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The Sticklepath Strangler (Medieval West Country Mysteries) Paperback – 5 Jun 2002


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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Headline; New Ed edition (5 Jun 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747267243
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747267249
  • Product Dimensions: 12.4 x 2.6 x 18.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 557,582 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Who is this guy Jecks?

Michael was a moderate student and early on, being a callow youth, decided on a career as an actuary. This decision was based solely on the fact that he heard it was the highest paid profession. Well, he had a father who was one, and a brother, too, but the money certainly helped.
Not realizing that a standard definition of an actuary is "someone who finds accountancy too exciting", he achieved the relevant grades at A level and wandered off to City University, London. There, he excelled - as bar chairman - but not at actuarial studies. Firmly convinced that his course was incomprehensible (Life & Other Contingencies? Advanced Statistics? Programming in Pascal?) and other parts were designed by knaves, cretins and the criminally insane (Economics), he left the course after failing every exam for two years.

With the glittering example of a second, unqualified, brother who earned very good money, had a bonus scheme, free car, free petrol, expense account and free holiday each year, Michael decided to follow this brother into computer sales.
Joining one company selling "office automation" from the back of Gray's Inn Road (typewriters), he soon progressed to a company selling personal computers. Especially the ACT Sirius. He left and set up a division of PC sales for City of London Computer Services, only to lose his job when a second partner, who didn't believe PCs would take off, returned from a long holiday.
Following that, Michael went to a new start-up to help form Electronic Office Services. When that firm collapsed (with one director disappearing, apparently to the Bahamas with all the company's money), Michael was left without a job.
He saw an advert for an interview with a company called Wordplex, and went to see the company at an open day in a London hotel. After a lengthy interview process, which involved five formal meetings, he was accepted.
Later he heard he had been taken on because he was "the only twenty-one year old I've ever seen turn up to a job interview smoking a pipe, you berk" - (Dick Houghton, Regional Director, Wordplex, 1981).
For the next four years, Michael sold Wordplex systems as one of a hundred salesmen in the UK. He was consistently one of the top salespeople in the country, and as a result was headhunted to join Wang Laboratories in 1985.
Wang was a challenging company. All salespeople who did not achieve their monthly targets at least once in every three months were summarily dismissed. Michael survived until 1990, when Wang collapsed, and Michael took a job with Rank Xerox. This interesting job involved selling equipment that was roughly eight years out of date. There he lasted six months before being asked to join NBI, a Colorado-based firm created by ingesters of certain illegal substances, who (out of respect for the success of IBM, ICL, NCR and ACT) named their business: Nothing But Initials.
The company closed their international operations three months after Michael joined them.
At a loose end once more, Michael looked to a job with a more secure future. Thus it was that he entered the leasing business. At the time no leasing salesman could earn less than £100,000 per annum. Michael joined a new firm called Celsius Computer Services, and in the first three months sold £1.25 million of business. Then Atlantic Leasing crashed and the entire market fell with it. Michael was unemployed without redundancy - again.
Moving to safer shores with software sales, Michael joined IBM's largest software supplier, Bluebird. They went bust a year later (owing him a lot).

Out of Computing, Into Writing
It was a while later, after 13 jobs in 13 years, that Michael finally took the hint. He found himself at the beginning of 1994 once more without a job, and so he sat down to decide on a new course. He had no qualifications, but he knew he loved reading. With that conviction, he began to write, becoming a full-time homeworker while his wife went to work and supported their (exorbitant) mortgage.
Those were interesting times.
In three months, Michael worked seven days a week, fourteen hours a day. In that time he wrote a modern day thriller, a management book on how to get work when made redundant (he had experience of that) and a historical crime novel that was to become The Last Templar.
The thriller was snapped up by Bantam over the phone - and rejected two days later in writing because it was all about the IRA, and they had just agreed their first ceasefire. The second book was rejected by his agent because her husband had recently left her for an IBM Systems Engineer. She wanted nothing to do with books about computers or computer people, and if Michael's book could help them find contentment and employment, she was content to see it burned.

