Clarke, Brenda 1926- (Brenda Margaret Lilian Clarke, Brenda Honeyman, Kate Sedley)
Clarke, Brenda 1926- (Brenda Margaret Lilian Clarke, Brenda Honeyman, Kate Sedley)
Born July 30, 1926, in Bristol, England; daughter of Edward (an insurance agent) and Lilian Rose Honeyman; married Ronald John Clarke (a civil servant), March 5, 1955; children: Roger Stephen, Gwithian Margaret. Education: Cambridge University, school certificate, 1942. Politics: Socialist. Religion: Methodist. Hobbies and other interests: Theater, reading, history, music.
Home—Bristol, England. Agent—David Grossman Literary Agency Ltd., 118b Holland Park Ave., London W11 4UA, England.
Writer. British Civil Service, Ministry of Labour, Bristol, England, clerical officer, 1943-55; writer, 1968—. Section leader for British Red Cross, 1941-45.
Society of Authors, Wessex Writers' Association.
The Glass Island, Collins (London, England), 1978.
The Lofty Banners, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1980.
The Far Morning, Fawcett (New York, NY), 1982.
All Through the Day, Hamlyn Paperbacks (London, England), 1983.
A Rose in May, Hutchinson (London, England), 1984.
Three Women, Hutchinson (London, England), 1985.
Winter Landscape, Century Hutchinson (London, England), 1986.
Under Heaven, Transworld Publishers (London, England), 1988.
Riches of the Heart (originally published in England as An Equal Chance), Pinnacle Books (New York, NY), 1989.
Sisters and Lovers, Pinnacle Books (New York, NY), 1990.
Beyond the World, Transworld Publishers (London, England), 1991.
A Durable Fire, Bantam (London, England), 1993.
Sweet Auburn, Little, Brown (London, England), 1995.
AS BRENDA HONEYMAN; FICTION
Richard by Grace of God, R. Hale (London, England), 1968, reprinted as Richard Plantagenet, under name Brenda Clarke, Severn House (Sutton, England), 1997.
The Kingmaker, R. Hale (London, England), 1969, reprinted as Last of the Barons, under name Brenda Clarke, Severn House (Sutton, England), 1998.
Richmond and Elizabeth, R. Hale (London, England), 1970, Pinnacle Books (New York, NY), 1973.
Harry the King, R. Hale (London, England), 1971, reprinted as The Warrior King, Pinnacle Books (New York, NY), 1972, reprinted, Severn House (Sutton, England), 1998.
Brother Bedford, R. Hale (London, England), 1972.
Good Duke Humphrey, R. Hale (London, England), 1973.
The King's Minions, R. Hale (London, England), 1974.
The Queen and Mortimer, R. Hale (London, England), 1974.
Edward the Warrior, R. Hale (London, England), 1975.
All the King's Sons, R. Hale (London, England), 1976.
The Golden Griffin, R. Hale (London, England), 1976.
At the King's Court, R. Hale (London, England), 1977.
The King's Tale, R. Hale (London, England), 1977.
Macbeth, King of Scots, R. Hale (London, England), 1977.
Emma, the Queen, R. Hale (London, England), 1978.
Harold of the English, R. Hale (London, England), 1979.
HISTORICAL CRIME FICTION; AS KATE SEDLEY
Death and the Chapman, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1992.
The Plymouth Cloak, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993.
The Hanged Man, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1993.
The Holy Innocents, Headline (London, England), 1994, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1995.
The Weaver's Tale, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1994.
The Eve of Saint Hyacinth, Headline (London, England), 1995, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.
The Wicked Winter, Headline (London, England), 1996, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1999.
The Brothers of Glastonbury, Headline (London, England), 1997, St. Martin's Minotaur (New York, NY), 2001.
The Weaver's Inheritance, Headline (London, England), 1998, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2001.
The Saint John's Fern, Headline (London, England), 1999.
The Goldsmith's Daughter, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2001.
The Lammas Feast, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2002.
Nine Men Dancing, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2003.
The Midsummer Rose, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2004.
The Burgundian's Tale, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2005.
The Prodigal Son, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2006.
For King and Country, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2006.
The Three Kings of Cologne, Severn House (Sutton, England), 2007.
A number of Clarke's books have been published in German, French, and Italian.
Many of Clarke's books have been adapted for audio, including Death and the Chapman, The Hanged Man, and The Holy Innocents.
Brenda Clarke is the author of novels of both historical fiction and romantic fiction. She began her career writing historical fiction under her birth name, Brenda Honeyman, usually exploring the lives of past British royalty. In the late 1970s, however, as Clarke once commented in CA: "an agent changed the course of my writing career. Instead of ‘factional’ novels about the Middle Ages and Saxon England, [my agent] persuaded me to turn my attention to romantic fiction." Such a move "did both [Clarke] herself and her readers a great service, and turned to advantage her predilection for broad canvasses and large casts of characters," wrote Judith Rhodes in Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Fiction. At this point the author wrote under her married name, Brenda Clarke.
