Saturday afternoon saw an historical event take place in Norwich Cathedral. Those present were honoured to hear the author C J Sansom in conversation with his friend and fellow author William Shaw.
This event, hosted by Norwich School, Jarrold, and Pan Macmillan, was special for several reasons; CJ Sansom has been undergoing treatment for cancer for some time, and this was his first appearance in public for a number of years. For the Norwich audience the event was particularly exciting as the novel under discussion, Tombland, the seventh in the highly-acclaimed Shardlake series, is set in Norwich, and sees the lawyer Shardlake staying at the Maid’s Head hotel and visiting numerous Norwich landmarks, including the Cathedral and Castle, the Market, Mousehold Heath, and many more.
Following a welcome by the Dean of Norwich and introductions from the Head Master of Norwich School, the ensuing conversation between the two authors was comfortable and relaxed, so that the audience felt as though they were listening to two friends chatting, rather than a discussion in front of a capacity audience of over 720 attendees.
Set in the time of Kett’s Rebellion in 1549, C J Sansom provided some background to the historic period in which events in the book unfold and talked about how the main character in the book, Matthew Shardlake, acts as the interpreter of this era for the modern reader. He spoke of the organisation of Kett’s camps, and the research that he undertook in order to write the book, including trips to Norwich and walks across Mousehold Heath.
Much to the delight of the Dean of Norwich, C J Sansom read an extract from the book, where Shardlake is awed by the magnificence of the Norwich Cathedral, and compares it favourably with Westminster Abbey and even York Minster. To much amusement, the Norfolk dialect of Tudor time came under scrutiny, and C J Sansom expressed his fondness for the Norfolk dialect, which he described as unique, complex, and interesting.
C J Sansom confessed to his desire to write a further book in the series, but explained that any future Shardlake novels would need to be shorter due to his health and the emotional investment involved in writing a novel.
Feedback from the audience and the organisers was very positive. The unique combination of author and venue made this a unique experience for all involved.