Since 1995 and the launch of The Last Templar, Michael has been a persistent and prolific author. City of Fiends was the 31st story in the series that follows the lives of Sir Baldwin de Furnshill, a renegade Templar, and his friend Bailiff Simon Puttock through the miserable period of famine, war and disease that was the first half of the fourteenth century.
The series is the first to tell the tale of that time.
It charts the incompetent reign of King Edward II, the appalling avarice and criminality of his chief advisers, Sir Hugh le Despenser and (sadly) Bishop Walter II of Exeter; then the war against France and the desertion of Edward by his wife Isabella, and her return with a small army to remove him from the throne.
However it is not merely a crime series. The whole of the Kingdom was changing: after fifty years the language of authority stopped being French and became English; the feudal system was broken; farming was becoming efficient and organised; new towns were springing up - and the king was losing control of law-making and even war-making. It was probably the period in which England changed the most, apart from perhaps the fifty years post World War II.

Over the years, the series has sold well in the UK and America, with translations into Dutch, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Italian, and many other countries.
In America it has been taken on by many schools as a means of imparting accurate social history. It has revived interest in Edward II's reign, and has made Michael friends all across the globe.
With the publication of Templar's Acre in 2013, which was a prequel to the series, Michael felt it was time to take a break. As a result, he wrote ACT OF VENGEANCE, a modern day spy thriller, which received the comment from Lee Child who said it was "An instant classic British spy novel - mature, thoughtful, and intelligent ... but also raw enough for our modern times.  Highly recommended."

Michael has made many friends with authors in the medieval period. He founded Medieval Murderers as a performance group, and soon had the idea that the group should write a collaborative novel. This collection of linked novellas was published as Tainted Relic by Simon & Schuster. DEADLIEST SIN is the tenth anniversary edition, published in 2014
As well as the Templar Series and Medieval Murderers, Michael has compiled ebook collections of his short stories. FOR THE LOVE OF OLD BONES and NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM have all the short stories previously published in collections from Maxim Jakubowski, Mike Ashley and the Crime Writers' Association.
Michael is now writing a thrilling trilogy based on the lives of a vintaine (platoon) of archers during the early years of the Hundred Years War. FIELDS OF GLORY, the first, was published in 2014.

Michael has long had an interest in helping new writers, and for two years he organised the Debut Dagger for the Crime Writers' Association, helping five authors win their first publishing contracts as a result.
In 2004 he was elected as Chairman of the CWA, and afterwards he accepted a post as judge on the CWA/Ian Fleming Steel Dagger award, on which he served for three years. More recently he has been working with the International Thriller Writers and in 2011 he helped create the Historical Writer's Association, and remains on the organising committee.
In 2007 Michael was proud to be asked to collaborate with Conway Stewart to produce the Michael Jecks fountain pen. Other honours include being invited as the International Guest of Honour at the Bloody Words gala 2014, to being the Grand Master of the first parade of the 2014 Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

Michael is a regular speaker about the Knights Templar, the end of the Kingdom of Jerusalem, about writing and publishing, and about finding work. He is also keen to help those who are now going through the latest recession. He endured enough hardship, and lost all his savings, during the last recession, and understands what it means to risk losing everything.

An enthusiastic photographer and watercolourist, Michael can often be seen walking across Dartmoor where he lives, gaining inspiration into the lives of our ancestors for his stories. When relaxing he can usually be found clad in white in a pub near you before dancing mad stick Morris.

For more on Michael Jecks, check out writerlywitterings.com, look him up at writerlywitterings on YouTube, check his pictures on Flickr.com/photos/Michael_Jecks, like his page on FaceBook, or check for him on Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and all other social media!

