Monday 19 October 2020

Join author, Clive Mantle, as he looks back on his most resent research for his fabulous #NewRelease - In the City of Fortune and Flames (A Freddie Malone Adventure) #YA #TimeTravel @MantleClive


A Research Journey from Ancient Egypt to the Great Fire of London

By Clive Mantle

This has been quite unlike the gestation period for either of my other two books in the Freddie Malone series. My research for ‘In the City of Fortune and Flames’ started well over two years ago, amassing detailed notes on the terrible blight of the 17th Century slave trade, the Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of London in 1666. An exciting and important story line emerged by the spring of 2018. My publishers liked it but said they first wanted Freddie to travel to Ancient Egypt for book 2, so like a cartoon character I skidded to a halt in a cloud of research notes and took a deep breath. 

Tutankhamun's golden mask - Wikipedia.

I found it impossible for a week or so to divorce myself from 17th Century London and immerse myself in the great Dynasties, but Ancient Egypt is such an amazing subject that with every book I read about the period I soon fell headlong in love.

‘A Jewel in the Sands of Time’ [book 2] flowed very easily once I had pinned down the actual dates, historical events and people I wanted Freddie and friends to meet.

So back to London in the Autumn of 2019. To a certain extent a lot of my groundwork was done by the time I returned to ‘Flames’. But it took time to re-absorb all the information I wanted to include. It is always a battle as to what not to include. I could bore for England on these subjects, and one of the best pieces of advice I’ve received from my agent Penny Luithlen is, “Don’t research dump.” It is an important note for anyone who has immersed themselves so totally in a subject. Selection is paramount, and the detail doesn’t have to be in great wodges which alienate your readership, or make them feel lectured to. The right fact will organically slip in seamlessly if you are clever enough with your situation, story and characters. At least, that’s the plan.

As is always the case with me, the events I think will be the most important or moving, get supplanted in the pecking order by unexpected people or scenarios that pop out of my head as I’m underway. I have a pretty rigid structure before I start, with detailed notes about each chapter which are okayed by my publisher, but by the time they get to look at the book I deliver some months later, chapters will have swapped places, a fleet of extra characters will have been invented, things I’ve said that will be included aren’t, and I hold my breath waiting to be told to revert to the original plan. ‘Phew!’ - So far, so good. 

The changes are always for a reason and lead to a much better flow. 

The main events in the historical part of Freddie’s adventure have a ghostly and pertinent resonance with our current situation. From reading about them three years ago, I was fascinated with two black slaves Mingoe and Jack. In a bizarre act of symmetry they were ‘owned’ by Sir William Penn and Sir William Batten, Pepys’ direct neighbours in Seething Lane. I already knew Freddie would work for Pepys, and the obvious allies in the piece had to be Mingoe and Jack. 

The more I read about them and their treatment, the more my stomach churned. 

I had always been aware of slavery, but that I hadn’t been taught at school any great detail about how it has shaped our countries history appalled me. Researching in the enlightening ‘Black Lives in the English Archives’ pages, Mingoe and Jack’s story suddenly sprang to life with the entry concerning their being made to dance for their masters in the Dolphin Tavern. I sat back stunned and closed my eyes, seeing these young men dressed in their gaudy finery with engraved brass and silver collars which declared their ownership to the two Sir Williams. I could see them in my mind’s eye dance for the amusement of these drunken Lords in a squalid pub on Thames Street. What must that have felt like? It was immediately my duty to bring them to a wider audience. 

Sale and inspection of slaves - Wikipedia. 

The abhorrence of the images above must be widely shown in schools. Our forefathers perpetrated these acts, and the enormous wealth of many major British institutions and families was amassed at their expense. It is estimated that over a period of 400 years nearly 13 million Africans were forcibly transported from Central and West Africa, by the Portuguese, British, Spanish, French, Dutch and Danes. Over a million slaves died on the inhumanly cruel Atlantic voyages, with many more perishing when they arrived in the ‘New World’.

