The Marchman by Nigel Tranter

A well crafted historical novel about John Maxwell, warden of the west march in the middle and latter half of the sixteenth century. The story of a man’s life in pros form.

The Debatable Land by Graham Robb

The Debatable Land, that “lost world between Scotland and England”, is part travelogue, and part history of “the bloodiest region in Great Britain, fought over by Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and James V”. Fighting is as much part of the land, as it is the people who called it home.


The Border Reiver by Nick Christofides

Feels like a Tory take on class conflict.

There’s a class conflict at the heart of the plot that reminds me a little of Terry Nation’s seventies virus thriller “Survivors”. Nation’s bad guys are all working class union leaders, imposing their collectivist ideas on the middle class survivors of the apocalypse.

Christofides takes a similar tack, as we follow his salt of the earth landowner, battling to protect his family against the ruthless socialists imposing their land reforms, and trying to steel his ancestral home.

I’m not entirely sure how any of this links to the Border Reivers, other than the location of the story. For me the reivers analogy stretches thin under the weight of contemporary political reality. When the riding families were active, raiding across the border lands of Northumberland and Cumbria, they fought and feuded, murdered and robbed, to survive harsh conditions. They were organised and ruthless, the mafia before the mafia was a thing, demanding protection from raiding, taking hostages and extorting ransoms. As likely to take up arms and fight for the King as against him. From the things I’ve read on the subject the reivers were less the lone wolf and more of a pack animal.

All of that aside, it’s a well written thriller that keeps you reading, and I liked it.

Shake Loose the Border by Robert Low

Third instalment chronicling the misadventures of the one-armed Batty Coalhouse, seasoned mercenary, sometime bounty hunter, explosives specialist, and all-round maker of trouble. The last in an engaging trilogy of books that brings a wider historical context to the mythology of the Border Reivers.

Burning the Water by Robert Low

The second thrilling instalment of the trilogy is n interesting take on reiver legends, managing to place their history and battles in a wider historical context, from Michelangelo to the Mary Rose. In this instalment Batty Coalhouse is offered the chance to take revenge on the man who took his arm, the mercenary Maramaldo.


A Dish of Spurs by Robert Low

One of the more interesting fictions I’ve read about the border reivers, a place and time where vendetta and revenge are a way of life. The one-armed Batty Coalhouse is hired by fifteen-year-old Mintie Henderson, to avenge the murder of her father.

The Candlemass Road by George MacDonald Fraser

Lady Margaret Dacre’s inheritance, on the English border with Scotland, is under threat from the “outlaw riders and feuding tribes of England’s last frontier” the border reivers. George MacDonald Fraser, the great historian of the reivers, brings a certain authenticity to a story of life among the lawless territory.

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