Andrew read a little law and a lot of sport at Cambridge University, and held various positions in the book trade, including being a director of Waterstone & Co, and chairman of Methven’s plc, before turning to writing. Inspired by a lifelong interest in seventeenth century history, his ‘Thomas Hill’ novels are set during the English Civil Wars, and the early period of the Restoration.
He lives with his wife in Surrey, near to their three children and two grandchildren. His interests include golf, gardening, and drawing.
Thomas Hill travels from his home in Romsey to London to attend the coronation of King Charles II. His sister Margaret has died, and both his nieces are now married. At a dinner party after the Coronation, Thomas meets the charming Chandle Stoner, and Sir Joseph Williamson, security advisor to His Majesty, and in charge of the newly restored Post Office. Learning of Thomas’s skill with codes, Williamson asks him to take charge of deciphering coded letters intercepted at the Post Office. Reluctantly, Thomas agrees. A spate of murders takes place in London — including two employees of the Post Office. Thomas finds himself dragged into the search for the murderer — or murderers. It soon becomes apparent that those responsible are closer to Thomas — and his loved ones — than he imagined. But can he ensure they are apprehended for their crimes before it’s too late?
Set in the aftermath of the Civil War, in a dangerous and deadly London.Like Swanston’s other novels, this too features a combination of fact and fiction. The key context — the Post Office — was indeed a hotbed of spies both for the King and for his enemies.
PARMENION BOOKS INTERVIEW
What led you to become a writer? I suppose reading led to writing. And from a very young age I filled notebooks with this and that – diaries, stories, half-formed thoughts – so the urge to write must always have been there
Favorite author / Inspiration? Conan Doyle and CS Forester were my first inspirations. I discovered them in the school library and devoured them. I still love Sherlock Holmes and Horatio Hornblower. A little later, PG Wodehouse.
Who do you read for relaxation? A mixed bag. John Gribbin (science), Michael Lewis (finance), Tom Holland and Anthony Beevor (history), Jared Diamond (anthropology) are among my favourites. All brilliant in their own way.
What was your inspiration for Thomas Hill? Thomas was the product of Thomas Phelippes, who broke the code that proved Mary Queen of Scots was plotting to overthrow Queen Elizabeth which led to her execution, the Vigenère Cipher and the idea that Civil War Oxford would make a good setting for a story. I wanted an unusual protagonist, not a military man or a politician, but someone dragged unexpectedly into the war.
How long is the series? (Given that Thomas is aging rapidly in the series) Now that Thomas is about to be a husband and father, he will be on paternity leave for a while. If he decides to return, I do have a job for him.
What’s next for Andrew Swanston? (period of history?) I am working on two stories. A murder/mystery set in Cambridge in 1572 and a fictionalised account of the soldier chosen by Wellington as ‘the bravest man at Waterloo’. Hopefully, both will appear next year.
If you could have anyone from history to dinner, who would it be and why? I would invite to dinner the man known as Jesus of Nazareth. I do not believe he was the son of God but am willing to be persuaded.
Your PR person has decided the best way to push the book is to stand you outside Kings cross, you only have a few words to describe the books to passers by before they are gone, so…So how do you sell it?
I would of course refuse this request, but……….
‘1661. England again has a king but London is a city of spies and malcontents. Murder follows murder. Can scholarly Thomas Hill find the killer and foil a plot that threatens the country?’
Parmenion Books Review
I find myself in a bit of a quandary with writing this review, a review is a very personal thing, and even 15 years on from the early days of reviews i find that i cannot move away from just giving my person insight, whilst tempering it with a hope that each of you will make up your own mind. As it had been some time since I read the last book and there had been many pages and many centuries between the books (From Rome, to modern thrillers) I decided that I would re-read books one and two and then dive straight into book 3, Kings return.
I finished all 3 books off in just over a week which clearly shows that there is something significantly engaging and entertaining in the books, that the characters are there and that they are well rounded and developed. That there has been a large amount of research put into the plot and its delivered in a very engaging style.
But: I found that the stories while well told and complex, felt like they lacked something, lacked those little nuggets of history that delight me (forgive me Andrew if i missed them) EG: in Simon Scarrows Young Bloods series about Wellington and Napoleon there is a wonderful scene where young Napoleon is at school and despite not being one of the “popular “ boys he ends up leading by force of character one of the sides in an all out snowball war. It’s a real nugget of history and its stayed with me for years. This series by Andrew Swanston has some delightful passages and really carries the reader along with the plot. But it feels to hover above history, slightly outside it, offering a birds eye view rather than immersing me in the history. I didn’t feel the heat of the island, I didn’t smell the stink of the sugar (and I live in a town with a Sugar factory so would have found it easy to smell the history), i didn’t feel the grime of old London . It may well be that reading this just after reading The new God of Vengeance by Giles Kristen isn’t a fair scenario, that book was just stunning and so many authors would pale in comparison. On another day this series may gain a higher rating from me, but i could not escape the feeling of being a voyeur in Mr Hills travails rather than a participant. Please please though read these books, my review comes from my impression at the time of reading and in comparison to some truly remarkable writing. Andrews work is still a delight to read.
I do truly feel that if you love Civil War history, and you love a puzzle, then try the series. The lead character is a cryptographer and there are many puzzles and turns to hold the attention of the reader. It is a fun and interesting read and has a pace that makes the books fly past.
Well worth a read
Thomas Hill Trilogy
2. The King’s Exile (2013)
3. The King’s Return (2014)