There were 2 to 3,000 Black people in England in the mid 17th Century, and it is not difficult to imagine that most of their experiences would be similar to Mingoe and Jack’s. They were trophies. Highly decorated and finely dressed, playthings and accessories to the richest of rich ladies. Status symbols. Exotic baubles. 

Being paraded carrying shopping, several steps behind their mistress may have been preferable to being overseen by a cruel slave owner with a whip in Barbados, but it was still wrong, to the very highest definition of the word.

An unequal division on grounds of colour had started in our nation long before this. But it is plain to see that centuries and generations have subsequently revealed how unforgivably slow we as a country have been to embrace each other as equals. Not only that, we have been misled with the history we have been taught about our own nation’s growth, wealth and morals. Schools need to completely re-evaluate the way the subject of slavery is taught, and I hope my book will be a useful tool in their armoury, in order to promote discussion and help shine the light of total inclusivity into the darkest and most stubborn corners of resistance.


The Plague takes up the first half of the book and the Fire most of the second part. It was an adventure in itself plotting the characters through the actual events as eye witnesses to the sights, smells and horrors all around them. They each have their own particular triumphs and disasters, pursued by a ruthless London gang led by the pipe smoking Old Ma Packer who is in league with the merciless Collector.


My research included devouring the works on Pepys and the period by Tomalin, Mortimer, Rideal, Porter, and Bastable, coupled with a glorious visit to Pepys’ reconstructed Library at Magdalene College Cambridge. [pictured above and a wonderful place to immerse yourself surrounded by his books and bookcases, desk and paintings] 

I built layer on layer of background and fact until I was fit to spill all onto paper.

The resonance of the Plague with our current pandemic crisis is frightening. The misinformation, the confusion, the corruption, the waste, the panic – each manifest themselves in different ways during both disasters, but are present nonetheless. A 17th century city of 500,000 people held in the grip of fear, who in 9 months were reduced to 400,000. 

20% of the population dead. The official figures in the ‘Bills of Mortality’ are approximately 70,000, but the astonishingly corrupt ‘Searchers of the dead’ and the ‘Watchmen’ added nearly a third to that total. Both groups accepted bribes either to register a non plague verdict of death [Searchers], or to turn a blind eye, allowing a relative compulsorily locked up with an infected family member to escape [Watchmen]. In both scenarios the disease was allowed to multiply, directly due to corruption and greed. The rapid exodus of the wealthy from London, including many doctors and apothecaries, left the Plague to become largely a disease of the poor. Into this treacherous situation, and through the dank and fetid streets, Freddie, Mingoe and Jack shine a beacon of hope. 

Immediately after writing the last paragraph, I turned on the Radio 4 news to hear Dr David Nabarro, [previous Director General of the World Health Organisation] call the Covid 19 Pandemic ‘a disease of the poor!’ 

We really don’t learn very quickly do we? 

History is important. It is REALLY important.

Plague doctor outfit - Wikipedia

Scenes in London during the plague - Wikipedia

Freddie can’t change the Historical facts of the Plague, but with Mingoe and Jack they can minister to the sick and the dying and outwit the merciless gang which operates around them, which they accomplish with great effect.

The Great Fire of London, artist unknown - Wikipedia.

In the case of the Great Fire where Ruby and Connor join forces with the others, I place the characters in the actual progression of the blaze, as it marched for 3 days Eastwards from Pudding Lane fanned by relentless hot winds. It turned Westwards on the 3rd evening after consuming the old St Paul’s and even threatened the Tower of London which was packed with 600,000 lbs of gunpowder. 20% of the houses in the City [13,200] were destroyed along with St Paul’s and 87 churches, whose stone simply crumbled to dust in the intense inferno, destroying the precious valuables many had placed inside thinking them safe.

