Sunday, July 3, 2022

Alice Arden

On a cold, snowy day in February 1550, the perforated body of Thomas Arden, an insignificant, aristocratic scoundrel, was discovered in Faversham, a district of London, England. He had been stabbed at least seven times. Rumors soon emerged about an obvious culprit…Alice Arden, Thomas’ wife.

Alice had been carrying on an affair with her husband’s tailor, Richard Mosbie. The two flaunted their romance openly. Alice preferred Richard over Thomas, who she detested. The only way for her to be happy was to be rid of her husband.  

First, she served him poisoned milk for breakfast. After a spoonful or two, Thomas hated the taste and refused it.  

This would not be as easy as she thought. She needed help. Who better than her husband’s enemy, John Green, who had lost a precious piece of land in a dispute against Thomas? The two had even exchanged blows over it. Bent on revenge, Green was a willing accomplice. For a mere ten pounds, they hired Black Will, a soldier turned highwayman and notorious murderer to help them kill Thomas.  

As he walked through the church, they tried to kill him. They laid in wait for him at various locations. They tried to access his temporary lodgings in London. One day, they tried to ambush him, but they went to the wrong place. They even tried to coerce him into a duel. All these attempts failed. Of course, they had to try again. This time, she got more help – Mosbie’s sister, their daughter, and a female servant.   

She hosted a dinner party. Of course, Mosbie would be there too. When all was ready, Alice sent all the servants out of the house on various errands. Mosbie and Black Will were the first to arrive. Mosbie to his place at the table and Black Will hid in the closet. A pre-arranged phrase was agreed upon so that Will would know when to jump out of the closet. All was in place. 

When Thomas arrived home, he took his place at the head of the table, his back to the closet. He and Mosbie played backgammon while waiting for dinner. Finally, Mosbie uttered the phrase. Black Will rushed out, and with a towel, strangling him while Mosbie struck him with an iron. The two men dragged their victim to another room where Black Will emptied his pockets and stripped him of his jewelry. Alice then paid Black Will the ten pounds and Mosbie and Black Will escaped on horses. To make sure her husband was dead, she stabbed Thomas many times, then set to work cleaning up the blood and mess. After discarding the knife and cloth, they were ready to receive the dinner party guests.  

The guests all waited for Thomas to arrive but was late so Alice served supper. Afterwards, she entertained them with music and dancing. And still no one knew what could keep Thomas from arriving home and attending such a lavish dinner party. Feigning distraught nerves, she sent her servants to search for him, sobbing, bemoaning, wailing her worries over his absence. The guests and servants went out looking for Thomas.  

Alice, her daughter, and Thomas’ sister remained. They wanted to make the murder look as if Thomas had been killed outside the home. So, the trio dressed Thomas in his nightclothes before dragging his body through the garden and a gate opened into the church yard where they left him.  

Soon, Thomas’ body was discovered. Why was Thomas dressed in nightclothes on such a wintry night? Fresh snow had been trampled between the body and the Arden home, revealing the body had been dragged there.  

Of course, Alice was the primary suspect. The victim’s blood, hair, knife, and cloth were soon discovered. Alice was forced to confess, naming her accomplices, and the three women were arrested. Also arrested was Mosbie who was found ‘sleeping it off’ with bloody socks at a nearby residence.  

Alice was tried and found guilty of murder. She and the maid were burned at the stake.  

Mosbie's sister was hanged. 

Mosbie was hanged, drawn, and quartered.   

Black Will went on the run for several years. But he too, was caught and hanged, drawn, and quartered.  

But their legend lives on… 

Alice cursed Thomas bitterly, that the world might wonder on him.

And no grass would ever grow on the spot where Thomas Arden’s body was found.

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Anna Vieti - Pictures of Anna - A Novel by Sam Martin

Pictures of Anna 

A Novel  


Sam Martin

Anna Vieti was a German of Roma/gypsy origin who worked for two Jewish doctors in Hamburg. In the mid 1930s, after the persecution & extermination of Jews and gypsies had begun in Germany, the two doctors managed to flee to the UK and promised Anna that once they’d settled there, and as soon as they could sort out the paperwork for her, they would send for her and she could once again work for them in England, where they had set up their practice - and in 1938 Anna arrived in the UK.

This is where the story becomes personal and how I got to know it, because my aunt also worked for the two doctors and she was given the task of looking after Anna and helping her to settle in the UK, as she’d arrived unable to speak a word of English and she had no money at all in her purse, and very few personal belongings.

