the others.
After an extended low period in the publishing of children’s historicals, are we due for a revival? Certainly children’s historicals are now appearing again, and in quantity, but the type of book and the target readership seems to have changed dramatically. The big trend in the 1990s, from which several publishers have benefited, has been to produce very short, easy-read historical novels linked with National Curriculum school topics and aimed specifically at children in Key Stage 2 (age 7 – 11). There are a great many of these around, with publishers ranging from small independent enterprises, to much larger concerns such as the MacDonald Flashback imprints or the Sparks series. Any primary school teacher with a responsibility for History or Library Co-ordinator is sure to have encountered a few of these. A niche publishing and marketing industry has sprung up around the teaching of primary school history – many of these topic-based titles about Vikings or Victorians will not appear on the shelves of your local bookshop but are actually sold direct to schools. The quality of these books varies a great deal – at their best they are well-written introductions to history for younger children, at worst they are more like lessons in disguise with a limping contrived plot and lame dialogue. Many of them are written to appeal to a fairly wide ability range, so even when the topic is interesting, the actual writing style and vocabulary can be fairly flat and undemanding. Even though there are good individual examples of this type of book (Melvin Burgess’s The Copper Treasure, about Victorian mudlarks, was one which appealed to me), I’m not convinced that books whose purpose is primarily didactic and which are specifically curriculum-linked tend to make particularly good fiction – though they may function well in a school context, in the slightly awkward place between a textbook and a novel. This trend also leaves a huge gap in the market; there are very few new UK children’s historicals being published for the 10–14 age group, which used to be catered for so well by the authors I have mentioned already. Bookish children of this age group who are looking for longer, more challenging books are not well-served at the moment, in children’s publishing as a whole let alone in historical fiction. One delightful and welcome exception is Kevin Crossley-Holland’s Arthur series, a wholly engrossing re-interpretation of the Arthurian myths which include magic and time travel. They include a wealth of detail about everyday life in 1199 as seen by a boy on the verge of growing up, and also benefit from an unusual and compelling ‘collage’ approach to narrative structure. There are currently two chunky volumes available of the projected trilogy, The Seeing Stone and The Crossing Places, and I recommend you to seek them out with all speed.
Other worthwhile titles from the 1980s/1990s include novels with a strong regional focus and/or an emphasis on women’s history. Teresa Tomlinson has published several well-researched children’s historicals set in the north east. The Flither Pickers (1987) is set in the 1880s in the fishing town of Whitby, and is about the wives and children of fishermen who spend their days baiting the lines for the fishing fleet. It includes contemporary photographs of real fishing families. Also worth a mention is Terry Deary’s Tudor Terror series; the author of the Horrible Histories series has turned his hand to a set of straight historical novels for 10 to 12-year-olds, set in Elizabethan times. He is not a Sutcliff or a Trease, but his books are readable and fun, and he has a good attempt at mixing real historical persons of the Elizabethan court with fictional characters, even if the boy and girl protagonists do seem rather too much like modern children in costume at times.
Alongside Crossley-Holland’s Arthur books, Susan Price’s The Sterkarm Handshake (1998) is one of the best children’s historicals of the last five years. If one has to apply a label, then I’d say that it is only just a children’s novel; it’s really suited to young adults, and with only a slight gear change would work very well as an adult novel. It is an extraordinary and startling book, which like the best historical fiction does not simply relate events but raises questions about the interaction of time, history, and human activity. The story includes time travel; Andrea is a researcher who travels back to the 15th-century Scottish borders to experience life in a peel tower amongst warring border cattle-reivers. Twenty-first century scientists are hoping to exploit unpolluted earlier times as tourist attractions for time-travelling holidaymakers, but there are a few problems to be ironed out, not least the warlike attitudes and murderous resistance to outsiders of the Sterkarm clan.
So there are some good recent children’s historicals around, although these are all too few. Partly this must reflect the changing face of children’s publishing in general, in which Animal Ark and Goosebumps, and later Point Romance and Point Horror series, are everywhere and it can be difficult to find longer, more demanding books in any genre for older children, although Philip Pullman’s very challenging His Dark Materials trilogy, which includes alternative history, could be indicative of a publishing revival.
So, what of the future? A couple of trends in children’s histfict are worth noting. One (though this is more of a retrospective visit rather than a new direction) is publishers’ sudden interest in raiding their quality backlists of yesteryear. Suddenly, titles which have been unavailable for years are reappearing in bookshops: Children on the Oregon Trail, The Ship That Flew, The Gauntlet. Half a dozen paperback publishers have already jumped on this very welcome bandwagon, including Puffin, Faber and Hodder. Could this be a chance for writers such as Barbara Willard or Barbara Leonie Picard to reappear in print? Keep an eye on those backlist reissues; they’re a great opportunity to introduce a new generation of readers to some wonderful older titles.
It’s not enough, though, to rely on publishers’ backlists, however good these may be. A flow of good new titles and different approaches is also important, if a genre is to grow and develop; so I was interested to see on a recent visit to my local bookshop, a series of fictional diaries – children’s recordings of real British historical events such as the Great Exhibition. I’ve not yet had a chance to read these, but the diary series form is an interesting new addition to the UK children’s histfict scene. I understand this approach has already had some success in the US, and I’ll be interested to take a closer look at some of these. A series, whether of diaries or novels, is often a strong point in terms of sales, but may also help to establish an interest in histfict with a new set of young readers.
Clearly children’s historical fiction is not dead, but continues to evolve, adapting itself to a changing social context and a variety of reader and publisher demands. I’ve tried to assess some changes and trends, but this of course is always much easier with hindsight – so ask me again thirty years from now, and I’ll tell you what was really happening with children’s historical fiction in 2002!c
This article is adapted from a talk given to the Violet Needham Society AGM in October 2000. The original talk was published in the VNS magazine, Souvenir, in 2001.
This article © Belinda Copson 2002.
Belinda Copson is co-editor of the children’s literature journal Folly Magazine. She writes reviews and articles for various journals and is a contributor to the New Dictionary of National Biography (OUP, 2004). She currently teaches children’s literature and family learning in adult education. Belinda has been collecting and writing about children’s books for many years and is particularly interested in children’s historicals, mid-20th century children’s books, and Victorian annuals. She lives in Hertfordshire with her husband and two young daughters, and never travels without a book.
Ed’s note: For an article on Geoffrey Trease by Belinda Copson, see Solander 5. For articles by Susan Price see Historical Novels Review Issue 11 and Solander 7. Sandra Garside-Neville wrote an appreciation of Rosemary Sutcliff for Solander 8.
First published in Solander: The Magazine of the Historical Novel Society, Issue 11, Spring 2002.