Book about the Shotley Bridge swordmakers: The Running Wolf

My third novel, The Running Wolf, is about the Shotley Bridge swordmakers, and one swordmaker in particular: Hermann Mohll. It will be published by Impress Books on 10 November 2020 and is available for pre-order now.

The cover shows a black background with the text in gold. The 'o' of wolf is a pool of molten gold with the running wolf emblem on it. Above that is a Rotterdam warship beneath a crescent moon and the constellation of Cancer. The cover is crowned with a sunburst of 9 swords. The spine is gold, with white writing and shows a running wolf emblem as well as the Impress Books logo. It's set out in the shape of a sword.
The Running Wolf (published by Impress Books on 10 November 2020)

My book is a novel, so it’s a work of fiction, but it’s based on a great deal of research. I’ve been researching this book for some years now, and my research has taken me deep into the archives, over to Solingen in Germany, where the swordmakers came from, and I’ve even made my own sword!

After carrying out some initial blacksmith training, I went to Butser Ancient Farm, near Southampton, in June and July 2018. There, I was lucky enough to train with Rod Hughes from Goldeneye Forge. Rod runs regular swordmaking training, and he also organises regular sword fests and so on throughout the year. You can find out more about him (and see his TV work) at https://www.rodhughes.org/.

Below is a photo of me holding my sword – but the eagle-eyed among you will spot that the grip isn’t quite finished yet. I have to say, hats off to anyone who smiths for a living – this was easily the most exhausting experience of my whole life (maybe apart from childbirth)!

A photo of the author holding a sword that she made. The sword is made of steel and has a bronze handle. The grip is wood and has not been covered yet.
Me with my sword at Butser Ancient Farm, July 2018 (photo courtesy of Rod Hughes)

Keep an eye on the blog where I’ll be sharing details of my archive research later in the year, and I’ll also share lots of photos from my visit to Solingen.

About The Running Wolf

When a Prussian smuggler is imprisoned in Morpeth Gaol in the winter of 1703, why does Queen Anne’s powerful right-hand man, The Earl of Nottingham, take such a keen interest?

At the end of the turbulent 17th century, the ties that bind men are fraying, turning neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend and brother against brother. Beneath a seething layer of religious intolerance, community suspicion and political intrigue, The Running Wolf takes us deep into the heart of rebel country in the run-up to the 1715 Jacobite uprising.

Hermann Mohll is a master sword maker from Solingen in Prussia who risks his life by breaking his guild oaths and settling in England. While trying to save his family and neighbours from poverty, he is caught smuggling swords and finds himself in Morpeth Gaol facing charges of High Treason.

Determined to hold his tongue and his nerve, Mohll finds himself at the mercy of the corrupt keeper, Robert Tipstaff. The keeper fancies he can persuade the truth out of Mohll and make him face the ultimate justice: hanging, drawing and quartering. But in this tangled web of secrets and lies, just who is telling the truth?

Pre-order The Running Wolf

About the author

Helen Steadman is a historical novelist. Her best-selling first novel, Widdershins and its sequel, Sunwise were inspired by the Newcastle witch trials. Her third novel, The Running Wolf will be published by Impress Books on 12 September, 2020.

Despite the Newcastle witch trials being the largest mass execution of witches on a single day in England, they are not widely known about. Steadman is particularly interested in revealing hidden histories and she is a thorough researcher who goes to great lengths in pursuit of historical accuracy.

To get under the skin of the cunning women in Widdershins and Sunwise, Helen trained in herbalism at Dilston Physic Garden and learned how to identify, grow and harvest plants and then made herbal medicines from bark, seeds, flowers and berries. The Running Wolf is the story of a group of master swordmakers who left Solingen, Germany and moved to Shotley Bridge, England in 1687. As well as carrying out in-depth archive research and visiting forges in Solingen to bring her story to life, Helen also undertook blacksmith training, which culminated in making her own sword. Currently, Helen is completing a PhD in English at the University of Aberdeen and is working on her fourth novel, which is about the famous lighthouse-keeper’s daughter, Grace Darling.

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