East Herts author Christopher Hadley on the right road with second hit book
Bestselling author Christopher Hadley took his first steps back into Roman history as a schoolboy in Staffordshire exploring the ruins of Letocetum.
The invaders’ base near the Watling Street junction was within cycling distance of his home, and his fascination with this ancient route is the basis of his second critically acclaimed book. The Road: A History of the Romans and Routes into the Past.
In it, the former journalist takes readers on a stroll through East Herts and West Essex and deep into the mists of time, tracing his journey from Braughing to Great Chesterford and unearthing the myriad layers of history, myth and folklore that now make up the original Cobblestones cover laid by the Empire’s legionnaires.
Watling Street was the first road to be carved into the English countryside when the Roman army landed in Kent two millennia ago, and today almost everyone in Britain lives near such a route.
For example, Stane Street, the Roman road linking Ermine Street in Braughing with Colchester, has long been known to pass through Bishop’s Stortford, and now archaeologists excavating the town’s new leisure center at Grange Paddocks have uncovered its surface.
Christopher’s detective story is both an exploration of the skills of the master engineers who built Watling Street and those who left their own footprint on their journey through the ages.
Like his first book, 2019 Hollow Places, an unusual tale of land and legend chronicling Hertfordshire’s legendary dragon slayer, Piers Shonks, the landscape surrounding the Furneux Pelham house he shares with his wife Rebecca, a GP partner at Bishop’s Stortford’s South Street Surgery, and their three children captured his imagination .
The result has already been critically acclaimed. said Gerard DeGroot The times: “There is something beguilingly mysterious about these ancient streets. . .Hadley uses his senses to the full in his search for his street. . .the breadth of his knowledge. . .the beauty of his prose. This book deserves to be read at least twice, first to appreciate what it reveals and then to revel in its effervescent voice. On almost every page, a random passage takes your breath away.”
In The Sunday Telegraph, Harry Sidebottom gushed: “Great. . .exciting. . .This is not a dry and prosaic story, but a work of fantasy and a deeply literary book… wonderful prose. . .impressive pictures and succinct sentences…exciting. It is an absolute delight to read and an early contender for any history book of the year list.”
After hollow spots hailed as “the most unexpected history book of the year,” Christopher could have been forgiven for expecting a similar reception The streetbut he took nothing for granted.
He confessed, “If anything, I had less faith in the second book.”
The books evolved together – The street began to take shape during a shaky text hollow spots and his trick of turning “local history” into a much broader arc of human existence has proved a crowd pleaser.
So his doubts have doubled as his third book, already commissioned and in the works, marks a kind of departure from that winning formula, though he’s keeping his premise under wraps for now.
Like its predecessors, it takes shape in a shed at the end of Christopher’s garden and in cafes around Bishop’s Stortford.
The former Bishop’s Stortford Rugby Football Club youth coach, now Cross Fit Coach at Little Hadham, describes his style as non-fiction, creating a compelling narrative based on carefully researched facts.
“On one level, the book is about how amazing the Roman roads are in terms of engineering. No one else has built roads like this,” he said.
Their importance has endured, leaving indelible marks on modern maps that still connect large settlements more than 2,000 years later.
But for Christopher The street is much more than a marvel of construction, it is a metaphor and as inspiring as a great cathedral or a work of art. It’s also a timeline and a connection between fleeting moments in history – a pot knocked off a table in the 1st century ends up in the 16th century.
The book attempts to rekindle the curiosity Christopher felt as a boy exploring the Roman ruins in what is now the village of Wall, and takes author and reader on a journey of discovery.
Describing the exploration of “the closeness to history and the thinness of place,” he noted that as he reflected on why he was writing the book, he also aimed to reveal to readers some of the artistic process and the concept of add another level The street.
He said: “The challenge is to write about something small to tell a much bigger story.”
He will provide further insight into the book and his work to the readers and residents of Bishop’s Stortford during a free talk at Waterstones on South Street on Tuesday (31 January) at 6.30pm.
The Road: A History of the Romans and Routes into the Past is published by Harper Collins Publishers and is currently £17.99 from Waterstones.