Sins as Red as Scarlet: the true story of a Devon town in turmoil

3d and Kindle

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.


Here I am reading a few extracts on title/cover reveal day.

Pauline Barclay was kind enough to host me on her blog.

I am now taking pre-orders for Sins as Red as Scarlet and the accompanying CD. The first 500 people who pre-order Sins as Red as Scarlet (RRP £9.99), to be sent to a UK address, by 28 August 2020, 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. They will also have the opportunity to purchase the accompanying CD for £3 (RRP £4). There will be no charge for UK postage. To pre-order, please contact me. For those with overseas addresses, sadly, postage costs mean that I recommend that you wait and get print on demand copies from Amazon after the launch. Kindle versions will also be available on Amazon from 29 August. Hopefully the audio book version of my previous novel Barefoot on the Cobbles will be released on the same day. This is being produced by the wonderful team at Circle of Spears.

As the event at which I intended to launch Sins as Red as Scarlet has been cancelled, I will be conducting a virtual launch on Saturday 29 August 2020. This will include a free Zoom presentation at 2.00pm (BST), describing the research behind the book. Please contact me for details of how to register. If this email address bounces, or if you do not get a reply within 48 hours, please keep trying, or use an alternative email address.  There will be other events to be added, so please watch this space.


I will be selling copies at all my face-to-face talks after the launch but larger events and talks specifically about the research are listed below.

29 August 2020 Virtual Launch including a free Zoom presentation Sins as Red as Scarlet: researching the story of a C17th town at 2.00pm (BST), describing the research behind the book. Please contact me for details of how to register.

12 September 2020 Sales and signings at  Plymouth 1620: place, the people, the evidence conference

1 October 2020 Sins as Red as Scarlet: researching the story of a C17th town Westward Ho! WI

3 October 2020 Sales and signings at Devon Family History Society Conference

6 February 2021 Sins as Red as Scarlet: researching the story of a C17th town Barnstaple History Group

29 August 2021 Mayflower International Genealogical Conference, Plymouth