Monday, October 7, 2013


The cover art for The First Vial was taken from this painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. Called The Triumph of Death, Bruegel painted it in the mid 1500's to be a reflection of the social upheaval and terror following the devastation of the medieval plague.  Our cover can be found in the lower left corner of the painting. The top right hand corner has an almost futuristic feel about it. Perhaps it may even be considered a little prophetic as the plague was thought by most to be a scourge of the past yet still materializes from time to time. Today, with early detection and treatment, antibiotics can kill the bacteria that causes plague, saving its victims.

The artist did not focus only on macabre scenes like this one. He was given the name 'Bruegel the Peasant' for allegedly dressing up like a peasant. This disguise allowed him to mingle at weddings and other peasant celebrations in order to gain inspiration and authentic details for paintings such as the one below, The Peasant Dance.


Friday, February 8, 2013


Not in the theatre but some creative students made a youtube video a couple of years ago parodying a few scenes. You can watch it here.

The students have taken some liberties with the storyline. After all, there were corpses in the death pit not stuffed toys and Benjamin wasn't a teddy bear. No really, he wasn't.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Anonymous asked - "What do you consider more important regarding the social context of the book - Selfishness or Sacrifice?"

The plague years were a time of extreme social stress. Whole towns could die overnight and no one really knew why. In a social environment of fear and hysteria people will react differently depending on their immediate environment.

For example, Katherine had a different social context than Father Simon. She was the leader of her immediate social group and lived in harmony with a large number of servants and tenants. It was a supportive community and so she more easily felt a sense of moral responsibility toward her people and would make the sacrifices necessary to keep thenm safe.

Father Simon on the other hand, lived in virtual isolation with a few servants who feared and hated him. Albeit of his own making, his social context was one of loneliness, hostility and mistrust. Feeling excluded from general society it was much easier for him to react selfishly and vindictively.

I don't think one response is more important than the other. Both are significant and act like a mirror to reflect the realities of human nature within immediate social context. I personally value sacrifice over selfishness so sacrifice played a larger role in the book.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Why book is called "The First Vial"

Recently a student asked why my novel was called 'First Vial'.

Immediately beneath CHAPTER 1 I have quoted a verse from the Bible. "And the first went, and poured out his vial upon the earth; and there fell a noisome and grievous sore."

In the middle ages a frightened populace referred to the plague as 'noisome' and this biblical passage seemed to fit that description. The verse spoke of the first of seven vials being poured out on the earth and carrying an awful sore similar to the black plague. As much of what happens in the novel is as a result of the plague sweeping over England, I thought it was an appropriate title.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Medieval medicine was practiced by university trained physicians, monks who copied out medical manuscripts and so gained medical knowledge and folk healers who administered remedies passed down by elders.

The all-male university trained physicians generally looked after the wealthy, their services being too expensive for the average person. Folk healers made use of herbal remedies, healings stones and charms. They also used spells and incantations which eventually led to witch hunting and the execution of thousands of folk healers so skilled they were accused of being in league with the devil, much like Hester and Nettie in The First Vial.
Angelica (wild celery) was thought to protect against witchcraft and to be the only herb witches never used. Wise folk healers took advantage of this superstition and grew the herb in their gardens or left some in their homes to prevent possible charges of witchcraft being raised against them.

The physicians, who distrusted and disdained folk healers, weren't so very much different. They held to an idea that the color of flowers indicated a plant's effectiveness in treating disease. The yellow flowers of dandelions might be used to treat jaundice, a disease of the liver that turns skin a yellowish tinge - a kind of color healing derived from the principles of sympathetic magic.