After some time she met Guy, who himself had dual German / British nationality - and in 1940 they became engaged.

My story begins on Anna’s wedding day, May the 26th, 1940, which was also the day that the British Parliament approved the so-called Defence Regulation 18B, which allowed the authorities to round up and detain without trail or sentence any individuals who they deemed to be “enemies of the State” - and on his wedding day, with Anna waiting patiently at the altar for him, Guy received a visit from the local police who took him away without explanation or reason, and he was incarcerated in the local prison, without knowing why and without knowing for how long. It was the UK’s policy at the time of “lock up first, think about it later”.

Anna engaged a lawyer to try and free Guy, but against the backdrop of a country at war ( & losing), and the growing hostility towards “the enemy”, all efforts were in vain.

But Anna didn’t only escape the camps and certain death at the hands of the Nazis when she came to Britain, she also fled from a bleaker-than-bleak family background of violence and abuse towards her which manifested as a morbid fear of being locked up - the legacy of being thrown into a freezing cold, pitch-black cellar no bigger than a dog kennel for days on end. This fear of being incarcerated herself came back to haunt her in Britain only days after Guy had been imprisoned when the British government declared that ALL enemy aliens were to be interned.

So Anna went on the run, trying to avoid imprisonment herself, and found sanctuary with a Swiss artist.

The authorities however - specifically MI5, whose leadership became increasingly paranoid about the presence of any enemy aliens at large in the country - were determined to track down all and every German, Austrian, Italian etc who had thus-far evaded them.

Pictures Of Anna is a document - but not a documentary - about Anna’s fate and her attempts to avoid imprisonment, which she knew would “kill her” inside. It is about history - about politics - but mostly about one young woman's fight to find freedom in the world, at a time when the forces lined up against her had never been so mighty nor so formidable. In Germany she was up against the Nazis (because of her race) - in the UK her foe was the government and the military (because of her passport) - and at 'home' in Hamburg she was the enemy of a vicious and vindictive family.

'POA' is a story about a never-before episode in both British and German history which – until my novel was published – had never before been told in popular culture i.e. not in literature nor film, which offers us a way of looking at our world through a window to the past.  


I met Anna myself on two occasions, but that was long before I knew her story. My aunt always used to say “someone should write a book about Anna’s life” and - at the ripe old age of 80-plus - my aunt, still a close friend of Anna’s right up to her death, decided to do an A-level in German at the local college in the UK and one of the exercises she was given was to “write a short essay in German, either about someone famous, or about someone who you know who has had an interesting life.” So Joan, my aunt, wrote about Anna and sent it to me in Germany for my wife (Jutta was German) to read through and check for grammar, expression etc. I too read it and thought directly “this without any doubt is a screenplay – I knew immediately that I was sitting on something special, something explosive - (** I am a screenwriter) - and began to write a script based on Anna’s story but using the character I’d discovered when researching for another project about looted Nazi art in the 1940s in Paris i.e. the French girl who had tried to save her Jewish artist/boyfriend from being deported to the death camps by “befriending” the SS officer who was in charge of the paintings’ distribution. That SS officer happened to be my neighbour’s father when we lived down on Lake Konstanz in southern Germany.

My screenplay turned into a novel along the way, although it is also an ongoing movie project - a German-UK co-production.


Why did it become a novel? That was my gift to my late-wife – or maybe it was her gift to me... I’ll never work that one out. When she was diagnosed with ALS/motor neuron disease she began to write Anna’s story herself – but after just six pages in, her only good hand began to weaken badly and then pack up altogether and she realised that she couldn’t type anymore, and “spelling” it out with her eye-controlled speech computer would have taken her 100 years to complete. She didn’t even get 100 weeks.

I cared for her right up to the bitter end... and the end, believe me, it was more than bitter. But we did a deal. She gave me an hour-and-a-half every day in order to vanish into my office – to vanish into Anna’s world and into Anna’s story – and write the novel. I wrote it, she read it, she cried. And she said I’d done a special story justice. And that – really, just those words alone – that was enough for me.

But she is a big, big part of this because I told her to put together something for the front cover. She was extremely restricted by that time – almost in a “vegetable state” – but by using her eyes only she designed the front cover (she was a good painter and could actually paint using her eyes and some amazing Spanish software that a friend discovered for her).

As I said, the above is only perhaps 1 percent of what I could tell you about the project, which has taken me to Berlin, to London, to Hamburg, to Vienna, and has allowed me to meet and work with some of the biggest names in the film industry.

