Stephen J. Phillips
With a lifelong passion for history, Stephen was fascinated to discover an ancestor who came to England in AD1200. Little was known of him, so he decided to create a story about what sort of man he might have been and interweave this with real historical facts (and a lot of imagination).
The result has been a nine-book series about the Pitt Family – ordinary people who become involved with the machinations of kings, lords, the church and – most of all – the equally feared and respected Knights Templar.
Many of the principal characters are real people, although some details have been simplified to assist the flow of the stories. The stories are mainly murder mysteries, but political intrigue is seldom far below the surface.
After taking the saga from AD1200 to AD1218, it occurred to Stephen that readers might want to know how one of the main secondary characters, Sir Guillaume Cadeil (who was once Master of the Templars in England) became the man whom so many loved. This encouraged him to investigate his earlier life, which had taken him to Outremer. The first book in a trilogy covering the time from AD1175 to AD1200 is now available: The Fall of Jerusalem. The next two books will be The Templars’ Lost Treasure and The Lion and the Jackal, which latter will cover the transition from Richard the Lionheart to his brother King John.
The French Carpenter – Pitt Family Saga Book 1 (Historical Fiction and Youth Historical Fiction (Medieval))
In AD1200, a young man – Gervase Pitt – is found half-drowned on a Sussex beach by the teenaged Joan. Their meeting sparks a lifelong adventure involving lords, clergy, the (so-called heretic) Cathars and infamous Knights Templar.
Together with Nick, the autistic child they adopt, they must discover how the nearby Priory is trying to discredit Baron William de Braose, for whom Gervase works and, more importantly, prove it is false.
Their investigations cover much of Sussex and Surrey and threaten to result in severe difficulty for the young family – until Nick’s “photographic” memory comes to their aid.
The French Carpenter is book one in the Pitt Family Saga which cover during the first decades of the thirteenth century. It includes many real-life characters, who become embroiled in the machinations of evil-minded and ambitious people.
The Templar Pitt – Pitt Family Saga Book 2 (Historical Fiction and Youth Historical Fiction (Medieval))
In AD1201 a young carpenter, Gervase Pitt, discovers something in the foundations of a new building he’s designed for the Knights Templar in London. Its earth-shattering nature could alter the shape of English history.
He is subsequently thrown into a series of adventures that could result in the loss of King John’s throne and threaten the stability of the realm. The adventure takes them as far as France in the search for someone who might legitimately replace an already unpopular king.
His life, and that of his adopted son are at risk. So too is his wife, who is kidnapped by a gang wanting to rob the Templars of a massive loan they are making to the king.
Only a concerted effort can ensure England’s stability – and save the Templars from embarrassment.
But there will be a terrible cost.
The Goldsmith’s Apprentice – Pitt Family Saga Book 3 (Historical Fiction and Youth Historical Fiction (Medieval))
Being hanged, in early 13th Century London, was a slow and painful process of strangulation. But for a shy fourteen-year-old with a limited grasp on the ways of the world, it was terrifying. Especially when he was innocent of the murder of which he was accused. Indeed, apprentice goldsmith Nick Pitt hardly understood what had happened to his master, or why he was accused of his callous slaying.
The last thought in his mind, as the rope tightened around his slender neck, was of his family and few friends. Where were they? Why had he been abandoned to his fate? Did they even know what had happened to him?
Can his friends and family prove his innocence? Will his name ever be cleared?
As they strive to find the truth eschewed by the King’s Crowner, they face danger, lies and uncover a hidden tale of intrigue and confusion which challenges even experienced investigators Gervase and Joan Pitt. They need the might of the Knights Templar behind them, to help unravel the mystery.
The Flying Mason – Pitt Family Saga Book 4 (Historical Fiction and Youth Historical Fiction (Medieval))
When a young mason is thrown from the top of a new building in London’s Templar Citadel, what looks like an accident suddenly starts to look suspicious to Gervase Pitt. The master carpenter and architect (a new word introduced from France) realises this might be indicative of a wider problem facing his building project.
More deaths and a kidnapping lead him and his family to the murky world of crime of which they have previously been unaware.
Concern turns to panic when his 9-year-old son and a young girl disappear while trying to help with the investigation. Then the body of a young child is washed up on the shores of the Thames, near where they were last seen …
The Butcher of Marseille – Pitt Family Saga Book 5 (Historical Fiction and Youth Historical Fiction (Medieval))
The year is 1211. A young woman is brutally slain in Marseille – the first in a series of killings which will terrorise the city and create a difficult challenge for the new castellan of the castle, Sir Orvin de Villeneuve.
Unrelated to these events master carpenter and building designer Gervase Pitt, his wife and apprentice son are sent to the French city at the behest of Father Alain, Master of the Knights Templar in England. Their ostensible role is to accompany Lady Eleanor de Braose to Marseille to her betrothed (Sir Orvin) – although Gervase must then travel to Toulouse, to complete a commission for Count Raymond VI.
On the way, Eleanor and her younger sister Flandrina want to see their exiled father, Baron William de Braose, who fled to Paris after rebelling against King John, alongside Llywelyn the Great of Wales. Unfortunately, they are followed by an assassin, in an official attempt to locate de Braose.
