Saturday, 28 November 2020

An Extraordinary Charge Against a Clergyman

 An Extraordinary Charge Against a Clergyman
is an excellent account of the fascinating and perhaps bewildering life of the clergyman the Reverend  Edward Muckleston MA by Janet Mackleston.

I was already aware of the Reverend Edward Muckleston and his unusual life so I was intrigued to read this biography of his life.

We learn that he was a self-centred and rather selfish man who behaved in ways that seem, even to modern eyes, to have been antipathetic to his calling and vocation as a priest in the Church of England. 

For example, how was he able to square with his calling and his own conscience the extraordinary fact that he declined to pay his washerwoman, was an inveterate dodger of fares on the railways or that he had deliberately and maliciously damaged the trees owned by a neighbour?

Edward was born into a family of well to do Shropshire landowners. But he managed to lose all of it, resulting in terrible suffering for his own family. Due to his rather unfortunate ways (to put it mildly) he was forced to resign from the parish in Shropshire and he was able to find a position in a smaller parish in the county of Warwickshire.

Despite the fact that he was the parish priest there for nearly 50 years (48 to be exact) he was forced to attend court many times to defend the validity of his appointment to that parish. In fact he died whilst serving as the priest there.

Janet Mackleston (who has a family connection to this story) is a member of the Shropshire Family History Society and was able to piece together his rather extraordinary life using stories from contemporary newspapers and local history archives.

She was surprised about what she found and is able to share this with her readers who will be as intrigued as I was.

This book is another of my picks for an ideal Christmas gift.

It's published by The Book Guild at £9.99.

The Story of Warrington

 In his new book The Story of Warrington Bill Cooke takes his readers on an exploration of the town referred to as "The Athens of the North."

Does Warrington warrant such a description? If you read his book, you will learn a great deal about Warrington. 

The RSA claimed in 2015 that Warrington was "the least culturally alive town in England." Was this a fair claim? A valid evaluation? 

It was the RSA's claim that helped encourage historian and philosopher Bill Cooke, a relative newcomer to  the town of Warrington to make a study of Warrington and to find out what he could learn and also share with the world.

Who was it who declared Warrington to be "The Athens of the North?" Why had they formed this conclusion?

What about the history of Warrington? It's architecture? What of the role of Warrington in helping to being a peaceful culmination to the Cold War? What links did it have to the slave trade and to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution?

Written by an academic with a rare gift for writing in as fluid and lucid style, readers will be able to judge for themselves if the RSA had any valid points as Bill Cooke takes his readers through the past and present of Warrington.

Bill Cooke lectures in philosophy and religious studies at Warrington's Priestley College. He's also president of the Warrington Literary and Philosophical Society, and is the convenor of the Warrington Chapter of the Philosophy in Pubs organisation. 

He has published six books in the UK, New Zealand and the USA.

It's published by Matador at £20.00 and will make a neat Christmas gift for people who love Warrington, history and who like to see the truth behind stories in popular culture.

Flowers of Languedoc

In  Flowers of Languedoc Philip Devalle, the half French and half Englishman returns in a new novel form Judith Thomson.

It's the ultimate decade in the tumultuous 17th Century and it is a period of constant battles between the King of England, William and the Sun King of France, Louis XIV.

The situation is especially troubling for Philip Devalle, as it stretches his twin loyalties even further than previously, as his two nations are in mortal combat.

He finds himself wearing of politics and war so he fashions a new plan which he hopes will free him of both.

But the life of Philp Devalle is never easy or simple and there are his enemies who want to see that whatever aspirations, plans or ambitions he has should comer to nought.

His latest arena for his operations are the mountains and sun-kissed slopes of Languedoc. He finds new enemies who wish him harm as he becomes embroiled in the desperate plight of the Huguenots and, of course, there is the struggle for ultimate power of the two Kings to contend with.

However, Philip is a resourceful, brave and clever man who has many loyal friends who will help him to work to secure his inheritance and that of the future of his family. But in the uncertain times can he succeed?

It's published by Matador at £9.99 and is a must buy Christmas present for lovers of historical novels and the works of Judith Thomson.


The Golden Calves of Jeroboam


The Golden Calves of Jeroboam
is another collection of meditations and religious writings and essays from Adrian Leak.

He has an easy style of writing which is known for being witty and to the point. 