Finally I’ll give a big shout-out and a heartfelt “thank you” to Sandra David, my publisher at Arrow Gate Publishing in London. I’d turned down three previous offers to publish the novel because I wanted to keep the movie Rights – or the majority share of them – because Pictures Of Anna was also a movie project and it was imperative that it continued. The first three publishers rejected my request and I thought “Sam, you idiot, you’ve really blown it now”. Then came the call from Sandra.

I should say “thanks” too to the ones who turned me and my request down because Sandra David has been a rock, an absolute hero for me and no words can express my gratitude for taking the chance and for her support. She called me the day that Jutta died and she cried and cried – we both wanted so much for the book to come out while Jutta could share in its success. I another lifetime maybe... another fairer lifetime.

I am donating whatever Pictures Of Anna earns for me to the ALS/mnd research guys. I’ll never see a cure for the worst of all illnesses in my lifetime, but if in 100 years from now someone can be cured and someone doesn’t have to go through what my poor wife went through... just to know that maybe... just maybe.. that I’ve made a contribution – that’s enough for me. But that isn’t all. I’d also like Arrow Gate to get their reward too. I’d love, just love, Sandra David to get her fair share of its success too. She really does deserve that much, because a better person in this world for a project like Pictures Of Anna... well, I’m pretty sure that person doesn’t exist.

Where can you buy the book? Obviously all the big book retailers, or via the publishers:

Monday, May 9, 2022

Susanna Hall (Shakespeare's eldest daughter)


Susanna Hall was the eldest child of William Shakespeare. She was baptized on 26th May 1583 at Holy Trinity church in Stratford upon Avon. She had two younger siblings –  twins Hamnet and Judith – and was raised in the family home owned on Henley Street, owned by her grandfather, John Shakespeare. It was a crowded house when she was little, containing both her paternal grandparents, her mother and siblings, and several of her father’s younger siblings as well.

While it is unlikely she had any formal education, which was reserved for male children at the time, Susanna did learn to read and write, possibly taught by her parents or by one of her younger uncles who were not too far from her in age.

In 1607, at the age of 24, Susanna married a newcomer to Stratford, the 32-year-old physician and Puritan, John Hall. They had one child, Elizabeth, born in 1608. John Hall had a successful practice, ministering to the local gentry. Some of his case notes were published after his death in 1635, shedding  valuable insight on medical practices in the seventeenth century, and they include a description of his wife’s illness and the treatments he prescribed.

When Susanna was a young wife and mother, in June 1613 a young man, John Lane, accused Susanna of adultery with a local haberdasher, Rafe Smith, and claimed she had caught a venereal disease from Smith. It turned out however that Lane held a grudge against John Hall for his support of a Puritan minister at Holy Trinity church and sought to hurt him through attacking his wife. Hall sued him for slander and, when Lane didn’t appear in court, won. History doesn’t record Susanna’s thoughts and feelings on the slander.

Shakespeare made John Hall the executor of his will and left the bulk of his estate to Susanna Hall when he died in 1616. This included two houses on Henley Street, several pieces of land around Stratford, and New Place, one of the oldest and largest houses in Stratford, where Shakespeare and his wife lived. The Halls subsequently moved in with Susanna’s widowed mother.

In 1643, at the height of the English Civil War, Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of King Charles I, stayed with Susanna at New Place for three days. The town hall in Stratford had been blown up a few months earlier and tensions were running high. It is said that she brought a thousand horses and a hundred wagons. One can only imagine the conversation between the young queen, a French woman and a Catholic, and Susanna, herself English, Puritan and citizen of a town that was firmly against the King.

Susanna died on July 11, 1649, at the age of 66 and was buried in Holy Trinity Church beside her parents.  The epitaph below was likely written by her daughter, Elizabeth.

Witty above her sex, but that’s not all,
Wise to salvation was good Mistress Hall.
Something of Shakespeare was in that, but this
Wholly of him with whom she’s now in blisse.
Then, passenger, hast nere a tear
To weep with her that wept with all
That wept, yet set herself to chere
Them up with comforts cordiall?
Her love shall live, her mercy spread
When thou hast nerre a tear to shed.

Jennifer Falkner (she/her) is an award-winning short story writer living in Ottawa, Canada, on the traditional, unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg First Nation. The novella,
Susanna Hall, Her Book, is published by Fish Gotta Swim Editions.

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