After seeing the baron, the party carries on to Marseille, where they become embroiled in the investigation to discover the killer. Developments there delay Gervase’s onwards journey …
Murder at the Tower – Pitt Family Saga Book 6 (Historical Fiction and Youth Historical Fiction (Medieval))
The year is 1213. After returning from two years away from London. Gervase Pitt is surprised – and nervous – to be called to the Tower of London to meet the lord chancellor. After all, he was involved in the death of one of his spies, in France, as well as confidante to a disgraced baron who was living there in exile. If put to the question, he would have to reveal information of interest to King John.
Surprisingly, however, he is invited to undertake a highly secret task at the Tower and embarks on an adventure which will result in the death of a young woman.
The circumstances of her death make it a matter of concern to the deputy constable and it is a race against time to discover who was responsible for the death. Otherwise, if nobody else can be blamed by the time the king returns from Winchester, Gervase will have to pay the ultimate price.
Matters are complicated by the actions of a group of rebel barons calling themselves the Army of God and Holy Church under their leader, Baron Robert Fitzwalter, constable of Baynard’s Castle in London’s Queenhithe and chief banneret of the City of London).
Death in Durham – Pitt Family Saga Book 7 (Historical Fiction and Youth Historical Fiction (Medieval))
The morning of the enthronement, Sunday 6th July 1214, was as bright a July day as anyone could remember in Durham. The sun reflected off the pale-yellow walls of castle and cathedral, making them sparkle like gold, and the flowers in the garden turned their faces to track its progress across the sky.
Brown female blackbirds twittered angrily at their jet black mates, whose yellow beaks were crammed full of worms and grubs to fee the chicks. Dart-shaped swallows wheeled in the sky, enjoying the thermal currents generated by warmth reflecting off the stone buildings. Blue tits and sparrows hopped their way across the courtyard looking for morsels of food.
All was right with the world.
Suddenly, a heartrending scream pierced the tranquillity of the quiet before the storm of activity that would introduce the new Prince-Bishop to his flock.
Ann Pitt, eager to escape the most unwelcome attentions of Sir Henry Fitzjohn, bodyguard to John de Grey, Bishop-elect of Durham, had wandered into the chapel on the ground floor of the castle, close to the old tower. It was modestly sized, perhaps 40 feet long by a little more than half that in width.
Little ornament marred the simplicity of the place of private worship, and she found it restful after having come unpleasantly close to being ravished by a man twice her age.
A third of the way along the room, from the door at the East end near the altar, were two wooden screens. Behind the second, on the right, she found it. The body of an elderly man she’d never seen before. But his features were similar to those of her erstwhile persecutor, and he was dressed in the finery of a bishop. It was the man whose desire for a grand tomb had brought father and the rest of them all the way from London. That he’d need it sooner than expected flitted through Ann’s mind, as her involuntary high-pitched cry broke the silence.
So that’s the face father wanted to discuss, she thought to herself as she waited for a response to her cries. Hysteria wasn’t her way. Rational thought was. It was a handsome face – without the edge of cruelty of the man who was called Fitzjohn. Were they related? Would she ever know? Did she even care?
King John’s Jewels – Pitt Family Saga Book 8 (Historical Fiction and Youth Historical Fiction (Medieval))
In AD1215, Gervase Pitt inadvertently becomes involved in affairs of state when he’s called upon to attend Runnymede to witness sealing of the Great Charter (later known as Magna Carta). Thinking he isn’t directly affected, he’s concerned to discover he must investigate the death of a rebel baron’s retainer at Windsor, later that day.
Unable immediately to resolve matters, he finds himself increasingly tied up in events that will lead to the killing of a close friend … and the circumstances leading up to King John’s death, 16 months later. Events that threaten to cost him his own life, too.
King John’s Jewels is based on true events and follows many of the favourite characters from the Pitt Family Saga as they try to help keep England from descending further into civil war.
Chaos in Cambridge – Pitt Family Saga Book 9 (Historical Fiction and Youth Historical Fiction (Medieval))
When a young woman discovers Magna Carta did nothing to benefit the poor – or women – she sets out to educate herself about the reasons. Unfortunately, in AD 1217, women can’t legally attend university.
At 14, Ann Pitt refuses to be deterred by inconvenient details like the law. She finds a way to achieve her goals with the help of one of the most powerful women in the country: Nicholaa de la Haye, Castellan of Lincoln Castle.
All is going well until – as has happened to her parents in the past – matters become complicated when she discovers the corpse of someone she knows, close to her temporary home in Cambridge.
There appears to be no obvious reason for the murder, until she and her friends delve more deeply into the dead student’s life.
Can they discover who the real killer was? And what is the role of those who remain opposed to the reign of King John?
The Fall of Jerusalem – Cadeil Chronicles Book 1 (Historical Fiction and Youth Historical Fiction (Medieval))
In AD1175, Guillaume Cadeil, a young Templar knight is sent to Outremer – the Holy Land – to assist in the defence of pilgrims travelling to Jerusalem. But when he arrives, he discovers things are rather different than he’d imagined. His first task is to assist in building an escape tunnel from Temple Mount, for it is only a matter of time before Jerusalem will fall to Saladin.
But he quickly becomes involved in a major battle in which the Frankish forces suffer a major defeat, and he is taken to Damascus as a prisoner. There he learns about Islamic teaching and medicine, which will stand him in good stead when he eventually escapes and is called upon to use his medical skills on both men-at-arms and the child king Baldwin VI.
Matters deteriorate when the Templars eventually disappear from Jerusalem and arrive at Safed Castle with their entire treasure. Hidden within the cases and chests is a secret which underlies the power of the Templars. Something Sir Guillaume must protect with his life. Especially when they are forced by the Saracens to flee even this safe haven.