Adrian Leak is a retired Anglican priest who now works as a freelance author and writer and in this work he has brought together an eclectic combination of some refreshingly brief and well-crafted pastoral sermons and religious meditations.

He has also included a collection of vivid word portraits of a rich collection of figures from history. Some whom you will probably already be aware of, some whom you could be meeting with for the first time.

This book will make an ideal Chirstmas gift for the religious scholar in your life.

It's published by The Book Guild at £13.00. 

You can purchase this book (his third work) at the Church Bookshop, Waterstone’s, Blackwell’s, Foyles or Amazon. Price £13.99.

Adrian Leak also has a website (from which the above image is from) at

Thursday, 26 November 2020

Are We Doing the Stelvio Today?

Are We Doing The Stelvio Today?
is a very compelling account written by biker, blogger and adventurer Martin Smith.

Readers will join Martin on an exhilarating journey through the Alps of France, Switzerland and Italy by motorbike.

Cheadle, Cheshire-based Martin spent his formative years on the rear of his dad's bikes. Eventually he went on to own his own motorbikes, but at some point bikes lost out to cars and he bought his first four wheeled vehicle.

Later on he decided to put right the error of not getting his full motorbike licence and sorted this out in 1991, but it wasn't until several years later that he got around to buying another motorbike.

Several years? Well, 22 years later to be exact, when he decided with grown up children and a highly successful career as an IT consultant, that it was time to take up biking, again. First was a Kawasaki ZX636, which, a year later, was replaced with a BMW S1000RR.

His bike rides gradually became longer, weekend day trips grew into weeks as far afield as the Highlands of Scotland and Martin decided that change was required once again. This time? Sports riding was to be replaced with the life of an adventure bike rider and the BWM was replaced with an R1200GS Triple Black. 

On this bike Martin has seen much of the British Isles and sometimes much further afield.

Martin has blogged about his adventures, helpfully outlining his routes for the assistance of other bikers. Having found his writing wings he progressed to writing articles in specialist magazines. And out of this came his first book. 

Owners of this book will be able to make use of Martin's abilities to create workable and practicable itineraries. They'll also have a damn good read, too as he has a very good, readable style. 

It's £9.99 from The Book Guild and with Lockdown issues currently getting in the way of Christmas present hunting, it's a great stocking filler for the biker in your life. Or it'll make a perfect self present!

Sunday, 15 November 2020

The Notorious Third Lord Lucan: An Embattled Life

 In his book The Notorious Third Lord Lucan: An Embattled Life scientist, author and biographer Tom Blaney provides an interesting look on the life of the Third Lord Lucan.

Who was the Third Lord Lucan? And why was he considered to be "notorious"? And why might his life have been viewed as "embattled"?

Blaney's interest in the Third Lord Lucan when he lived in an apartment within Laleham house, which had been the home of the Third Lord Lucan.

Blaney alludes to the more recently famous seventh Lord Lucan, a troubled professional gambler who, after being implicated in the murder of the family nanny and the severe injuries to his wife vanished, never to be seen again.

However the third Lord Lucan is the subject of this book and in a number of ways including his involvement in the Crimean War as an officer, including the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade.

Blaney acknowledges a previous book published in 1953 The Reason Why by Cecil Woodham-Smith. Woodham-Smith points to certain character flaws within the makeup of the third Lord Lucan. In her book she brings attention to the fact that Lord Lucan had a very bad reputation as an absentee landlord in Ireland. With arguably good reason he was known as "the Great Exterminator" due to his actions and inactions as a landowner. He also had a reputation as being an army officer of a less than glorious reputation, especially during the Crimean War.

Lord Lucan's reputation was traduced by the book written by Woodham-Smith and in the 1968 film The Charge of the Light Brigade (based on that book) but was he really as bad as he was portrayed? Detailed and extensive research undertaken by Blaney indicates that the truth is somewhat different to that previous portrayed by Lord Lucan's detractors. 

He has worked hard to provide a more balanced and less hysterical view of the third Lord Lucan. He has drawn a more full and far more accurate picture of Lord Lucan. Yes, as with everyone of us humans, he had flaws but he was not, as Blaney proves admirably, not the monstrous caricature foisted on the public by those who should have known better in your reviewer's opinion.

The book is illustrated with contemporary images and will be much admired by those with a love for history and high quality research.

It is published by Matador in hardback at £20.