Monday, 16 July 2012

A Devil's Dozen - The setting of the novel

We are in Kent, an English county that extends south-east from London to the coast.
There is a belief amongst the coastal population of Kent and Sussex that the Cinque Ports of Hastings, New Romney, Hythe, Dover and Sandwich are exempt from taxes and tolls. An ancient charter to this effect is used to justify the smuggling of uncustomed goods such as spirits and tobacco.
The South Kent smugglers work the coast from the Sussex border eastwards to Deal. Many of the men live in the farming villages along the northern fringes of the coastal marshes. Their base, and the place after which the gang will eventually be named, is Aldington.

About the book
Violence, love, loyalty and betrayal among the smugglers who once terrorised the coasts of southern England. The true tale of the Aldingston Blues Gang retold as a gripping novel.

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 their 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, Newell 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. 

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