On their way to a great feast hosted by the de Courtenays, Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King's Peace, and Bailiff Simon Puttock pass by a clearing in the woods where they find the murdered corpse of Sir Gilbert, a Knight Templar and old comrade of Baldwin's. The situation is confounded when a decapitated body is found, and Baldwin and Simon's suspicions that the two deaths are linked seem to be well-founded when Baldwin himself is viciously attacked. Baldwin and Simon find themselves caught up in one of the most baffling investigations they have ever come upon, in which the participators will stop at nothing to achieve their sinister aims...
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. Â 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!