Sal Cowen's anonymously written trilogy centres on the adventures of protagonist Henry Chalk in 1800s Wiltshire. Written in the style of a Victorian travelogue, the series explores the county's rich history and brings it to life.
Sal Cowen: Wiltshire native, history lover and author of the Henry Chalk trilogy
Most people don’t know that I am a published author because I chose to publish three books (that make up a trilogy) anonymously. There’s nothing salacious about the content, it’s just that the stories within the volumes are in fact an homage to a style that was very common to the bookshelves of two centuries ago. A style I found myself drawn to largely in part because of my job (for the last 25 years) managing the public rights of way in South Wiltshire.
Back in the 1700s, the Domestic Travelogue was a publication, often anonymous, that charted the details of excursions away from the metropolis and into the wilder parts of the country. You travelled, you corresponded, you embellished and then you published, anonymously. After studying many examples of these adventure narratives I decided to adopt this unfolding style to write my own adventure story. By plunging the young hero of these tales into the open and windswept plains of Wiltshire a thrilling tale unfolds and a rite of passage is undertaken.
Many of the major characters met on the way are real historical figures and in combination with the real events of the day these scenes are brought to life through the reportage of Henry Chalk, pedestrian tourist.
By plunging the young hero of these tales into the open and windswept plains of Wiltshire a thrilling tale unfolds and a rite of passage is undertaken.
I spent my childhood amongst a farming community and it is an area that I know intimately. With an insatiable curiosity to delve further into the history of an area so rich in prehistoric archaeology I have filled my house with obscure history books and ancient stone artefacts. The rights of way that I look after are the physical record of the activities of our ancestors. Many of these paths were created out of necessity; to walk to work, to access the water mills and routes to market. In my head I work amongst the ghosts of those who created these ways.
I have always written stuff down. Ideas and notes became stories and so began the lengthy process of learning to write. Good storytelling and a clear sense of place are essential if you are to guide the reader and keep their interest. Young Henry Chalk narrates each twist and turn of his adventures through a series of letters to a remote Uncle. As the tale of chance meetings and misadventures unfold to guide his path there is an underlying and sinister mystery that follows his every move.
These books were researched and written over a period of 12 years with the final concluding part of the trilogy “A Tour in Search of Gold” published in December 2013. All three volumes received many good reviews and there was a very keen sense of anticipation to find out how Henry Chalk’s tale would end. To my knowledge nobody who followed this series from the start saw the final dramatic twist coming.
These books are adventure stories first and foremost but they are also; an accurate appraisal of early archaeology, a study of the geology of a specific area, an introduction to real historic characters of national importance, a perspective of rural life during the Napoleonic war and a celebration of the domestic travelogue.
Sal Cowen's trilogy: A Tour in Search of Chalk, A Tour in Search of Flint, and A Tour in Search of Gold are all available from Amazon.