by Lorie Lewis Ham
& Jeri Westerson
This week we have a review of Jeri Westerson’s new Crispin Guest Medieval Noir book Blood Lance, a special guest blog by Jeri about knights, and information on Jeri’s Book Launch event at Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach, 2810 Artesia Blvd., on October 16 at 7:30 p.m.! Phone 310-542-6000. Jeri’s book launches are always a lot of fun!
Also, you can enter to win a copy of Blood Lance-details at the end of this post. And if you purchase a copy of Blood Lance from the link at the end of this article, a portion of all sales of this book using the link below to Mysterious Galaxy, will go to Cat House On The Kings cat rescue in Parlier, CA.
If you can’t attend the event, you can also use the purchase link to get a signed copy of the book!
Blood Lance by Jeri Westerson
Review by Lorie Lewis Ham
Ever since I first discovered Jeri Westerson’s Medieval Noir series featuring the Tracker Crispin Guest, I have been a big fan. I have always loved knights and sword fights and of course mystery–so when you can put all that together I am a happy reader.
Crispin Guest was once a knight–misfortune and a charge of treason took all that away from him, so to survive he took his skills and became a Tracker–which is basically a Medieval detective. Guest finds things for a price, and sometimes those “things” are murderers. He is aided in his work by his young apprentice Jack.
In Blood Lance, Crispin is returning home late one night when he sees a body falling from the uppermost reaches of London Bridge. Guest attempts to save the man to no avail, as the man is already dead. At first it is ruled a suicide, but this doesn’t feel right to Crispin. When he is hired by the man’s fiancée to find out the truth, he sets out on a quest that is far more dangerous than he ever imagined. He is also soon hired by a man who was once his friend to find a mysterious relic that had been in the possession of the dead man who was an armourer. This relic is said to make the bearer unbeatable in battle.
To further complicate things, another old friend Geoffrey Chaucer, is also interested in finding this relic and Crispin isn’t quite sure of his motives for doing so. And to add even more complications to the story, Crispin begins to have feelings for the young woman, and it is possible that things are even worse than they first appear, possibly even putting the safety of England at stake.
Crispin is a wonderful and very multifaceted character. He is haunted by his past and tortured by his current state in life–so very much below his position as a knight. And while at times he looks as though he is going to put money and survival above all else, his past code of honor never allows him to do so. Crispin is a man stuck between two worlds and never really belonging to either. I enjoy seeing his character develop as much as I enjoy the many complicated twists and turns of the story and the wonderful setting.
If you love a well constructed mystery, great characters, and a wonderful and unique setting, these are the books for you. Let yourself be taken back in time to the age of ladies, knights, and kings, while enjoying storylines such as discrimination, jealousy, and greed that are still relevant to today.
I highly recommend Blood Lance, and all of the past Crispin Guest mysteries.
Days and Knights
By Jeri Westerson
I work days…and knights. That is, I’m thinking about them all the time. Mostly because my protagonist in my medieval mystery series is a disgraced knight. And also because…well, I just like thinking about them.
But what exactly is a knight and what did it mean to call yourself one?
The origins of knighthood began around the 11th century. The idea more or less began in France, had to do with warfare, and eventually was only for the elite. But it started out with the horse. In French, the word for horse is “cheval.” And a horsemen was a “chevalier.” This also gives us the word “chivalry,” which originally meant a group of these horsemen, as in “the chivalry of France rode off to war.” Later, the word “chivalry” embraced the idea of a set of virtues and a warrior culture. But that was later. In the 11th century, we are talking thugs on horses.
The Church was not keen on this kind of violence. Warfare was about fighting for selfish, worldly reasons and that didn’t go along with the Christian teaching of loving your fellow man.
But by the time the crusades rolled around in 1095, the Church changed its tune. It’s not okay for Christian nations to fight each other, but it was all right to smite the infidel. Even St. Bernard of Clairevaux wrote, “It is not without reason that the soldier of Christ carries a sword; it is for the chastisement of the wicked for the glory of the good.” So much for loving your fellow man.
By the 12th century, knighthood was being reserved for the elite. No more thugs on horses. Kings were granting them land and you know what happens when you become a respectable landowner. You start to worry about collecting taxes from tenants and paying them to your king. By the end of the century, even nobles and the kings wanted to be knighted.
Now it’s taking on the trappings of elaborate religious rituals, with a fast and a vigil and a pompous ceremony followed by a big party, more or less like a bar mitzvah. This is the coming of age for most young lords now. And by the way, it’s bloody expensive being a knight. Not only is your full harness expensive (armor, mail, helm, weapons) but you need a suite of horses to maintain. You need your warhorse—a larger, heavier beast for battle—a riding horse called a palfrey for getting from town to town, and a rouncey, your all-purpose horse, mostly used for carrying baggage. And your squire needs a horse and a baggage horse and maybe you have attendants. That’s your responsibility to supply those.
Warfare was an important aspect of the medieval culture. It’s all about showing your strength and keeping the reins of power in your hand, and age old disputes about borders. And it was sometimes about accumulating wealth. And all this meant showing the other guy that you were strong enough, brave enough, and well armed enough to do it.
And young. If you were going to be trained as a knight, you might be fostered into the household of another noble family and serve as a page by age seven. When you were a bit older you could serve as a squire while continuing your own training.
You could be knighted by the king or your lord when you were as young as seventeen or eighteen and then off to war with you! Can you imagine a gang of young toughs let loose in the countryside with horses and weapons? Can you say “rape and pillage”? Testosterone and weapons? Really, not a good combination.
At any rate, the warrior class was important for securing boundaries and settling disputes, for protection of individual lands and the general running of the country.
It wasn’t all swords and savages. This courtly class developed the idea of chivalry and courtly love. Notions of fairness and courtesy—though not always put into practice or in the way we appreciate them today—had their start in the Middle Ages. In fact, the word “courtesy” stems from how you behave at court as well as the word “curtsy” for how you behaved at court to one’s betters. Courtly love stemmed from the virtuous rules of chivalry and was a notion borrowed from the Saracen (Muslim) people the knights encountered and killed during the Crusades. This was a kind of unattainable love for a virtuous maiden or virtuous married woman which quickly degenerated into adultery on a poetic level. So it was very much like stalking, only with poetry.
We can’t get away from the notion of a “knight.” There is the Dark Knight, Batman, stalking the streets of Gotham; white knights, the guys who are supposed to sweep us off our feet and take us away from all our troubles; Knights of The Roundtable—mythical King Arthur’s guys. They all represent an ideal, a vision of masculine strength, honor, and nobility. Something romantic.
My ex-knight, Crispin Guest, represents the best and the worst of his knightly class. Heroic, loyal, honorable, he maintains this code even though he was cast from court. In my latest novel Blood Lance, Crispin witnesses a body hurtling from the uppermost reaches of London Bridge. While whispers on the street claim that it was a suicide, Crispin knows otherwise. And then a friend from Crispin’s former life, Sir Thomas, is accused of desertion and Crispin must find a lost relic Sir Thomas supposedly purchased from the dead man that will make him unbeatable in battle, the legendary Spear of Longinus. And then there is Crispin, caught between rebellious factions in King Richard’s court, Spanish spies, an old friend’s honor, and the true ownership of the spear, when it all culminates in a deadly joust on London Bridge.
To enter to win a copy of Blood Lance, simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Lance”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 20, 2012. U.S. residents only.
Click here to order Blood Lance & a portion of the sales goes to Cat House On The Kings animal rescue.