Freddie and his team have to stay one step ahead at all times, whether combatting the flames by the Duke of York’s side, or outwitting the Collector who is after some legendary Diaries and a very famous cheese. [amongst other things] The very real troubles our hero’s face in their daily lives in the 21st century, pale somewhat when compared to the situations encountered when they travel back to the Fire. Each excel in the life and death struggles they are forced to confront. There’s something about a disaster which brings out the best in all of them.

Central London in 1666, with the burnt area shown in pink - Wikipedia.

It was an enormous pleasure immersing myself in the 17th Century for the last two years, with the crumbling edifice of the old St. Paul’s as a backdrop, and pitch covered pirates rotting in metal cages on poles in the Thames, overlooked by Cromwell’s head on a spike at Westminster Hall, whilst the King fed delicacies to a crane with a wooden leg in St James’s Park, all of which feature at various times. 

I sincerely hope you can see, hear and smell the streets as you read, and hopefully enjoy the adventure. 

Now, where to next?

Clive Mantle. 
Wiltshire. October 2020

In the City of Fortune and Flames 

(A Freddie Malone Adventure) 

By Clive Mantle

The mysterious world map on Freddie Malone's bedroom wall ripples into life and the swirling vortex begins to form, but is Freddie prepared for where - and when - it will take him? Join Freddie, Connor and Ruby as they travel to the plague-stricken and fire-ravaged London of the seventeenth century, where the streets are ruled by a merciless gang of criminals and kidnappers. Stalked through time by the menacing, shrouded figure of the Collector, can the friends outwit their enemies and save history? It's all just a question of time...


Chapter 1

Connor stared into the searing spotlights and felt his mouth go completely dry. A salty drop of sweat stung his right eye. He was transfixed, unable to move. His mind was completely blank. 

His focus changed to the mass ranks of his school mates and their shuffling parents who stared back at him. Most of them were willing him to find the first words of a sentence. Any sentence! Others sniggered at the large, bewildered boy, dressed as the Pied Piper of Hamelin, surrounded by twenty embarrassed rats. 

Connor opened his mouth again and the audience leaned forward, hoping to catch the first utterance from the star of the drama group’s Christmas production. Ms DuFaye was whispering his opening line repeatedly at increasing volumes from the wings, until Connor remained the only person on stage or in the audience who didn’t know what he was meant to say. 

“Good citizens of Hamelin, I hear you have a problem,” the director eventually called at full volume. 

Connor couldn’t actually hear anything, because his ears were blocked by a huge false beard. This was a last minute addition by Mrs Spencer to try to make him look older. She had stuck it on way too tightly. That, and the huge green hat which covered the bits the beard didn’t, ensured Connor was deaf to any prompt. 

In a complete panic, his thoughts darted around erratically, exactly when he needed to focus. Into his mind came the image of his best friend’s magical map. Connor pictured it on Freddie’s bedroom wall. If only it would appear in the school hall. If only! Connor would leap into the vortex to another time and place – any time and place but here, on this stage, right now. 

Connor felt a sharp dig in his back. He turned to see the leading rat, Casey, mouthing at him. It sounded like, “Guusshh shizzizens uff Shammblin,” Then the rat looked at the audience, raised her huge painted eyebrows and shook her head. Connor could definitely hear the wave of laughter that followed. This was all so unfair. He’d only joined the group in October because Ruby had signed up. She’d left after two weeks, citing ‘artistic differences’ with Ms DuFaye. Great! So he’d had to persevere. It would look suspicious if he went as well, wouldn’t it? Everyone would rightly guess he fancied her. 

What am I doing? Concentrate. Connor stared down at the recorder. He’d only started learning it five weeks ago... ‘Play something!’ Connor lifted the instrument and with trembling breath he improvised a tune composed entirely of squeaks and squawks, to the amazement of the audience, rats and townspeople of Hamelin. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Ms DuFaye burying her head in her hands. 

