The nominal author of the book, Alex E. Robertson, is a pen name, incorporating the names of the creators of the work.
Dr Alex Kolaczkowski has taught history at schools in Bath and Bristol, as well as in Wiltshire, Oxfordshire and Surrey. Her B.Ed degree was awarded by the University of Bristol and her Ph.D by the University of Bath. A dedicated teacher, passionate about all aspects of her subject, she took her pupils on frequent field trips, making ancient, medieval, early modern and modern topics alike come vividly to life. Bath and Bristol are cities very well known to her having lived, studied and worked in both of them. Her expertise in Bath history stemmed from her years spent researching the city as a case-study for her doctoral topic on the development of municipal socialism and the civic ideal in the nineteenth century. By invitation from the Dictionary of National Biography she provided the entry for Sir Jerom Murch who was Mayor of Bath on seven occasions, and wrote a paper on aspects of Bath Non-Conformism for the Unitarian Journal. These research activities helped provide her specialist background knowledge of the period and places in which the novel is set.
Professor Robert Hayes is an academic at the University of Alberta in Canada. Apart from his distinguished research and teaching in chemical engineering, he is a calculating thinker with an interest in mystery and intrigue within a historical context. As a PhD student at the University of Bath in the early 1980s, he developed an interest in the game of Go (which originated as Wei Ch’i in China), often travelling to Bristol to play at the Go Club in Hotwells, and later was a founder member of the Bath Go Club at the Crown Inn, Bathwick Street. During the 1990s he was a frequent visitor to Bath and Bristol. In addition to his passion for historical mysteries, he is a lover of fine wines, single malt whisky, and of course whiskey.
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Riot and Retribution is an historical fiction novel set in Bath and Bristol in October of 1831. The historical backdrop of the book is the great Reform Bill of 1831. The government has pledged to give the vote to the wealthy middle class, and the poor are hoping that democracy will also extend to them, but the House of Lords is determined to oppose the Bill. Lord Melbourne, Home Secretary in Lord Grey’s Whig government, sends Nathaniel Parry to the West Country to report on popular unrest by the working class citizens. Additional sub-themes revolve around the opium trade to China and trafficking in young girls, which was a problem of the times.
Nathaniel arrives in Bath to start his investigations. He is introduced to his relatives residing there, and to some of the influential characters in the city. He begins to establish himself.
Matters become complicated by the murder of a senior clerk at one of Bath’s leading banks. The owner of the bank has ties to the Parry family through mutual acquaintances, and Nathaniel is soon drawn into the investigation, as it appears that the murder is related to influential figures who have the ear of the government. A shadowy international master criminal lurks in the background, pulling strings.
As Nathaniel investigates the state of potential civil unrest, as well as the murder, some of the complicated relationships between the main characters becomes clearer, and the depths of government complicity in both the opium smuggling and white slavery starts to emerge. Nathaniel’s immediate superior is revealed to be less than honest, and more interested in lining his own pockets and keeping the opium runs secure than in the cause of political reform. Life is further complicated by Nathaniel’s attraction to three of Bath’s leading beauties.
The story progresses through the initial rejection of the reform bill in Parliament and the ensuing riots. The complicity of the bank’s owner in the murder becomes apparent to Nathaniel, as is his role in other illegal activities. As Nathaniel investigates these crimes and the state of civil unrest, he must wend a careful path, because many of the powerful figures are protected by senior members of the government.
The story combines elements of history, mystery, action thriller and romance in a compelling tale. The characters are a combination genuine historical figures and the fictional ones. Overall, it presents an engrossing tale of political intrigue combined with a dose of the history of the time.
Riot and Retribution
Alex E Robertson
Nathaniel Parry trilogy
Book Excerpt or Article
“Quick, quick! Rouse yersel’ there’s real trouble ’ere. There’s a mob in Queen Square layin’ waste an’ the troops are out. There’s gangs roamin’ in the town an’ there’s some buggers a-comin’ down the Parade and smashin’ all the glass. The Mathilda’s a-fire an’ the Master’s out on the quay with they Chinese! I’m not being trapped down ’ere if there’s fire!”
Even as she pulled Tibbs to her feet, they heard the crashing of masonry from the dark pit of the stair-well. The metal grill door slammed open against the rock-side with a hollow clang, followed by the unmistakable sound of running footsteps, and more, a low, growling snarl and the swift scratching of dog’s claws as it bounded up the stone steps. As the tarts gawped in horror down the void, Abi and Frances took their chance and sprang from the bed. Wrenching a fire-iron apiece from the companion set on the hearth, they covered the distance between them and their targets in seconds and landed crushing blows on the backs of their heads. Again and again, they swung their arms ’til they ached, mercilessly belabouring their captors with blows hard enough to stun oxen. Tess, startled out of her sleep, set up a wild howling and backed up to flatten herself against the wall in terror. Abi and Frances were oblivious, still beating, beating with all their pent up fear and fury, relentlessly beating, blow on blow until the floor was slick with blood. The women still twitched as Nathaniel and Caradoc reached the doorway, Caradoc leading the way, smelling the captives, the blood and the fear. Tess dodged round them screaming like a banshee as she fled up the stairs, swerving into a narrow side alley, plunging away into the blackness.
“Oh God save us!” said Abi, slowly lowering the bloodied poker as she stared at the tall dark man who had burst into their prison. “Is it Mr Drake?”
“Abi!” Nathaniel stopped in his tracks, his mind racing back to the distant night at Shadwell’s. He smiled in recognition: the alias could still do good service. “Quick now girl. And you,” he shot a warning glance at Frances who still brandished a fire-shovel. “I won’t hurt you. I’ll get you out.” He glanced round the cave, taking in the sleeping infants in the truckle bed, the sprawling bodies by the doorway.
“Now move fast. Lift the babies and follow me.”
Dazed by the speed of events, Abi and Frances moved automatically, wrapping the infants roughly in their bedding as they snatched them up.
“And take those fire-irons. We’ll go the way I came but we might be challenged.”
Suddenly, fresh sounds broke upon them from above and lights shone from the top of the stairs. “Quickly now, down these steps,” commanded Nathaniel. “Follow my light.”
“Stop! Or I’ll shoot you down!”
Nathaniel spun round as a powerful figure in Ravenswood’s livery rounded the turn in the steps, lifting his pistol to fire.
“Drop down!” shouted Nathaniel, pushing back up the steps past the confusion of girls and trailing bedding, simultaneously drawing a pistol and firing into his assailant’s body. Even as the man’s own weapon fired wide and he slumped over bellowing in pain, a nimble footman wielding a bludgeon leapt over his stricken body to be met head-on by Caradoc. He had leapt at the man’s throat, a blur of black and tan, claws and teeth. Nathaniel flung aside his lantern to swap the spent gun for the loaded one as the man yelled out in agony and beat wildly at Caradoc with the bludgeon. Nathaniel levelled the weapon but in the flickering light from the cave there was no clear shot.
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