Book: The Bitter Trade by Piers Alexandercategories: Book, Adventure, 17th Century, Conspiracy, Coffee, Treason, Coffeehouse, Silk, Gold, Glorious Revolution, Cromwell, London, Historical Fiction
Piers Alexanderabout this book: England, 1688: Ambitious Calumny Spinks is a redheaded, half-French outsider . When his father's violent past resurfaces, Cal becomes a London coffee racketeer - but his ambition and talent for mimicry pull him into a conspiracy against the King himself.
I'd been researching the late seventeenth century for months when Calumny appeared in the pages of my diary - ambitious, troublemaking, devious and lusty. I'd planned to write about a Scots philosophy student who gets involved in duelling clubs (well, I still might!), with Cal as a minor character, but he just demanded to have his story told. I still wasn't sure when his story was set, though... but sitting outside the wonderful London Library, which is like the set of a C18 novel itself, I saw a statue of William III astride a great horse, and realised that the Glorious Revolution was the perfect background to a story of tough women, treason, craftsmanship and greed.
The Bitter Trade has two meanings: it's the coffee trade, but it also means the dark reality of pretending to be something you're not, of embracing violence to get what you want. I always thought of it as an adventure story - only when it was nearly finished did I realise that I was exploring my own family's history of craftsmanship and Huguenot migration.
To me, it's interesting that two different audiences have responded well to it: a more female, literary-oriented audience, and also more traditional (and more male) historical adventure readers.
2014 Global Ebook Awards - Bronze Winner: Historical Literature Fiction – Modern
• "A fantastic debut novel" — Robert Elms, BBC Radio
• "A fun and entertaining read. This is an excellent debut novel by a talented author. Piers Alexander will be a writer to watch." — The Historical Novel Society
• "A dazzling, playful historical adventure" — Rebecca Swift, Chair of the PEN Factor Jury
preview: read a sample from this book
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