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Kintbury author Robert Harris talks about new book at Thatcham

Bestselling author Robert Harris spoke about his new book at the 22nd Thatcham Festival.

The author discussed and signed copies of Act of Oblivion.

The story– inspired by a tweet – centres around the huge 17th-century manhunt for two figures involved in the execution of King Charles I.

Best-selling author Robert Harris spoke at Thatcham Festival
Best-selling author Robert Harris spoke at Thatcham Festival

In 1660, Charles II introduced new parliamentary legislature pardoning all anti-Royalist supporters responsible for his father’s death and urged them to come forward. Needless to say, the King’s mercy meant little.

Many Parliamentarians fled overseas to Holland, Switzerland, but two, Col Edward Whalley and his son-in-law Col William Goffe, travelled to America.

Richard Nayler, the fictitious secretary of the regicide committee of the Privy Council, was tasked with tracking down the fugitives.

Mr Harris wrote much of the book over the second lockdown and even though the story is set nine years after the English Civil War, he says the Battles of Newbury in 1643 and 1644 inspired his background research.

Mr Harris noted his dislike of political and religious certainties, hence the centrality of religion plays a key theme in his latest title, exploring the extreme puritanism which governed the period.

Discussing his writing process, Harris credited a “fear driven” approach for his success. He begins writing in January and aims to finish by June, writing at a rate of 20,000 words a month.

He wakes up at 8am, sometimes earlier, and writes until noon, after which time he walks his dog to his favourite pub, The Dundas Arms.

When asked about setting his next novel in the present day, Harris responded: “no one would believe it, you couldn’t make it up”, earning him much applause.

He further revealed that film producers were eyeing the project for a television adaptation, including the creators of Downton Abbey.

The former journalist has written 14 bestselling novels: the Cicero Trilogy- Imperium, Lustrum and Dictator– Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, The Ghost, The Fear Index, An Officer and a Spy, Conclave, Munich, The Second Sleep and V2.

He lives in Kintbury with his wife and fellow author Gill Hornby, in a house irreverently nicknamed the “house that Hitler bought” by his friends, after his success publishing Selling Hitler: The Story of the Hitler Diaries.

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