However, by the late 1980s Clarke had a desire to make another fictional switch, as she further explained to CA: "I felt the urge to return to my first love, historical fiction, but decided this time to combine it with one of my favourite forms of entertainment, the detective novel. The result has been a series of books, written under the pseudonym Kate Sedley, featuring Roger the Chapman, a lapsed Benedictine monk (which means he can read and write) now traveling late fifteenth-century England as a pedlar and solving various crimes as he goes. The background is the final years of the Wars of the Roses."
Thus, beginning in 1991, Clarke began writing historical crime fiction under the pseudonym of Kate Sedley. In Death and the Chapman, Clarke introduces the character of Roger the Chapman, a fifteenth-century monk turned peddler, who travels through the countryside solving crimes using his extraordinary powers of deduction. Booklist reviewer Margaret Flanagan called The Eve of Saint Hyacinth "an artfully crafted caper." In this novel, Roger the Chapman aids the Duke of Gloucester in identifying the traitor who would murder the Duke's brother, King Edward IV. In The Holy Innocents, Chapman investigates the murder of two children in a story Booklist contributor Flanagan called "another exemplary medieval mystery steeped in suspense and historical detail." A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the same book a "vividly colored tapestry of medieval English life."
Roger finds himself at odds with Brother Simeon, a fanatical friar who, like Roger, is heading to Cederwell Manor in The Wicked Winter. When they arrive, they find that Lady Cederwell has died from a fall from a tower window. Roger's task is to determine whether the death of the woman who had summoned him was an accident or whether she was pushed, possibly by her husband. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "the mystery, though it has a tendency to turn gothic, is expertly plotted." In reviewing the book for Crescent Blues Book Views online, Teri Dohmen wrote that she "enjoyed the twists and turns employed by the author to bring her readers to the ultimately satisfying conclusion."
In The Brothers of Glastonbury, Roger is commissioned by the Duke of Clarence to deliver the daughter of the duke's sergeant-at-arms to her husband-to-be. When Roger and Cicely arrive, they find that Peter has disappeared, and they go on a hunt to find the missing groom. Peter's brother, Mark, disappears as well, and Roger finds that both were involved with a manuscript that suggests the location of the Holy Grail. "Sedley deftly camouflages down-to-earth villainy with the magical dust of romance," wrote a Kirkus Reviews contributor. A Publishers Weekly reviewer commented that the author "portrays late medieval England with remarkable clarity and vividness." On the BookBrowser Web site, reviewer Harriet Klausner called The Brothers of Glastonbury "a wonderfully executed mystery." Protagonist Roger appears again in The Weaver's Inheritance. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews noted that Roger "remains an appealingly sturdy, believable hero."
Writing as Sedley, Clarke continues the adventures of her medieval detective with The Saint John's Fern, which finds Roger on the way to the Plymouth markets only to become involved in the investigation of the murder of a local businessman. Writing in Booklist, Flanagan felt this book was "another intelligent installment in a superbly crafted series." Similar praise came from a Publishers Weekly reviewer who thought The Saint John's Fern "offers a vivid picture of day-to-day life and politics in 15th-century England." In the 2001 title, The Goldsmith's Daughter, Roger travels to London where he becomes involved in royal conspiracies at the behest of the Duke of Gloucester. A critic for Kirkus Reviews wrote of this novel: "Few medieval mysteries rival Sedley's for verve, descriptive prowess, and authenticity." Likewise, a Publishers Weekly contributor noted that this "lively story [is] sure to please existing fans and attract new ones," while Booklist contributor Flanagan called the same novel "another first-rate medieval whodunit steeped in … intrigue."
The Lammas Feast once again combines historical detail with a touch of humor and mystery to present an "exceptionally well written and wonderfully entertaining" novel, according to Booklist reviewer Emily Melton. When the local baker is murdered in Bristol, Roger, working on his own rather than at the behest of the Duke of Gloucester, is fast on the trail of the culprit, despite the nay-sayings of the sheriff. Then, with the deaths of three others, Roger himself becomes a suspect and redoubles his efforts to finally find the perpetrator. A critic for Kirkus Reviews described the novel as "a tetchy, often amusing glimpse of medieval domesticity." In Nine Men Dancing, Roger is on his way back to Bristol when he overnights at a village filled with mysterious doings involving the disappearance of a local femme fatale who jilted her suitor for the man's own father. "Careful plotting, strong characters and a wealth of period detail distinguish the latest adventure of itinerant peddler and sleuth," declared a reviewer for Publishers Weekly. Similar praise came from Booklist reviewer Melton, who lauded the "detailed portrait of life in the fifteenth century, the charming hero, and the imaginative plot."
A mysterious house in Bristol, once the scene of a murder, is at the heart of The Midsummer Rose. Here the amateur sleuth Roger takes refuge from a sudden summer storm, only to be attacked and narrowly escape death. Recovering, he is amazed to discover that no one, including his usually faithful wife, believes the story of his attack. He is determined to find out what happened to him in that house, but none of the nearby residents seem to know anything about the place. Soon Roger is in almost over his clever head in a mystery involving political intrigue. Writing in Booklist, Barbara Bibel felt that Sedley "evokes the bustling atmosphere of a medieval market town well." Bibel also commented: "Fans of medieval mysteries need to know about this series." Further praise came from a Kirkus Reviews critic who concluded: "Solid work for the stolid Chapman … in a nicely drawn portrait of domestic life in medieval Bristol."
