It is 1682. Across the land, the Age of Reason has begun; scientific thought is ousting superstitious belief. The menacing days of the witchfinder have all but gone. Nevertheless, in Devon’s county town, three impoverished women are approaching the gallows, condemned to death for the crime of witchcraft. They come from the prosperous port of Byddeforde. There we find the rich merchants, the flourishing tobacco warehouses and the bustle of ships setting sail for the Newfoundland cod-banks. Yet, barely hidden, are layers of intolerance and antagonism that have built up over decades. A time of plague, of war, of religious dissent; all of which have fashioned the prejudices and fears of the town’s inhabitants.
In an alternative 2020, sixteen-year-old Martha, herself a bullies’ target, undertakes a school local history project. As she immerses herself in the lives of Bideford’s seventeenth century residents, the intertwining stories of these years are told through the eyes of real people who lived at the time. Probing the motivations and beliefs of Bideford’s seventeenth century residents, Martha comes to understand how past events might lead ordinary people to become the victims, the accusers, or the accused.
Sins as Red as Scarlet is the fictionalised but impeccably researched, unfolding of the history of a town and its inhabitants over forty tumultuous years. We follow Martha’s research as she realises that human nature does not change; intolerance and peer pressure have always exerted their power. Yet there have been and still are, those who stand aside from the bigotry and the victimisation. As the school project draws to a close, Martha finds a new resilience, enabling her to rise above those who seek to demean her.
Devon artist, Robin Paul of The Branch Line has created an amazing cover for Sins as Red as Scarlet from the vague suggestions and scribbles, that were the first ‘art’ I had produced since failing art O level not once but twice. The talented Dan Britton has composed a compelling companion song for the novel, despite the added complications of recording during lockdown. This track, together, with two others on a similar theme, is available on CD.
You can buy Sins as Red as Scarlet and the accompanying CD, from me. A random selection of those who order Sins as Red as Scarlet (RRP £9.99), directly from me, to be sent to a UK address, will receive a copy of my social history of the seventeenth century Coffers, Clysters, Comfrey and Coifs (RRP £12.95) absolutely free. These will be signed copies. You will also have the opportunity to purchase the accompanying CD for £3 (RRP £4). There will be no charge for UK postage. To order, please contact me. For those with overseas addresses, sadly, postage costs mean that I recommend that you get print on demand copies from Amazon. Kindle versions are available on Amazon. Copies are also available in Walter Henry’s Bookshop in Bideford and Ilfracombe Book Shop.
Pauline Barclay was kind enough to host me on her blog.
Winner of a Chill with a Book Award