CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to EADT Suffolk today CLICK HERE

All the gory details

PUBLISHED: 12:08 17 March 2015 | UPDATED: 12:08 17 March 2015

Junior guizer Norsemen set light to their Longship to celebrate the festival of UP Helly Aa in Lerwick Shetland, Tuesday 31 January 2006. The Viking festival celebrates the islands's Norse heritage and sees up to 1000 costumed

Junior guizer Norsemen set light to their Longship to celebrate the festival of UP Helly Aa in Lerwick Shetland, Tuesday 31 January 2006. The Viking festival celebrates the islands's Norse heritage and sees up to 1000 costumed "guizers", complete with flaming torches, drag a Viking longship through the streets of Lerwick, led by a horde of Vikings wearing traditional garb, including winged helmets, sheepskins and carrying axes and shields. See PA Story SCOTLAND Viking. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Photo credit should read: David Cheskin/PA ES 1 02 06

Archant

Suffolk’s long and fascinating story includes some bloody chapters. Andrew Clarke talks to Robert Leader who brings them to life in his new book

EADT FEATURE 
Words Steve Russell
Pix Phil Morley 16/11/11

Robert Charles Smith, writing under the pen name of Robert Leader has written a book in the EADT FEATURE Words Steve Russell Pix Phil Morley 16/11/11 Robert Charles Smith, writing under the pen name of Robert Leader has written a book in the "Bloody British History" series about Bury St Edmunds. Robert is pictured in Bury in the Abbey Ruins in the Abbey Gardens. EADT 19.11.11

Robert Leader loves a bit of adventure. The Brandon-born author has travelled the world in search of stories to weave into his many thriller and fantasy novels, but now he is seeking inspiration closer to home.

The Suffolk author, who now lives in Bury St Edmunds, has come up with his own literary version of the Horrible Histories TV series and has written Bloody British History: Suffolk, a book bringing together many of the bloodiest, goriest incidents in Suffolk’s past and re-telling them in a page-turning style.

He’s gone for historical bloodshed rather than crime because it reaffirms Suffolk’s role in our country’s changing fortunes.

Robert’s investigations have dug out our gory dealings with the Romans, Vikings, Mary Tudor, Charles I, the Gunpowder Plot, the Spanish Armada, Dutch invaders at Felixstowe and mysterious goings-on at Shingle Street during the Second World War.

Eastern Angles Boudiccas Babes
Marina Morgan as Boudicca
Photograph James Fletcher
BOADICEAEastern Angles Boudiccas Babes Marina Morgan as Boudicca Photograph James Fletcher BOADICEA

For Robert, writing and researching Bloody Suffolk has been a labour of love following on from Bloody Bury St Edmunds, which came out a couple of years ago.

He makes no apologies for not creating a text book that you could use to pass your A-level history exam.

“It’s not a complete history and it’s not intended to be,” he explains. “It’s all about the bloody, gory details with the dreary bits left out.

“It’s not designed for classrooms. It’s not going to teach you all the dry old stuff. Instead it’s an enjoyable romp through all the blood and the battles, revelling in everything that is ghoulish and bizarre.”

For all his disclaimers, there is an awful lot of historical detail buried along with the bodies. The book is laid out in chronological order and Robert sets the scene with plenty of atmosphere, so the events play out in context with their times.

Robert wrote the book as if he were a storyteller, grabbing an audience round a late-night camp fire. The writing style echoes the tradition of oral histories where character and narrative are just as important as dates.

As the author of 40 novels published over the last half century, many of them thrillers, he is well versed in capturing the attention of his readers.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Robert was a prolific writer of thriller, horror and fantasy novels for the publisher Robert Hale, writing under the pen names Robert Leonard and Charles Leader.

His first novel The Faceless Fugitive followed a long series of short stories which he wrote while working on various ships travelling between South America and the Far East via the Mediterranean.

On one trip they found themselves caught up in the Suez Crisis when Egypt’s President Nasser closed the canal and forced them to circumnavigate Africa in order to reach Mombasa.

“We missed the last convoy through the canal by 20 minutes, which was fortunate because the tail end ships in that convoy were sunk by the Egyptians to block the Canal. The bulk of the convoy was trapped there for almost two years.”

It was the opportunity to see other countries and sample other cultures which not only informed his writing but gave him a life-long love of travelling.

“I owned a series of three motor cycles. The first one took me all around the British Isles. The second one took me all around Europe. The third one took me all around Greece. My first car was a little blue Austin A30 which took me down through Spain and all around Morocco. I rode on the Orient Express to Istanbul, flew to Cairo and carried on up the Nile to the Valley of the Kings.

“Out of these trips would come the colour for my next novels. The writing process in those days ideally involved a visit to the planned location, keeping an extensive diary and collecting up all the city maps and tourist literature available. Today of course the internet makes background research so much easier, but the old way was much more exciting and much more fun.

“My second novel was Nothing to Lose, the first in a long series featuring Simon Larren, the killing arm of British Counter Espionage. I had three books written and published before the first James Bond film was made and was poised to catch the rising tide of spy mania. Suddenly every bookshop window in Europe was filled with books with the word Espionage printed large on every cover, and my books were there with the rest.”

This wonderful life continued until the big recession of the early 1980s when the publishing industry shed authors, agents and whole publishing houses as it transformed itself into a global industry dominated by a few multi-national companies.

This left Robert high and dry, so he enrolled as a mature student at the University of East Anglia and studied philosophy, hoping to break into the advertising business before realising, as he put it, “nobody wanted a 48-year-old copywriter”.

Ever adaptable he became a self-employed painter and decorator and, as luck would have it, his writing career suddenly blossomed back into life – writing tourist guides, science fiction and fantasy novels and tales of bloody battles and gory historic murder.

Bloody British History: Suffolk by Robert Leader is published by The History Press.

Robert’s website can be found at www.robertleaderauthor.com/

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other EADT Suffolk Magazine visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by EADT Suffolk Magazine staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique EADT Suffolk Magazine account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Fri, 17:47

A typical part of the Suffolk village scene is the village sign, standing tall in a prominent part of the area and succinctly giving you an insight into the area’s history. Here are 15 Suffolk town or village signs and what they mean

Read more
Tue, 13:42

If you’re looking for someone to enjoy a few days in Suffolk this festive period then look no further than these 6 gorgeous locations

Read more
Tue, 09:44

Christmas is a wonderful time to spend with loved ones and there’s no better place to do that than Suffolk, with its outstanding natural beauty, charming villages and festive foodie delights

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

From Waveney and the Suffolk coast to Dedham Vale, these 19 pictures are guaranteed to get you exploring the beautiful towns and countryside of Suffolk this winter

Read more
Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Suffolk in winter time is a magical place to be. There are Christmas markets, chilly walks, and days by the blustery seaside to be had. These 17 nostalgic pictures will definitely bring out that unique festive feeling.

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Invitation to View tours reveal the surprising wartime roles of East Anglia’s historic town and country properties | Words & Photos: Lindsay Want

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Are you searching for places to go this winter? Suffolk has some truly magical places simply perfect for a day out with the family that are sure to get you feeling festive. Here are 9 locations you have to visit over the Christmas holiday

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

As the season of parties approaches, hotel and restaurateur Milsoms is itself celebrating a milestone for one of its popular venues | Words: Ross Bentley

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Lindsay Want wanders the pilgrims’ paths and concrete runways around Horham, Denham and Redlingfield

Read more
Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Not many people know it but a lot of your favourite films have been made in Suffolk. From blockbusters to independent, here are 21 films made in Suffolk.

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

EADT Suffolk Magazine weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy


Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search