The novel opens with the Battle of Brookland on 11 February 1821. The Coast Blockade interrupted an attempted landing at Camber, engaged the smugglers in fierce fighting and then drove them inland across the bleak landscape of Welland Marsh.
from the novel A DEVIL'S DOZEN by Marian Newell.
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For ten years the Blues and the Burmarsh Gang fought each other and the Excise Men over the lucrative smuggling trade in Kent. The rivalry was bitter and the stakes were high. When the Excise Men caught the gang landing brandy at Welland more than 300 men were involved in the savage firefight that followed, and 25 men ended spread in a bloody mess on the marsh.
Behind the scenes the feud between the two leading smugglers, George Ransley and James Hogben, is played out in deadly earnest. While their men grow rich, get married or gamble away thier loot, the intense struggle between Ransley and Hogben follows a twisted route through bloodshed, treachery and unsurpassed wealth as the men struggle to control the huge wealth to be gained by being the only smuggling gang supplying goods to the London market.
In this novel, Newel tells in gripping language of the passions and excitement of the days when smugglers ruled the night and law abiding folk hid indoors as the carts and wagons rolled by in the moonlight.
Meticulously researched and based on contemporary court papers and other records, “A Devil’s Dozen” recreates the vanished world of the smugglers and the deadly feud between the leading smugglers that would eventually tear the brotherhood apart and send the smugglers to the gallows or to convict settlements in Australia.
Marian Newell became a technical author in 1986 and started her own writing business with her partner in 1998, through which she covers a wide range of subjects from horticulture to software. Having grown up in the Weald of Kent, she has many childhood memories of the Cinque Ports and their lurid smuggling folklore. She first encountered the Aldington Gang, known as the Blues, while researching her family history. Her great-great-grandfather was a Ransley who emigrated to Canada and disappeared mysteriously, into the stomach of a bear or the arms of another woman according to rumour.
Finding the story of the Blues more thrilling than her ancestry, Marian set out to imagine the drama around events in Aldington in the 1820s. There was plenty of source material, from local historian John Douche’s books of the 1980s to official records, witness statements, newspaper reports and personal journals of the day. Her novel tells the story of the central thirteen men, the Devil’s Dozen of the title, not as it was — something we can never know — but as it might have been.