Guest Post from Ally Sherrick Author of Black Powder

thumbnail_black-powder-jacketSummary from Goodreads

England, 1605. 12-year-old Tom must save his father from hanging. He falls in with a mysterious stranger – the Falcon – who promises to help him in exchange for his service. But on the long journey to London, Tom discovers the Falcon’s true mission – and a plot to blow up Parliament with barrels of black powder. Tom faces a terrible decision: secure his father’s release, or stop the assassination of the king …

Paperback, 368 pages
Published August 4th 2016 by Chicken House

Gunpowder, Treason and Plotting

Ally Sherrick, author of historical adventure Black Powder, talks about the real Gunpowder Plot and how it helped inspire her story.

Black Powder is a story. But like all stories, it contains truths as well as fiction. The Gunpowder Plot was a serious attempt by a band of desperate men to blow up King James I of England and his Parliament in a bid to return England to the Catholic faith. If they had succeeded, they would have changed the course of British history.

The idea for the story was first sparked by a visit I made to the ruins of Cowdray Park, a Tudor palace in West Sussex, and my discovery that a certain Mr Guy Fawkes had worked there once as a footman.

I was intrigued. And it didn’t take long for a whole bunch of ‘What ifs?’ to start buzzing around inside my head. What if, years later, Guy Fawkes returns from his time as a soldier abroad and stashes a secret supply of gunpowder at Cowdray? What if, when he comes to collect it for a deadly project he and his friends have planned, he has a chance encounter with a young boy on a desperate mission of his own? And then, what if he agrees to take the boy with him back to London?

I knew very little about the Gunpowder Plot, except the brief outline I had learnt years ago at school. But the more I researched it, the more I realized it had all the elements of a brilliant adventure story – some of which you really couldn’t make up if you tried!

First and foremost there’s the cast of compelling, larger-than-life characters. The charismatic leader Robert Catesby who already had ‘form’ having been involved in a plot against Queen Elizabeth I’s advisers. And Guy Fawkes, a tall, strong, courageous ex-soldier who knew how to light a ‘slow train’ of gunpowder. Then there’s Robert Cecil, the King’s chief minister and spymaster. Nicknamed ‘the fox’, he controlled a network of spies and informers and masterminded the discovery of the plot. And King James himself: intelligent and politically very clever, but as a Scot in a foreign land and with both his parents dying violent deaths, paranoid about the likelihood of future plots against him.

There are the evocative places too. The dark, dingy storeroom beneath the House of Lords where Parliament was due to meet on 5 November 1605. The murky River Thames across which the barrels of gunpowder and kindling were transported. And the Tower of London where Guy Fawkes endured hours of torture before being broken on the rack as his shattered confessional signature bears testimony too.

And finally there’s the twisty-turny plot itself, peppered with rash decisions, rumours of tunnel-digging, intercepted warning letters and the play of luck – good and bad. And of course the plotters’ grisly end; in Guy Fawkes’s case, being hung drawn and quartered. And for Robert Catesby, dying in a dramatic ‘wild-west’ style shoot-out.

Of course Black Powder itself is a work of fiction. But a part of me can’t help hoping that one day someone might discover it was really thanks to a pair of courageous children that the most notorious plot in British history was foiled!


For more information about Ally Sherrick and her new novel, Black Powder, visit or follow her on Twitter @ally_sherrick


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