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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Spotlight Saturday: Guest Post and Giveaway with Richard Denning, author of The Last Seal

Hi, everyone!

Welcome to another edition of Spotlight Saturday at Darlene's Book Nook, where we feature authors and their books!

We will be joined today by Richard Denning.

About Richard:

Richard Denning was born in Ilkeston in Derbyshire and lives in Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands, UK, where he works as a General Practitioner (family doctor). He is married and has two children. He has always been fascinated by historical settings as well as horror and fantasy. Other than writing, his main interests are games of all types. He is the designer of a board game based on the Great Fire of London.


Welcome to Darlene's Book Nook, Richard!

Richard has written a guest post, so I will now turn the floor over to him!

Superstitions and Omens in 1666
Guest Post by Richard Denning

There is a pub quiz question which goes like this: what started with pudding and ended with pie? The answer is of course The Great Fire of London of 1666 which started at the bakery in Pudding Lane and which at its furthest north west point reached around Pie Corner.

British children cover the Great Fire at school but as a reminder and for overseas readers who may not be aware of it at all, here is a summary. In the early hours of September 2nd 1666 a careless baker in Pudding Lane forgot to put out his fire and it spread creating an inferno which would destroy 13,000 houses. The Lord Mayor failed to act and it was down to the trained bands of militia to fight the fire under the guidance of James Duke of York, brother to King Charles II both of whom were even seen on the streets fighting the fire. In the end, though, it was the wind dropping and changing direction coupled with the blowing up of houses that ended the fire.

It is estimated that the destruction included 13200 houses, 87 churches, 44 Guild Halls, St Pauls Cathedral, Baynard’s Castle, the Royal Exchange, Newgate prison and many other important sites. Maybe 1 person in 3 or 4 of greater London was made homeless. Something like £14 Billion of damages in today's terms was caused.

Eventually the truth came out. It was not the judgement of heaven or the evil act of malicious enemies. No it was merely a baker forgetting to put out his ovens. Thomas Farriner was to blame. Not that he ever admitted to this himself of course.

In the spirit of the best conspiracy theories all sorts of other causes gained support. After the fire a monument was built (there is still one present today) close to where the fire started. This was inscribed upon it: “Here by ye permission of Heaven Hell broke loose on this protestant city.” People believed that the fire was caused by Catholics, foreign spies or was an act of God. They pointed to omens that had occurred.

The 17th century is the age of Newton and Harvey and other scientists that discovered many of the scientific truths we know today. YET it was still a time where people believed in magic, witchcraft and omens. It could be a paranoid time. Today I look at some of those beliefs.

Witchcraft and Magic

Put simply in this time period, despite the growth of science people believed in Magic and in witchcraft. It was during the reign of Elizabeth I that campaigns to catch and try witches began – around 1563 and these were developed during the reign of James I. The estimate of the number of persons hanged as witches in England in the century or so of active trials was about 1,000. The first person hanged for witchcraft was Agnes Waterhouse at Chelmsford in 1566, the last was Alice Molland at Exeter in 1684.

If you were a women who was old, ugly, had warts you were at possible risk of accusation. If you fell out with a neighbour they might just call you a witch. Then the search would begin for “evidence” such a calf being still born in the area or milk turning sour.

Prince Rupert’s Demon Poodle

As an example of how much credence people might sometimes give to tales of magic and demons, in the civil war the Parliamentarians spread a rumour that Boy – Prince Rupert’s dog (prince Rupert was nephew to King Charles I) – was a demon in disguise. Pamphlets circulated claiming that he had the power to predict the future, find treasure, alter his shape and was invulnerable to bullets. Alas if he did have this power, it failed him at the battle of Marston Moor in 1644, because Boy died at that battle.


The mid 17th century was a time of great superstition and people attributed significance to omens that they saw about them. There were Solar eclipses in the southern hemisphere in 1666. Comets had been seen in the skies in 1664. There was also lunar eclipses. People it seemed were willing to believe that any apparently natural occurrence had deeper meaning. For example it was widely reported that a hen’s egg had been laid in Poland with the mark of the cross on it.

All of these – and many other occurrences circulated and were believed by many to imply that some great catastrophe was looming.


There was even a prediction made by William Lilly, the best known astrologer of his day who predicted the plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of London (1666) in 1652. Of course the year 1666 would be likely to attract such predictions due to its significance (see below) and there were many predictions that DID NOT come true that are not reported but many people suggested after the fire that his (and other) predictions were to blame.

The End of the World

‘And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.’ Revelations 13:17-18

Every few years people predict that the world will end. This year it is the turn of the Mayan Calendar to cause alarm. Many people believed that 1666 was the end of the world!! In the Book of Revelations there is this passage that says that the number of the beast - of the devil - is 666. In 1666 many people thought they were living in the year the world would end (because of that 666 bit.)

So then this is the state of belief at the time of the Great Fire.

When I read about the fire I realised that there was an opportunity here to write a novel which blended history with fantasy. Out of that thought came The Last Seal - my historical fantasy set during the Great Fire of 1666.

Thanks so much for joining us today, Richard! 


Richard has generously offered two paperbacks and two e-books to four lucky winners! 


A powerful demon has been trapped under the city of London for over 300 years. Now, however, malevolent forces are at work in the 17th century, planning to unleash terror and chaos on the world. Two rival secret societies the Liberati and the Praesidum - are caught in a battle that threatens to destroy the city and its unknowing inhabitants.

When a truant schoolboy, Ben, finds a scroll revealing the location of magical seals that bind the demon, this throws him into the centre of a dangerous plot that leads to the Great Fire of London. Ben must overcome his own problems - fear of failure, desire for revenge, guilt over his parents deaths - if he is to protect the city, and confront the evil demon.

As the plot unfolds, a little more of the mystery about Ben s own past and his parents deaths is made known. Ultimately, Ben and his friends must combat sorcery, defeat the evil Liberati and destroy the demon if they are to save their city and themselves.

Read part of the book HERE.

 To enter the giveaway, you must complete the Rafflecopter entry form below.

This giveaway open worldwide, and it will close on Saturday, March 3rd at 12:01 AM EST.

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  1. I am very impressed by Richard Denning's level of research. I have no doubt that this book will be amazing, since he's done his homework. Thanks for the giveaway!

  2. Great post - so interesting! I love the old superstitions and lore. Sometimes I think our world is a little less interesting now that so few people believe in this stuff.

  3. The book sounds very interesting. I am amazed you have found time to write a book and hold your practice. Much success with the book!


  4. I've read this book and thought it was really good. Thanks for the post!

  5. Sounds like an amazing read. Best of luck to you Richard.


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