Connor’s stage debut had got off to a disastrous start, but he suddenly picked out the encouraging faces of his friends Ruby and Freddie, smiling supportively and willing him on. Freddie’s mum and dad were alongside, beaming positivity out of the semi-darkness. 

Spurred on by their presence, his performance burst into life, until five minutes later when, much to everyone’s amusement, and thanks to his nervous sweats loosening the grip of the glue, his beard fell off. It was highly embarrassing, but the bonus was he could suddenly hear and he only forgot his lines three more times during the first half.  

Ms DuFaye’s fiancé had composed a haunting tune with which the Piper would lure the rats away just before the interval, and then the children in the dramatic finale. Connor was making a good job of it second time round, but Casey, now playing the Mayor’s child, accidentally on purpose trod on one of Connor’s baggy trailing trouser legs. His humiliation was complete as they slowly started falling down, and as he confided to Freddie later, “You try playing the recorder, walking, remembering your lines, acting, and holding up your trousers at the same time.” 

He caught sight of Jasper, Kelvin and the gang on the front row, who had been made to attend as a detention. They must be loving this, Connor thought. The bully’s sneering smile and menacing blue eyes tracked Connor’s every move. 

Jasper had been quiet since the episode at half term when Freddie, Connor and Ruby had left him and Kelvin encased in a frozen block of dirty washing and furniture, whilst they returned King Tutankhamun’s precious scarab. But that would all change now. The final image of the Piper hopping off with his trousers round his ankles would be impossible to live down – ever! 

Connor’s completely disinterested mum and dad were the only people in a twenty-kilometre radius who had no idea about his disastrous acting debut. 

Thankfully, Freddie’s parents whisked Connor away from the crime scene for some ‘celebration pizza’. 

“You played a darlin’ Piper, Connor. I thought you looked wonderful. A beard really suits you,” gushed Freddie’s mum. 

“I can see why there were no rats left in Hamelin with you on the case, Connor. A career in pest control beckons!” Mr Malone added, less helpfully. 

As Connor finished the pizza the others had no room for, he melted inside at their attempts to be kind, but he knew his debut had been a total disaster. 

Freddie sported a fixed grin of support, and Ruby passed him half her garlic bread saying, “It’s all right, I had some pasta with my brothers before the, er show.” She gripped his hand and squeezed it twice during the meal. That was definitely compensation for being bad in a play, Connor thought later, rubbing the spot Ruby had touched and vowing never to wash it again. 

It was now the Christmas holidays, which was a huge relief to all. Connor was glad to escape the teasing shouts of ‘Pied Penguin’ echoing down the school corridors, and Freddie was on antibiotics for a bad chest infection, which wouldn’t clear up. And with school over for two weeks, Ruby had dyed the left side of her hair blue again, returning her to her preferred feisty look. Instead of meeting in the wintery cold at the old oak tree – their usual meeting place – Freddie and Connor headed over to Ruby’s house, protected from any chance conflict with Jasper and his cronies. An added bonus of being at Ruby’s was they could also avoid Finnegan and Kathleen, Freddie’s very grumpy, deaf and elderly great uncle and aunt. They were staying until New Year whilst their new flat was decorated. Avoiding contact with Finnegan was best for all concerned, especially for Connor, who felt he was the unfair target of the old man’s anger. 

“Don’t forget, RooBeeRoo,” called Ruby’s mum as she headed out to work. “Pick up the twins at four thirty. Text me when you’ve done it please. Their food’s in the fridge.” 

Ruby cringed at her mum’s use of her nickname in front of her friends, but Freddie hardly noticed; he seemed lost in his thoughts. “It’s getting ready, I can feel it. We’d better be prepared, guys.” 

Next door, three packed rucksacks sat in Freddie’s wardrobe, ready and waiting. Their contents were constantly refined and Connor’s horde of sweets had been voted out, and more useful things put in its place, much to his dismay. 