Product Description

Review

'Michael Jecks has a way of dipping into the past and giving it the immediacy of a present-day newspaper article...He writes...with such convincing charm that you expect to walk round a corner in Tavistock and meet some of the characters...Jecks writes with passion and historical accuracy. Devon and Cornwall do not seem the same after reading his dramatic tales' Oxford Times

Book Description

Sir Baldwin Furnshill and Simon Puttock battle ghosts and vampires in medieval England in the twelfth thrilling novel in the Knights Templar series

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L. J. Roberts TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 20 Mar 2010
Format: Hardcover
First Sentence: They were out there.

It started with the death of young girls, and the accusation of cannibalism, the murder of an innocent man and his curse on the village. Now a young girl's skull has been found and Sir Baldwin de Fernshill, Keeper of the King's Peace, Bailiff Simon Puttock and Coroner Roger de Gidleigh travel to the village of Sticklepath; a place of death and secrets. The death toll keeps rising.

Jecks is so good at not only establishing a sense of time and place, but creating an atmosphere. The depth and extent of his research is always evident.

He clearly expresses the hardship and cruelty of life from disease, nature, as well as the abuses by those in power and the extent to which the desperate can be driven. In spite of the power of the Catholic Church over people lives, this is still a time of superstition and fear of witches and spirits. Jecks' Author's Notes at the beginning of the book are informative and interesting.

Having a Cast of Characters is such an asset and I'm glad Jecks included it. Even without it, the characters are distinctive and memorable, particularly the two protagonists; Baldwin and Simon. They are friends but, due to their backgrounds and experiences, very different in outlook and attitude. Baldwin is an ex-Templar knight and who's experiences have resulted in his being more accepting and open minded. This book is filled with characters, quite a few are very unpleasant, yet I never identified the killer.

This brings me to the plot. In some ways, I found it so depressing, it was hard to get through. If anything I felt Jecks was so caught up in bringing the period to life, he lost the tautness of the story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lesley on 10 Feb 2013
Format: Paperback
An intricate story, historically accurate, and a cracking who done it mystery. Michael certainly hits the mark with this tale. I thoroughly enjoyed it and love the series of books. Waiting to get this one on my kindle, as I've already got the paperback. Can't wait to sit by a pool, in the sunshine, reading about Devon and it's harsh moors. 10/10 from me, a real winner.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
really it was a struggle to finish it, I am a huge fan of historical fiction and love the medieval period, however I really struggled to get into this book and did not feel any draw towards the characters.. I didn't enjoy the what I felt was slightly disjointed style of writing at all. I guess Michael Jeck's just isn't for me. the delivery and quality of the book however were fantastic.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Claire Simmonds on 10 Feb 2012
Format: Paperback
This was the first Jecks novel I'd come across after having it lent to me. It was a great introduction and I now can't wait to read the whole series! It was easy to read, the characters were well crafted, the dialogue believable with any anachronisms used sparingly and to good effect. The plot was superb. The revelation was a total surprise - rather unsettling. No-one in this novel is what they seem. All the twists and turns were remarkably well-handled, with several red herrings and lots of revelations associated with various characters.
It didn't bother me that there were a few small references to the book that preceded this one in the series. Although a murder was briefly mentioned there were no spoilers - if anything it's simply made me want to read it. There is clearly no need to read the series in order, the description of the main recurring characters are solid and realistic enough without needing to jump straight back to book 1.
Some reviewers were unhappy with some of the themes covered. True, the butchering of children and cannibalism aren't the nicest of topics, but the description of the bodies was not unnecessarily gruesome or disrepectful, and I felt that the consequences of the murders was dealt with well, especially the reactions of the villagers. In the 13th century people were genuinely god-fearing, and their belief would not let them contemplate the fact that 'one of them' could kill and eat children, so naturally they were convinced something supernatural would have to have been involved. Their system of 'justice' shown at the beginning of the story would surely have been a natural reaction true of the time, especially during famine, but barbaric and unfair to us today.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. C. M. L. Wheeler on 31 Jan 2007
Format: Paperback
We have read 12 of the first books in the Templar Mysteries, and both of us think the Sticklepath Strangler is one of the best. As usual, you don't really know the culprit until the last few pages. A really great read. We plan to read the remaining books in the series.
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