Captain Cobbler: The Lincolnshire Uprising, 1536

Written by Keith M. Melton
Review by Steve Donoghue

Melton’s thumpingly good debut novel finds as its focus the massive 1536 uprising against Henry VIII’s dissolving of the monasteries and ransacking of England’s abbeys. Melton shifts the action of his story deftly over the course of 500 pages, focusing now on Henry’s court and Henry’s recent tragedies, including the death of his quasi-royal bastard son and the execution of his second wife, the notorious Anne Boleyn, and then on the ordinary Lincolnshire peasants and artisans whose revolt takes on a size and importance that surprises even its own organizers.

The foremost of those organizers, Louth shoemaker Nicholas Melton (an ancestor of our author? It would be pretty to think so), who legendarily wore a “motley coat” and whose personality is very winningly portrayed. The book expends lavish (and apparently well-researched) detail on the workaday world of Henry’s England, but the court and high political interludes are equally well done.

Tudor fiction far too seldom concerns itself with the volatile social forces bubbling just under the surface of these storied times, and Melton’s evocative chronicle of the Lincolnshire Uprising is a welcome addition to an always-popular sub-genre of historical fiction. Highly recommended.