Roger loses his infant daughter and is filled with sadness at the outset of The Burgundian's Tale, but he is soon dragged out of his sorrow by an urgent message from the Duke of Gloucester: he must come to London at once to solve a murder. The victim is the son of the lady-in-waiting to the Duchess of Burgundy. The case seems inconsequential at first, but when Roger himself is attacked, he goes on the hunt with a vengeance. Melton, once again writing in Booklist, praised the author's "exuberant writing style, lively humor, larger-than-life characters, and deft touches of historical authenticity," all of which create an "appealing" tale. Similarly, a Kirkus Reviews contributor felt: "Medievalists will enjoy Roger's perambulations through the grand palaces and mean streets of London," while a Publishers Weekly reviewer had higher praise, noting that The Burgundian's Tale "is not only splendid social history but a rich and satisfactory mystery to boot." In The Prodigal Son, from 2006, Roger discovers he has a half-brother. Not only that, but he also learns that this relation is accused of a murder that took place several years earlier, so the peddler takes himself off to the scene of the crime, Croxcombe Manor, to set things right. The woman who has accused his brother is the widowed owner of the manor, and the prodigal of the title is her recently returned son, Anthony, a rake and a bounder who soon ends up dead. Roger continues to peel the layers of the secret to clear the name of his brother in this "this rollicking adventure with colorful descriptions of medieval life, gentle humor, and unexpected twists," according to Booklist contributor Melton. A Publishers Weekly reviewer also praised "the affection and color with which Sedley … depicts Merrie Olde England." And a Kirkus Reviews critic concluded: "Last-minute twists and revelations make Roger's … adventure one of his best."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Twentieth-Century Romance and Historical Novels, 3rd edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Booklist, February 15, 1995, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Holy Innocents, p. 1063; May 15, 1996, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Eve of Saint Hyacinth, p. 1573; January 1, 2001, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Brothers of Glastonbury, p. 926; December 1, 2001, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Goldsmith's Daughter, p. 634; August, 2002, Margaret Flanagan, review of The Saint John's Fern, p. 1933; October 15, 2002, Emily Melton, review of The Lammas Feast, p. 392; June 1, 2003, Emily Melton, review of Nine Men Dancing, p. 1750; June 1, 2004, Barbara Bibel, review of The Midsummer Rose, p. 1708; March 15, 2005, Emily Melton, review of The Burgundian's Tale, p. 1271; February 1, 2006, Emily Melton, review of The Prodigal Son, p. 35; August 1, 2006, Emily Melton, review of For King and Country, p. 55.
Kirkus Reviews, April 1, 1996, review of The Eve of Saint Hyacinth, p. 491; July 15, 1999, review of The Wicked Winter, p. 1090; December 1, 2000, review of The Brothers of Glastonbury, p. 1649; August 1, 2001, review of The Weaver's Inheritance, p. 1073; October 1, 2001, review of The Goldsmith's Daughter, p. 1396; July 1, 2002, review of The Saint John's Fern, p. 922; September 1, 2002, review of The Lammas Feast, p. 1270; May 15, 2004, review of The Midsummer Rose, p. 475; May 15, 2005, review of The Burgundian's Tale, p. 567; April 1, 2006, review of The Prodigal Son, p. 328.
Library Journal, February 1, 1995, Rex E. Klett, review of The Holy Innocents, p. 103; May 1, 1996, Rex E. Klett, review of The Eve of Saint Hyacinth, p. 137; November 1, 2001, Rex E. Klett, review of The Goldsmith's Daughter, p. 136.
Publishers Weekly, November 2, 1992, review of The Plymouth Cloak, p. 54; January 23, 1995, review of The Holy Innocents, p. 64; July 26, 1999, review of The Wicked Winter, p. 66; December 11, 2000, review of The Brothers of Glastonbury, p. 67; October 8, 2001, review of The Goldsmith's Daughter, p. 46; July 15, 2002, review of The Saint John's Fern. p. 58; July 28, 2003, review of Nine Men Dancing, p. 82; June 13, 2005, review of The Burgundian's Tale, p. 36; March 27, 2006, review of The Prodigal Son, p. 62.
School Library Journal, January, 1995, Penny Stevens, review of The Weaver's Tale, p. 146.
BookBrowser,http://www.bookbrowser.com/ (October 30, 2000), Harriet Klausner, review of The Brothers of Glastonbury.
Crescent Blues Book Views,http://www.crescentblues.com/ (March 6, 2001), Teri Dohmen, review of The Wicked Winter.
MyShelf.com,http://www.myshelf.com/ (February 28, 2007), Rachel A. Hyde, reviews of The Goldsmith's Daughter and The Lammas Feast.