Whilst it had been Freddie’s second adventure in the vortex, it had been Connor and Ruby’s first, and they needed time to get their heads around what had happened last half term, when they were whisked 3,500 years back to Ancient Egypt. None of them knew when the magical world map would open again, and transport them along the vortex to a new destination. 

After their Egyptian adventure, Freddie had started a replacement for his ruined notebook and had suggested the others do the same, so that now everyone had a copy if they got separated again. Four pages for each language, just as before, and now including Swedish, Japanese, Polish and with help from Mr Kapoor at the sweet shop, Hindi. 

It was safe to be at Freddie’s from 11 am until 3 pm, as his quarrelsome relations were out at various lunch clubs. That is, those that hadn’t expelled Finnegan for his cantankerous behaviour. Life was certainly tricky in the Malone’s house with him there. 

“Family are family,” Mr Malone pointed out, every time things got out of hand, until the day Finnegan drank most of a bottle of very special whiskey Mr Malone had been saving for Christmas. He wasn’t so forgiving after that. 

Freddie’s bad winter cold had turned into a chest infection and he had been put on the strongest possible antibiotics and told to steer clear of Finnegan, who had only just recovered from a long illness himself.
Not a problem! Freddie thought.

Uncle Patrick had been absent for most of December. Freddie’s favourite relation was badly missed. He lit up any room he entered. Laughter followed him, as if he sprinkled a magic dust that allowed everyone to see the best side of life. The rumour was he was going to stay throughout Christmas, and Freddie was already excited about what Patrick might bring. On his 13th birthday he’d given Freddie the enchanted map that hung on his bedroom wall. No present was ever going to top that. The colours were rich and luxuriant. Deep burgundy and reds, blues of all shades, and so many varieties of green he’d lost count. It was a living treasure. Orange deserts shimmered and sparkled. Flecks of quartz in the paint shot tiny shards of light into the room. All the major cities were illustrated with their landmarks: the Colosseum in Rome; the Kremlin in Moscow; and Niagara Falls still had a disconcerting habit of squirting water when he walked past. But they could all see the map was pulsing with energy and strength, and new symbols appeared hourly, teasing them with possibilities. 

Recently, in addition to the god of the sea, Neptune, who blew wooden galleons about the Southern Oceans, the marbled figure of Atlas had appeared at the top of the map in the west. 

Every hour, he would drop the huge globe from his shoulder and launch it, as if in a tenpin bowling alley. Freddie would shout “Strike!” as it collided with Stonehenge, before the stone circles were rebuilt immediately, and an angry druid shook his fist in Atlas’s direction. The map was a great source of entertainment for Freddie. 

In the Malone’s house, Christmas excitement was mounting and the ritual of decorating their lounge and tree took place around the permanently seated elderly relations who criticised the placement of every light, bauble and piece of tinsel. 

“Oh! Please hurry up, Patrick,” Freddie heard his mother whisper as she hurried to make Kathleen her 100th cup of tea. Connor and Ruby had to be smuggled past the open lounge door into the cold night, both slipping down the icy path. 

“Cinema at ten?” checked Freddie. 

“Don’t go anywhere without us,” threatened Ruby playfully, clinging to the gatepost. Freddie watched Connor gingerly negotiate the pavement and slide away into the darkness. 

Closing the door and turning back into the house, he found Finnegan blocking the hall. He spoke to Freddie at a fraction of his normal volume. 

“Where are you off to, Freddie boy?” 

“Nowhere. Err, she’s just joking.”

“Was that the girl with blue hair, and the fat boy? You three are always very busy aren’t you? Always up to something. What do—?” Just then a loud knock saved Freddie, and the welcome silhouette of Uncle Patrick showed through the frosted glass. 

