Friday, November 6, 2015

Guest Post - The History and Legend Behind Spirit of the Highway + GIVEAWAY

Yesterday I was thrilled to share a review with you of a lovely historical fiction: Spirit of the Highway by Deborah Swift

01_Spirit of the Highway

Today I am even more excited to have Deborah here at One Book Shy with a piece giving us an insight into the actual history behind the story. Welcome Deborah!


The History and Legend Behind ‘Spirit of the Highway’         by Deborah Swift

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas…’

So opens the Alfred Noyes poem, The Highwayman.

I loved that poem at school, and have remembered the opening lines ever since I was nine years old! So when I read about Lady Katherine Fanshawe – the noblewoman who was also a highwaywoman, I could hardly resist researching her fascinating life!  Whilst uncovering Katherine’s story I found that the real history and the legend did not always agree. For one thing, there are discrepancies about Katherine’s date of death and place of burial, and little survives of hard-core evidence as to her activities during the English Civil War.

Despite the legend, there is actually nothing of substance to link Lady Katherine with any sort of highway robbery, although it is likely that there was robbery and plunder on the roads at this period because of civil unrest; crimes that could have been attributed to her.

The legend however is irresistible. Two films have been based on the idea, both called ‘The Wicked Lady’, in 1945 and 1983. There was also another novel; The Life and Death of the Wicked Lady Skelton, loosely based on Katherine’s life. The fact that the legend has survived so long is a testament to its appeal.

But could I re-imagine it, paying attention to the facts whilst keeping true to the interest of the legend? Could I keep her exploits as a highwaywoman?

For my story I have drawn on both her real life, and aspects of the legend. Nowhere in the real history is Katherine’s lover, Ralph Chaplin, traceable, although he always features in the retelling of the legend as the person who persuaded her to robbery in the first place. For a novelist, these gifts of mysterious characters with no background fuel the imagination, and Ralph features in my novel and Spirit of the Highway is his story, told from his point of view. Of course I have tried to make him as real as possible, and, as many young men were at that time, excited to try new idealistic ways of living, following the break-down of the established order. Unfortunately I cannot escape the fact that he comes to a tragic end, although his restless spirit still wanders to protect his one true love!

I was concerned however, to pay attention to the real evidence, and – without giving too much away, to supply likely scenarios which could have led to the interpretation we have today. John Barber, on his excellent website on Lady Katherine, poses the idea that her life may have accrued some of the story of ‘Maude of Allinghame’ (1833), a Victorian ballad that tells the story of a noblewoman who robs a young suitor and later the Mayor of Redbourne. This seems to be a likely possibility, although parts of Katherine’s legend are undoubtedly true. She was forced to marry tragically early; her stepfather did squander her fortune; the real Markyate Manor does have a secret passage.


Suffice it to say, there is plenty of highway action in Spirit on the Highway – muskets, moonlight and a restless ghost.

About the Author

02_Deborah Swift

Deborah Swift is the author of three previous historical novels for adults, The Lady’s Slipper, The Gilded Lily, and A Divided Inheritance, all published by Macmillan/St Martin’s Press, as well as the Highway Trilogy for teens (and anyone young at heart!). Her first novel was shortlisted for the Impress prize for new novelists. She lives on the edge of the beautiful and literary English Lake District - a place made famous by the poets Wordsworth and Coleridge.




Thank you so much for sharing this with us Deborah. It is fascinating to see where the characters and tales are rooted. I also loved "The Highwayman" when I first heard it as a kid!

Readers, if you missed the review and spotlight yesterday, you can check it out HERE. You also still have plenty of time to enter the giveaway below - it ends tonight!!

    The Spirit of the Highway is available now at: 


Along with the first book in the series:


Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, October 26 Guest Post at Passages to the Past 

Tuesday, October 27 Review at Book Nerd 
Spotlight & Excerpt at Let Them Read Books 

Wednesday, October 28 Review at History From a Woman's Perspective 

Thursday, October 29 Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book 

Monday, November 2 Review at The Maiden's Court 

Tuesday, November 3 Spotlight & Excerpt at Brooke Blogs 

Thursday, November 5 Review at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf

Friday, November 6 Review at Bookramblings 
Review at Just One More Chapter 
Guest Post at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf


To win a signed paperback of Spirit of the Highway please enter the giveaway via the GLEAM form below. Three copies up for grabs! 

Rules – Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on November 6th. You must be 18 or older to enter. – Giveaway is open internationally. – Only one entry per household. – All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion – Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen. 

enter here: >>>>> Spirit of the Highway

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~~~~~ Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own.  I do not receive monetary compensation for my reviews but do utilize affiliate links.  I may receive books in  order to facilitate a review, but this does not guarantee a good review - only a completely honest one.  Each review post denotes how I obtained the book.


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