Highwayman by Melvin Burgess


Highwayman by Melvin Burgess

In Tudor times the punishment for highway robbery was death. Young Will is bored hanging round his parent's inn and, being none too bright either, he decides to get involved in a plot to rob the local highway. He loves drama, the guns and the loot, but he is on another robber's patch.


Part of the Tudor Flashbacks series, this readable tale gives children an accessible flavour of life in Elizabethan times. It's the story of Will Biglow, innkeeper's son, an easy-going and easily led wimp, and Francis Enterley, nephew of a rich merchant, arrogant, manipulative and determined. Francis is sent by his uncle to Will's school - apparently a bit of a come-down for one of his station in life, but Francis's parents are mysteriously absent and their whereabouts secret - something to do with Catholics, the Crown, spies and treasure. Thus the audience is given a glimpse into the atmosphere of the times, although the muting of its political intrigue is counterbalanced by the graphic nature of numerous descriptions of children's floggings - good as scene-setters but perhaps a little over-emphasized for anyone not turned on by flagellation - and criminal penalties (disembowelment and the like) which are perhaps not for the over-sensitive. In an interesting device for young readers, for most of the book Will and Francis take turns at relating what's going on, amply demonstrating how different viewpoints on the same events may contrast. The tale of how the boys plot to outwit their teacher - a fierce and forthright character alternately portrayed as sadistic and salt-of-the-earth - should keep readers hooked right to the neat little twist at the end. Not everyone will feel the more punitive descriptions are appropriate for a children's book, although most children will undoubtedly revel in them. But overall this is a well-told, memorable depiction of a child's lot, and of life at the sharp end, in Tudor times. Ages 8-11 (Kirkus UK)

About the Author

Melvin Burgess

Melvin Burgess was brought up in Sussex and Berkshire. As a child, his reading included The Wind in the Willows and Gerald Durrell's animal stories. He went on to enjoy The Hobbit and Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast books. A generally unconfident student, he became interested in writing when he was twelve and an English teacher praised one of his stories - "it was about the first time I'd ever done anything that got an A. I was so pleased I never stopped." After leaving school, Melvin moved to Bristol where he worked on occasional jobs, mainly in the building industry, and was often unemployed. He started writing in his twenties and wrote on and off for the next fifteen years before The Cry of the Wolf was published in 1990. He moved to London in 1983 and began a small business marbling fabrics for the fashion industry. In 1997 his controversial bestseller JUNK won the Guardian Children's Fiction Award and the Carnegie Medal. It was also shortlisted for the 1998 Whitbread Children's Book of the Year. Four of his novels have been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal.

Melvin Burgess is regarded as one of the best writers in contemporary children's literature. In 1997, his controversial bestseller Junk won the Guardian Children's Fiction Award and the Carnegie Medal. It was also shortlisted for the 1998 Whitbread Children's Book of the Year. Four of his novels have been shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal. Melvin lives in Hebden Bridge with his partner.

Photo credit: John Coombes

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Book Info


96 pages
Interest Age: From 9 To 12


Melvin Burgess
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Publication date

30th September 2002



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