It is with deep sadness and regret that I’ve been informed of the death of Christine Hancock, author of the Byrhtnoth Chronicles, the spin-off Death at the Mint, and a fellow fan of all things tenth century England. I’d been aware that Christine had been unwell during 2021, but it is still devastating to know we won’t get to debate our differing interpretations of the period via email once more. So, I wanted to pay my respects and also highlight her books to those who haven’t yet discovered them, as well as offering my sincere condolences to her family.
Christine and I met in a very roundabout way, as she wrote a review on Amazon.co.uk informing me that I’d uploaded the incorrect book contents for the title. This was a huge mistake on my part, and I was grateful for the heads-up. From there, we started to communicate via twitter and email and we met at the Historical Novel Society Convention in 2018, held in Glasgow. I believe she may have photographic evidence of me falling over during the ceilidh – and I wasn’t even suffering from excess alcohol intake:)
Christine became one of my beta-readers, and likewise, I beta-read a number of her books, including Death at the Mint, a 10th century mystery which involves one of my pet loves – the coinage of Early England. But it was her passion to tell the story of a younger Ealdorman Byrhtnoth, that set her eyes on the tenth century. I know that one of the last road trips she made, was to see Byrhtnoth’s statue, in Maldon. You can read her blog post here. It sounds as though she spent some quality time with her hero, asking him a few important questions, and there’s a great photo of her looking up at Byrhtnoth’s statue.
Ealdorman Byrhtnoth is famous for his death, and for it occurring because he was just too honourable to fight the Viking Raiders on rough ground. It was how Byrhtnoth became that man of honour, that Christine hoped to explore in her books. In the four books, we encounter Byrhtnoth as a young boy, trying to discover the identity of his father and forge his path, tangling with some of the mid-tenth century Saxon kings along the way, and making himself a few enemies. He even ends up in Orkney, my favourite place to visit.
For my most recent 20th century mystery – The Automobile Assassination – Christine informed me that her mother had been one of those people who had devised route plans for the unwary traveller. In the past, AA members could write to the AA and ask for directions (remember, this is before the Internet). And this so amused me, because someone else had told me of just such a hellish journey they’d made at the instigation of an AA route planner, travelling from Kent to North Wales, avoiding all the motorways, when they were a small boy (which is what they’d asked for). I did hope that Christine’s mother hadn’t been the person responsible for providing such a route.
Christine’s insights into my books were invaluable, and I’m so grateful for the time she put in to reading my stories and helping me improve them. I’ll miss learning more about ‘her’ Bryhtnoth, and wish that we had managed to work together on a story about the Staffordshire Hoard, as we once discussed.
If you would like to read more about Bryhtnoth, please do check out Christine’s books, and if you have stories to share, then please do so. In this ‘virtual’ world of historical fiction writers, we don’t always get to connect in person, but we still know one another very well. And, if you fancy reading about Byrhtnoth, book 1 is only 99p on Amazon.co.uk.
And, on a final note, to Christine, thank you for sharing your stories with me. They will live on in my memory, just as Ealdorman Bryhtnoth does.
(I have ‘borrowed’ Christine’s banner from her blog. It is her image.)