Freddie flung open the door and hugged his eccentric uncle as hard as he could. Then he stood back laughing because apart from carrying a huge bag of presents and a sack of clinking bottles, in the freezing December evening, Patrick was wearing shorts and a flashing Santa badge on his Hawaiian shirt. 
Finnegan had vanished, but could still be heard. “The idiot with the silly shirts has arrived,” he shouted to Kathleen. Uncle Patrick took a deep breath as he walked into the lounge, looking like a man entering a lion’s cage. 

After the evening meal, Freddie retreated to his room rather than watching TV with the volume loud enough to make your ears bleed – as Finnegan and Kathleen couldn’t hear it otherwise. His mum came up a few minutes later with his antibiotics, and kissed him on the forehead. “I’m so sorry, darlin’. They’re not here for much longer. Take your tablet now. I hope you’re feeling better in the morning.” 

As soon as she closed the door, the world changed. 

The lights flared with a fierce intensity like a lightning strike. Competing voices tumbled over each other, flying at Freddie from a thousand directions and meeting in the centre of his brain with perfect clarity. Swirling coloured beams played on the walls before swivelling and shooting to focus on the map. A rumbling wall of noise built behind it. 

King Tutankhamun sneezed and the Yeti rushed over to wipe his nose. Suddenly everyone on the map looked ill. This felt so different from before. Freddie was mesmerised. Dramatic organ chords seemed to spell the end of the world. A feeling of doom clouded his mind. 

Freddie pulled himself together and grabbed his rucksack. An electrical charge shot from the map to the door, and the sound of a hundred locks, bolts and chains, turned, clicked and rattled at once. Freddie crammed his tablets into his bag before texting: 


Neptune turned his head into the room and a chill wind made Freddie shudder even though he had his thick winter pyjamas on. He gasped as the sea god revealed the hidden side of his face which was covered in a bloody cloth. He blew the familiar tornado, causing Freddie’s clothes and possessions to circle the room in a hectic dance. With his wide eyes fixed on the map, Freddie ran through a mental checklist of his backpack’s contents, Notebook, antibiotics, antiseptic, change of clothes – I’m ready for anything, he said to himself. Suddenly, the map sprang to life as the cacophony grew. The colours of the different countries began changing, running back through history indicating their previous rulers. 

Cloud formations slid across the continents like a weather report on fast-forward. The mighty oceans were alive and vast mountain ranges broke through the beautiful fabric. 

Freddie watched as the Eiffel Tower shuddered, shrank and evaporated with a fizzle. His eyes were drawn upwards as the sea crashed against the White Cliffs of Dover. Then the Shard and Big Ben disappeared one after the other as the centuries scrolled back. 

The River Thames surged from west to east across London, and a fraction of a second later a split followed its exact course, indicating the location of Freddie’s next adventure. 

Well at least I can speak the language! Freddie thought, trying to be brave. 

All he could see now was his bedroom wall gaping wide open and the vortex appearing beyond. At the sound of all the locks, bolts and chains opening again, Freddie shot towards the wall, attracted by an invisible magnetic power. A thousand church bells sounded as ragged, bandaged hands beckoned him onwards and roughly pulled him through the gap. 

Once again, he was on his way. 

Pick up your copy of
In the City of Fortune and Flames

Clive Mantle

Clive Mantle is a much-loved British actor, a star of both stage and screen for over 40 years. He is perhaps best known for playing Little John in Robin of Sherwood, Great Jon Umber in Game of Thrones, Simon Horton in The Vicar of Dibley and Mike Barratt in Casualty. His voice is also well known from his work on over 180 audio books, and voicing animated characters, including Gator in Thomas the Tank Engine...

...And, he is now a published Author.

Connect with Clive: 

Website • The Adventures of Freddie Malone • Facebook • Twitter • Instagram

Book Title: In the City of Fortune and Flames
Series: A Freddie Malone Adventure, Book 3
Author: Clive Mantle
Publication Date: 14th October 2020
Publisher: Award Publications Ltd 
Page Length: 288 Pages
Genre: Young Adult  / Time Travel

No comments:

Post a Comment

See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx