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Musick for the King – An Internet Monk Review

Few pieces of music can touch the soul like Handel’s Messiah. Making this composition into the centerpiece of a historical of historical novel is a task that only a masterful hand dare try. Barrie Doyle delivers a masterpiece of his own in “Musick for the King – A Historical Novel“. In it, we are transported into the life and times of George Frederik Handel, and are privy to his innermost thoughts, as he struggles against the opposition facing him in mid 18th century London.

Handel has become a pawn in the struggle between King George II and the King’s son Frederick, and it has brought Handel to near ruin. We enter into the parallel story of Susannah Cibber, a soprano whose reputation is in ruin because of a messy divorce from a cruel husband. But a libretto written by Handel’s friend Jennens, quite unlike anything written before, provides a chance at redemption, both financially and spiritually for both George and Susannah.

That actual writing of the entire of the oratorio took Handel only twenty four days. Quite fittingly then, “Musick for the King” covers the event in only six of its 207 pages. But what an incredible six pages! We enter Handel’s mind when the book, like the Messiah itself, reaches a crescendo during the writing of the Hallelujah chorus.

Awakened by the noise and fearing the worst, John hurried down the narrow dark back stairs from his loft room. He burst into the composing room just as Handel, laughing with excitement, with tears still streaming down his face, appeared in the entrance to the music room. He stopped when he saw his butler’s frightened expression.

“Nothing, my dear John. It is nothing.” A huge grin spread across his face. “Yes, it is everything.”

He was laughing, crying, and talking at such a pace that his Germanic accent broke through.

“Mein Gott, John. I did think that I saw all heaven in all its glory before me. And the great God himself!” He collapsed to his knees, shaking with ecstasy, hands and arms spread wide. “It was magnificent. The music is magnificent. I am a mere tool. I did not compose such music in all my left, yet my hands were driven by the music in my head. Ach, mein Gott! It is glorious!”

At the end of the chapter, I said to myself. “Mike, you have just experienced greatness. You have to read that chapter again to drink it all in a second time.”

Barrie Doyle is a masterful story teller. His three fictional novels, The Excaliber Parchment, The Lucifer Scroll, and the Prince Madoc Secret all fall into the category of “can’t put down”. Indeed, I read each of them in a single sitting. With “Musick for the King”, Doyle expertly weaves in a story that is as mesmerizing as his novels. Mystery and suspense run like a thread through the entire book. That the book is based on actual events makes it all the more powerful. The time and effort that he puts into researching the times and places of all his novels is self-evident.

Like the Messiah itself, Barrie Doyle has produced a work of art that gets my highest recommendation. I did not receive a promotional copy, but have purchased two copies to give to my music loving family. (I read my wife’s copy for the review!)

All of Barrie’s books are available at and can be signed on request.

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Q & A with the Author

Q. Who is this book written for?

A. Musick for the King is for readers who love cracking good stories. It is for those who love historical novels, thrillers, intrigue, inspirational stories, novels about famous people, people who love music and reading about music, fans of classical music, fans of composers, fans of Handel and fans of Messiah.

Q. Why did you write this book?

A. I was intrigued by the incredible back story of this magnificent piece of music. I have attended many performances of the work but had no idea of the way Handel fell from the top of his profession to the bottom and then struggled his way back up with. Then, I learned about the story of his lead singer, Susannah Cibber, which seemed to mirror Handel’s own—falling from the top of her career to the bottom, then struggling back up. It was a story that cried out to be told!

Q. How much of this story is real?

A. About 80%! The story of George Frederik Handel and his struggles to survive his depression and failures is real. The story of how he came to receive the libretto (words) of the oratorio, the fact that he took only 24 days to compose the music, the fact that he spent a winter in Dublin performing concerts and debuting Messiah, is all real. The battle to debut Messiah in London against fierce opposition, is also real. The peripheral characters who sought to ruin him and the efforts they made to do so, are fictional. But even then, they too represent reality and truth.

Q. Who actually wrote the oratorio Messiah?

A. Handel wrote the music for a libretto (text) put together by a man named Charles Jennens. The entire libretto is merely an arrangement of biblical verses that Jennens wove into the story of God’s relationship and redemption of mankind.

Q. Did Handel really produce the music in 24 days?

A. Absolutely! Hard as it is to conceive, he produced the whole composition in that time. He ate little and slept little while composing it. 

Q. Is it true that the author of Gulliver’s Travels tried to stop the debut of Messiah?

A. Yes. Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s author, was an Anglo-Irish clergyman, poet, writer and social critic. He was also the Dean (head) of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. The church is the Cathedral for the Church of Ireland (Anglican). Handel had arranged to use the Cathedral choir members along with those from Christ Church Cathedral (just a few blocks away and the Anglican Cathedral for the city of Dublin). Swift, who was ill and suffering dementia at the time (he died less than a year later) changed his mind and refused permission for the choir to participate. Without singers, the oratorio was finished. Fortunately, Swift was persuaded to change his mind again and the singers were allowed to perform.

Q. Who was Handel’s lead singer and what was her story?

A. Susannah Cibber was an actress-singer who was the pop star of her day. She was the 18th century version of Lady Gaga, Madonna and Celine Dion together. She wowed her audiences as she performed in London’s popular operas of that day. She had the West End in the palm of her hand. A contemporary said that while others sang for the ear, Susannah sang to the heart. She could move people. She was married to a brute who physically, verbally, mentally, financially and sexually. She left him for a man with whom she had an affair. Her husband Theo sued for divorce and had her charged with adultery. The resulting court case was a very public scandal, covered every day by the newspapers of that time. At the end, while she was indeed found guilty, the court showed its scorn and disgust with Theo by granting him a pittance of five pounds as opposed to the hundreds he demanded. But Susannah’s career seemed to be destroyed. She too was at the bottom. And she too strove to resurrect her career.

Q. What does this Musick for the King say to 21st century readers?

A. I think it is a story of determination overcoming dire circumstances. As we face the Covid 19 crisis today, it shows us that even when things seem bleak, even when we are isolated, and even when we feel depressed, we can overcome. Through determination and just plain doggedness, we can meet the challenge head on and even in our own small way, achieve great success. It is a remind to us all, to never give up.

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Recent Reviews

Just now, Les and I are reading aloud a wonderful book, a historical novel of Handel, the
circumstances of his writing of the music for Messiah. It is by times soul-touching, hilarious,
informative. I love it, Barrie Doyle!
Erma Tihor, Ontario

In his Oak Grove Conspiracies trilogy, author Barrie Doyle wove tales that combined history, suspense and intrigue. In his latest novel, “Musick for the King,” Doyle uses those same techniques to deftly compose the story behind the writing of one of classical music’s greatest pieces: “Messiah” by George Frederick Handel.

To begin, “Musick for the King” is historical fiction. As Doyle says in his Author’s Reflections: “Naturally some of the peripheral characters are fictional. However, by and large most of the people in this novel are real. I have tried to characterize them as history has recorded them.” So if you’re looking for a biography, go elsewhere. But if you’re looking for an exciting tale about a seminal work of art, “Musick for the King” needs to top your to-read list.

Structure along the lines of “Messiah,” with three parts and many movements (chapters), Doyle opens with a Handel who is fighting illness (gout and the after effects of a stroke), the prospect of debtor’s prison. Handel also has detractors, including Frederick (the Prince of Wales) who are determined to ruin his reputation.

Handel’s mood begins to lift when the Duke of Devonshire, who is also the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, invites Handel to the emerald isle to lead a series of concerts. And when Charles Jennens unexpectedly brings Handel a libretto based on passages from the Bible, Handel becomes so inspired, he scores the music for a sacred oratorio in 24 days.

With plans to premiere the work, which Jennens simply titled “Messiah,” in Ireland as a fundraiser, Handel faces more opposition over the venue (a public music hall instead of a church), his choice of a singer (a woman who had been the subject of a sex scandal in London) and the material (whispered by some as blasphemous). Handel and his supporters eventually overcome the objections and the oratorio is performed to resounding reviews. This scenario is repeated after Handel returns to London and, again, sees “Messiah” successfully performed and hailed as a masterpiece by none other than King George II.

Doyle relies on his experience as a communicator (journalism and public relations) to pen a story that keeps the reader engaged and turning the pages. Once you begin reading this novel, you won’t want to put it down until you’ve finished.

Robert White

Arts Connection 103.9 Kitchener

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Twenty-four Days to a masterpiece that changed music

Local author releases novel based on true story

Midland–People today are not the only ones dealing with ways to overcome
extraordinary difficulties.
For 18 th century composer George Frederick Handel it was not Covid-19, but he
fought his own isolation battles as depression, poverty, illness and cultural
ostracism left him ready to quit everything. Instead his struggles led to one of
music’s masterpieces, Handel’s Messiah!
Author Barrie Doyle turned the incredible true story of Handel’s struggles into an
entertaining and powerful novel, “Musick for the King” which was released in
“While I have always loved the music, the back story was what intrigued me,”
Doyle says. “How could someone so crushed by circumstances turn everything
around? Although this was written before the Covid crisis upended all of us, it
seemed to me it was an example of not yielding to horrible situations but instead,
rising above them.”
In all, it took Handel only 24 days to write the music that today inspires people and
become a staple for orchestras and choral societies around the world.
Katherine Whyte, star soloist with New York’s Metropolitan Opera, says “What a
beautiful glimpse into the struggles and realities of the writing of Messiah. Barrie
Doyle captures its timelessness and helps the reader live the drama that birthed one
of the most celebrated pieces of our time.” She adds ‘As one who performs
Messiah every year I was intrigued by the dramatic story. It brings to life the music
I know so well”
The story has other aspects that mirror modern life. Handel’s celebrity soloist—the
pop star of her day—was embroiled and almost destroyed by a sex scandal that
rocked Britain. Hiring her to perform a sacred oratorio scandalized many and
created controversy that almost killed the debut in Dublin in 1742 and its London
premier a year later. Throw in the real-life opposition of the author of “Gulliver’s
Travels” Jonathan Swift who, as Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, tried to
scuttle the first performance, and you have cultural clashes galore.

“The parallels between society then and now; how we handle difficult emotional
and professional situations are a key element in this novel. Plus, you have the
added comparisons of how they and we handle pop star scandals,” Doyle added.
Barrie Doyle is the author of three previous suspense/thriller novels that have
enjoyed readership around the world and comparisons to Tom Clancy, Ken Follett
and Dan Brown.
“Musick for the King” is his first purely historical novel. It is currently available
online at Amazon, Chapters/Indigo and other retailers. It will be available on
Kindle, Kobe and other platforms in May. Brick and mortar booksellers will have
the book available once the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted. At that point a major
book launch book signings in stores as well as readings will be scheduled.

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REVIEW: First you write the book, then you market it


Barrie Doyle and I are having our second annual lunch at Flynn’s Traditional Irish Pub on the corner of Main and Robert streets in Penetanguishene.

I remember the place from the 1950s when it was the Toronto Dominion Bank, its liquid assets then somewhat different than they are today.

We are each working our way through a Blarney Burger. Fried egg, Irish rasher, cheddar and Flynn’s sauce — an Irish breakfast on a bun.

Barrie is an old Toronto Telegram hand, coming to the paper in the 60s just about the time I left. He was with the Toronto Star in Washington during the Nixon years, and went on to public relations and teaching.

He is now retired (although that is hardly the word for someone who has just recently turned out three successful novels) and living at Balm Beach.

Ebullient, full of good humour and good nature, interested in everything from travel, to journalism, to politics, he is the ideal lunch companion.

We share a lot in common, including our alma mater (Ryerson) and our Welsh/Irish heritage.

His most recent novel, The Prince Madoc Secret, was to be the third of a trilogy, The Oak Grove Conspiracies, but his fans are demanding another book, so the trilogy is evolving into a series.

The books span time and place, from the 12th century to the 21st, from Wales to Istanbul, the United States, Canada, and a myriad of places in between.

They are full of action and intrigue, with heroes turned villains, and villains heroes.

These days, authors are not only expected to write books, but to market them as well, and Barrie has been on the road a lot lately doing exactly that — Mississauga, Alexandria, Virginia, Washington, D.C.

This Saturday afternoon (Sept. 29) he will be at Chapters in Peterborough. He will probably have with him a four-foot replica of a 700 AD broadsword.

It is a great prop.

But he has learned that he can’t take it everywhere.

“I think it is better that I leave it at home when I am going into the States these days,” he says, taking another bite of his Blarney Burger.

Sylvia Sutherland is a journalist and was Peterborough’s mayor from 1985 to 1991 and from 2007 to 2016.

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Book update Fall 2018

We’ve been busy!


Launching a book is no picnic!

Since June, when The Prince Madoc Secret launched, I’ve been involved in ten different events. I have been in various cities in Ontario as well as Washington DC, doing everything from book signings to presentations not only on the new book, but on its two previous siblings, and on the general topics of history and legends and how they are part of storytelling.

And there are more to come!

This fall I will be doing a number of presentations and workshops at various libraries across the province. If you are in Barrie, Springwater or Midland check out the schedule on the website ( and drop by.

I’ve also been doing interviews with media. Here’s a link to one:


Here are some shots from various book events we did over the summer.


The reviews are coming in

The most exciting aspect of writing novels is that you get to meet so many wonderful fans of the books. I am overwhelmed by the enthusiasm for the books and now, I am somewhat taken aback by the insistence of many readers that I continue the series. One told me “you can’t leave the story here. We have to know what happens to Stone, Mandy and the Templars!”

Here’s one from Gail Whyte.

Barrie Doyle serves up a flavourful broth of well-simmered adventure, intrigue and myth seasoned with enough history and plausible conjecture to keep the reader’s attention over the pages of this Welsh legend. In spots, the story is frighteningly too close to reality. Did this really happen in the darker history of Wales or is this an expose of current affairs in nations? Add to the plot the beautiful descriptions of people and places salted with his insights into human nature used to develop a cast of almost 40 credible characters and the pot begins to boil. Doyle’s research spices an already tasty story. Well researched information on aviation, history medicine, the military, religion, politics, geography and human nature, blend well to add interest and information to the stalk. The problem with this recipe is that the soup has an after taste leaving even the most satisfied reader wanting more.

Makes me hungry just thinking about it!  And here’s another from avid reader Gordon Bucek:

Mysteries on the global scale must necessarily be complex. The author of The Prince Madoc Secret has masterfully put together a series of subplots under a main story line that captivates the reader. Suspense at various levels. This book is a well researched, creative and enjoyable sequel to the two previous issues that easily fits into the best seller’s listings.

I’d love to hear your feedback as well. Send your review to me (good, bad or indifferent) at the email address


The Excalibur Tour

A number of fans of the books have told me they are intrigued by some of the locations in Wales. They asked me about the possibility of me leading a tour.

I have since done some research with a Canadian travel agent and a UK tour operator. We have put together a tentative package for a tour in May 2020. Lots of time to save the shekels.

We’ll spend time in London and Bath, but we’ll spend most of our two weeks travelling all over Wales. We’ll see some of the places mentioned in the books from the Welsh valleys to Carreg Cennan Castle to Worms Head to the University at Aberystwyth to Tintern Abbey and lots of others. We’ll visit quaint villages, spend time clambering over castle ruins, explore the rugged coastline and the equally rugged Snowdonia mountain range. When not engaged in the books we’ll ride two of the many Little Railways of Wales behind quaint vintage steam locomotives. Plus lots of friends—old and new—good times and good food.

And all along the way I will be placing the books into their places in the scenery, reading small portions, and explaining why these locations were so vital to the stories.

If you’re interested in exploring this idea, contact me at this email address:  At this point, we’re only looking for people who might be interested. There is no obligation involved right now. (That will come when details and costs are finalized in 2019).

Christmas is coming

After an absolutely fantastic summer up at Georgian Bay, the sad reality is that it is now over. Fall is upon us and pretty soon it will be Christmas.

I know a lot of friends who’ve bought copies of the books for loved ones at Christmas.

They are available via our online store at

Each book is $25 + shipping/postage.

As a special offer, you can get all three in a packaged gift set for only $65 + shipping.

All the books will be signed and, if you wish, personalized to the person receiving the gift. Make sure that information is noted in the order.


Happy reading!


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The Excalibur Tour

The Excalibur Tour

Award winning communicator and author Barrie Doyle has created a riveting series of thriller novels under the general title, The Oak Grove Conspiracies. While the books cover many parts of the world including Washington DC, Venice, Istanbul and various parts of the United States and Canada, a large portion of the story is focused on the small nation of Wales, situated on the western end of the island of Great Britain and forming part of the United Kingdom along with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Wales is a nation of stunning scenery: the rugged South Wales coast from the capital Cardiff, west to the county of Pembrokeshire; North Wales and the gorgeous mountains of Snowdonia; to the verdant agricultural cornucopia that is Mid Wales It’s an ancient land, home of the early Britons. Wales’ Celtic legacy has led to a rich musical, poetic and writing heritage. It has more castles per square mile than any other nation in Europe. History oozes out of the land from the coast to the mountains. With its history and legends—including the stories of mighty King Arthur—as well as its unique settings, Wales was the ideal place to base the stories of fierce zealot Druids, modern day conspiracies, and struggles to preserve society as we know it.

Yet Wales is a land less known and visited than its Celtic neighbours Ireland and Scotland and its Anglo Saxon neighbour, England.  Repeated requests from fans of the books have resulted in our consideration of a tour of Wales with the author.

This is a preliminary outline of the proposed tour of Wales in 2020. It will take guests on a delightful journey through one of Europe’s oldest nations. It will feature history, legend, stunning scenery, friendly and welcoming people and as much as possible, visit some of the locations and features the books of author Barrie Doyle, including places mentioned in The Excalibur Parchment (EP), The Lucifer Scroll (LS) and The Prince Madoc Secret (MS). Throughout the tour the author will be present to discuss the various location chosen and read pertinent excerpts of the books.


The 14-day tour is tentatively scheduled for May 2020.

Please note: This information is preliminary and subject to change.

We’d love to have you join us!


Tentative Itinerary

Day 1 Arrive in London after overnight flights from North America. Transfer to a common meeting place in the London area. Travel to Salisbury, then a group get acquainted dinner to meet participants.

Day 2 Tour Salisbury Cathedral. One of the highest spires in Europe. Brief journey to Stonehenge where we visit the ancient mysterious ruins. Travel on to Bath and an afternoon visit to Jane Austen’s house. Overnight in Bath.

Day 3 Visit the Roman Baths and then travel to Chepstow. In the afternoon visit the romantic ruins of Tintern Abbey (model for Cymllyn Abbey in EP) and the town of Monmouth, home to Henry V and Charles Rolls, founder of Rolls-Royce. Travel to Cardiff. (2 nights)

Day 4 Enjoy a city tour of Cardiff, the vibrant capital of Wales with lots of free time to explore the large indoor market and the many shopping arcades and pedestrian areas. In the afternoon, a tour through the famous Vale of Glamorgan. Return to Cardiff for the night.

Day 5 Tour the Welsh Valleys and visit the hilltop village of Llangynydd and the market town of Maesteg (Llanffyron and Maesgwinfi in EP); Travel through the Vale of Neath (LS) and on to the haunting ruins of Carreg Cennen Castle (EP and M). Travel on to the beautiful Gower Peninsula—the UK’s first designated Area of Outstanding Beauty—and overnight at Oxwich Bay.

Day 6 Tour the Gower, taking in the famous Mumbles on Swansea Bay and Worm’s Head (M). Travel on after lunch to Laugharne and visit the Dylan Thomas Boat House where the famous Welsh poet (Child’s Christmas in Wales; Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night) wrote many of his masterpieces. Overnight at Milford Haven on the scenic Pembrokeshire Coast.

Day 7 Enjoy a tour of Pembroke Castle, birthplace of Henry Tudor—founder of the Tudor Royal Dynasty—and the smallest city in Europe, St. David’s to visit St. David’s Cathedral (M) and free time in the village. Then onwards up the Welsh coast to overnight at Aberystwyth. (2 nights)

Day 8 Visit the Old College (M) and the National Library of Wales (M). In the afternoon we ride the quaint Vale of Rheidol Steam Railway—one of the many Little Trains of Wales—to the scenic Devil’s Bridge. Return to Aberystwyth for a second night. Free time in the evening to explore the castle ruins, the shopping precinct or just stroll the seaside promenade.

Day 9 We explore the magnificent mountains of Snowdonia before arriving at the enchanting Portmeirion, a unique Italianate village designed by the eccentric architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. The afternoon and evening are free to explore the village, magnificent gardens and stunning seaside views. (2 nights)

Day 10 Visit the island of Anglesey, the ancient Yns Mon (EP, LS, M). On the island we also visit the place with the longest town name in Europe: Llanfairpyllgwyngyllgogerichwyndrobwlllantysiliuoogogogoch. (By the time you leave, you’d be able to pronounce it). Then on to the magnificent Caernarfon Castle, built by Edward 1 to contain the rebellious Welsh. After the castle tour it’s a ride on another of the ‘Little Trains’, this time the Welsh Highland Railway before returning to Portmeirion.

Day 11 Before leaving Wales behind, we visit the music festival town of Llangollen then travel to Stratford-on-Avon, home of William Shakespeare. Here we will visit Shakespeare’s birthplace and Ann Hathaway’s cottage with plenty of free time to explore the town.

Day 12 Travel to London (featured in all three books) where we will enjoy a tour of the city. After the tour you are free to explore London on your own with the use of the included ‘Oyster’ card which allows free travel on London buses and the famous Tube. (Sitting on the top deck of the Double Deckers is highly recommended). (2 nights).

Day 13 Free day to explore London using your Oyster Card. Possibilities including attending a West End show, visit Piccadilly, Regent Street, Oxford Street, the Tower of London or watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, see St. Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey.

Day 14 Transfer to airports for return flights to North America


Interested? Please let us know.

At this juncture, there is no obligation. Lots of time to make plans and to save your pennies. We will be sending out updates as the time for commitment and deposits draws near.

Below, you will find basic tentative information on costs and what’s included. Please bear in mind, however, that we will be tailoring some of the tour to the books, so some tweaks may be made to enrich your tour. One idea we are exploring, for example, is that of a musical night with one of the world-famous Welsh male voice choirs.

The cost of the tour includes:

  • 13 nights in quality 3 or 4-star hotels.
  • Breakfast daily
  • four dinners on tour
  • one dinner in London
    • three lunches
  • Driver and Guide for duration of tour (except London)
  • Travel in modern coach
  • All admissions and tours listed in itinerary (including railways)
  • Oyster card for travel on London buses and underground services
  • Author commentary, readings & discussion throughout tour


Estimated cost approx. $5200 per person (Canadian funds) sharing a room. A single supplement will apply for individuals not wishing to share, Air fare extra.

Mail your response to by simply cutting and pasting this part to an email message.

YES! Please add me to the update email list and keep me informed.

NAME _____________________________________________________


EMAIL _____________________________________________________



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Where are the books set? And why? – Part Six: The Welsh Valleys

In the south of the little nation of Wales, not that far from the English border, is a series of valleys stretching up into the mountainous areas of the Brecon Beacons from the flatter coast plain that is called the Vale of Glamorgan. These are the famous Welsh Valleys.

          For many years they were associated with the coal mines that dotted the entire area. Books and movies were made documenting thevalleys, most notably the book, later a film “How Green was my Valley.” The coalmines closed—the last one in the early 90’s. The area became woefully depressed and poverty and joblessness was too often the norm.

Its not just coal! The Valleys have also given the world magnificent music, wonderful hymns, great physical beauty, some of the best rugby players in the world and a lively, friendly culture that transcends the difficulties and exhibits life in the full.

The names evoke pictures of coal-smeared miners, metal helmets with minion-like lenses, emerging from metal-crate elevators arising from the bowels of the earth: names like Rhondda, Taff, Ebbw, Cynon, Llynfi and others.

It is an area of resourceful people. Tough people. Caring people. It is an area of great beauty. Steep valley sides are dotted with rows of stone miners’ cottages climbing up the valley as it gets narrower and narrower. Once huge piles of coal slag are now emerging as green landscapes because of regeneration projects. Rivers flow. Trees grow. People who once looked out on scarred, coal smoked visages now enjoy verdant green settings and new forests emerging.

It was this setting that propelled the stories along. The area is rich in history, dating back well before Roman times and stretching into the post-Conquest Norman period. Warfare and rebellion are embedded in the psyche of the Valleys. Stories abound of magnificent victories over the English invaders. And magnificent losses. But ultimately it is a story of reconciliation and living together, however reluctantly and that marks the Valleys.  It’s why the Valleys are so important in the stories. They are stories about centuries-old Christian monks and modern-day faith seekers; stories about diabolical supernatural evil and stories about individuals struggling, reluctantly and sometimes without hope, to save what was important and protect the heritage they were given.

My fictional 12th century abbey, Cymllyn was set here. The courageous monks Thomas and Owain struggled through this rugged landscape. A hilltop church, based on the one at Llangynydd, becomes a focal point in the battle for Excalibur.

Just south of the Valleys are the cities of Cardiff, capital of Wales, and Swansea, packed with historic sites, great restaurants, museums and cultural icons are certainly well worth the visit.

But don’t stay in the cities. Explore the Valleys themselves and reward yourself.

Mountain tops. Villages. Row houses. Vast moorlands. Picturesque churches and farms.

The Welsh Valleys.

Well worth crossing the Severn River for.

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The Prince Madoc Secret – An Interview With Author Barrie Doyle

Original Article:



AmeriCymru:  Hi Barrie and many thanks for agreeing to this interview. What is your connection with Wales?

Barrie:  I was born in Maesteg, a small town in the Llynfi Valley of South Wales. It’s about nine miles up the valley from Bridgend and only 30 (give or take) miles from either Cardiff or Swansea. I left when I was 10 years old (taking my family with me, of course) and emigrated to Canada where I went to school, to university and then began my career. But I have been back many times since, visiting family. In both 2015 and 2017 though, I rented a flat in the seaside resort of Porthcawl for three months during which time I researched and wrote both The Lucifer Scroll and The Prince Madoc Secret. It gave me a base from which to go to places I wanted to use for settings in the books as well as to re-absorb the atmosphere and ambience. Oh yes, and the weather! During that time, we also welcomed Canadian friends and were able to show them Wales, something they’d never considered before the books. I hope to do the same again soon and am in the process of working with a tour agency to develop a specialized tour of Wales highlighting the places or prototypes for settings in the book. I never get tired of being in Wales.

AmeriCymru:  You have not always been a writer. When did you decide to take up the pen?

Barrie: In a sense, I always have been a writer. I studied journalism at Ryerson University in Toronto and began my career as a journalist with the Toronto Star. I have also worked for publications in the US and freelanced for American and British publications. I was based in Washington DC. I returned to Canada and modified things slightly by becoming a public relations executive for a number of major organizations and corporations, finally opening my own agency. During that time I was invited to become an adjunct professor in the School of Media Studies in the prestigious Public Relations Certificate at Humber College in Toronto. This was largely a post-grad course and I now have former students successfully pursuing careers in the US, Canada, UK, Australia and other parts of the globe. After years of telling other peoples’ stories and fiddling around a bit with fiction, I finally took the plunge and began to write the stories I wanted to tell, when I produced my first book, The Excalibur Parchment.

AmeriCymru:  Care to introduce your latest novel ‘The Prince Madoc Secret’ for our readers?

Barrie: I have always been fascinated by history—particularly Welsh history—and interested in legends (which I believe contain nuggets of truth and reality). As I was writing my first book, I came across the story of Prince Madoc, son of King Owen of Gwynedd and the legend of how he travelled across the Atlantic to Mobile Bay, Alabama some 300 years before Columbus, before vanishing into the mists of time. I was intrigued to find out that the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a plaque at Fort Morgan at the entrance to the bay, recognizing Madoc’s arrival. Further, there are stories of Welsh-speaking indigenous tribes in the American interior; so many that the Lewis-Clarke expedition was mandated to find them. It was enough for me. I began to research Madoc more thoroughly and consider a way in which his voyage in 1170 might have deadly implications for the modern world as it ties into the heroes and villains I had created in the first two books. I needed something that would make Madoc’s trip the focus of a 21st century quest. As I said, I love history. And I love to play with it when I am writing fiction, turning the tables and going against the “accepted viewpoint” so to speak. Thus, in the first book Merlin is cast as a baddie. In “The Prince Madoc Secret” I turned the table on the Knights Templar who are most often cast as criminals and murderers. Instead, I made them good guys fulfilling their ancient mandate of protecting the church. That leads to both the 12th century Templars and a modern incarnation of Templars, playing a crucial role in the book. What secret did Madoc take to America with him? What impact does it have on the modern day? How will our 21st century heroes and villains discover the secret and what will they do with it? It is a stand-alone story and can be read without having first enjoyed the other two. However, the main characters and themes appear in all the books.

AmeriCymru:  ‘The Prince Madoc Secret’ is the latest instalment in the ‘Oak Grove Conspiracies’ series. What can you tell us about the series as a whole?

Barrie: I was tired of reading novels that had basically the same cast of villains: Nazis, neo Nazis, Soviet or post-Soviet operatives or criminals, corrupt businessmen, politicians or church leaders and so on. I wanted a new, particularly nasty, set of baddies. So I went back to the legends about the Druids—making sure I differentiated them from the current embodiment of the term—and utilized their penchant for human sacrifice and the like to create a new brand of zealous, vicious, power-mad terrorists bent on twisting the world to their perverted sense of governing. My Druids worship the supernatural and have their own rituals and places, including sacred oak groves—which gave me the series name. Basically, historical events provide the impetus for cataclysmic clashes. In book one, Arthur’s sword Excalibur was never thrown into the lake but rather, was preserved for future generations and protected by a small abbey in Wales. From a 14th century Welsh abbey to a climax near Carreg Cennan in Carmarthen, the story progresses. My Druids believe it has supernatural power and covet it for their own push to seize power in the western democracies. A Welsh professor and an American journalist get drawn into the miry swamp reluctantly and seek to thwart the Druid plots. While a lot of the book is set in Wales, it also ranges from Venice to London to Washington and Canada. In the second book, the Spear of Destiny (also called The Holy Lance) is the legendary Roman centurion’s spear that was thrust into Christ’s side on the cross. Charlemagne, Napoleon and Hitler (among others) all believed that it would give unworldly power and that who owned the lance would control the world. Hitler and Heinrich Himmler spend much of the war seeking the lance and, eventually, creating a fraud while the real one was spirited away in a U boat along with other treasures in the last days of the war. That was the basis for the story in which the Druids are also aware that the real lance never disappeared in a sunken U boat, nor was it on display at the Vatican or in Vienna as a modern day exhibit. Again, the journalist and professor are drawn in reluctantly and this time the story ranges from Wales to Istanbul and across the southwest United States among other places. In each of the book, I try to explore the conflict of ordinary people struggling to do extraordinary things while doubting in their own strength and yet forging ahead regardless. I believe that history is changed not by the mighty leaders, but by individuals going above and beyond themselves in order to do the right thing and the books reflect that.

AmeriCymru:  Are there any further episodes in the pipeline?

Barrie: I had originally planned one book. Then my publisher pushed me to make it a trilogy. Now my fans are demanding a fourth, believing there may be a few loose threads.. So we’ll see.

AmeriCymru:  Your plots are fantastically complex. How do you construct them? What is your process?

Barrie: When I was a reporter I once interviewed a famous author who told me the plot was conceived by the characters and that he merely wrote it down. I thought “yeah, right” and dismissed him as a whacko. Well, guess who joined the whacko club! I start with a vague thought in my head about where the story starts and equally vague ideas about how and where the story will end. Then I start writing. I do not outline, I just start writing. It is done in fits and starts. I struggle at times with “where am I going with this?” and then realize that my characters are telling their story; I listen to them. I think about them and how—as I have created them—they would react to the twists and turns of the plot. I let my bad guys tell me what awful things they plan and I listen to my good guys as they face the crisis and try to stop it. It sounds simplistic and silly (see my comment above) but in fact it is a very time-consuming, worrying, difficult way of writing. Outlining, like JK Rowling does, is probably a lot easier. But there are times my characters have come up with plot twists that make it just as exciting for me as for any reader, because I am experiencing them at the moment they occur just as a reader does.

AmeriCymru:  Where can readers purchase your novels online?

Barrie:  They can be purchased on the Amazon platforms, Barnes and Noble in the US, Chapters/Indigo in Canada and Waterstones in the UK. More importantly they can be purchased online directly from AmeriCymru I believe. If people want a signed or personalized copy they can go to my and shop there.

AmeriCymru:  Who do you read for pleasure? Any recommendations?

Barrie: I am an eclectic reader, enjoying both fiction and non-fiction. I love history, as I said, but I also like science fiction, thrillers, and mysteries among the genres. Every year I try to read one of Tolkien’s magnificent works and am currently working on The Return of the King. I love Ken Follet and Tom Clancy and am flattered that a number of reviewers and fans have compared my work to those giants.

AmeriCymru:  Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Barrie: Wales is a magnificent country. It’s rich heritage, landscape, history and legends make it a unique place in all the world. I am proud to be Welsh. I believe there are so many stories emanating from Wales that would make tremendous stories and they’re just waiting to be told. I challenge people to consider writing these stories. Fiction allows one to delve into the nation’s psyche and history in a way non-fiction cannot. I would love to write—or read—about Owain Glyndwr, or the magnificent King Hwyl, or St. David, or Llewellyn or any others, famous or not, who dot the tapestry that is Wales. Many stories to be told, so few doing it.

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Where are the books set? And why? – Part Five: London

Samuel Johnson famously once said that if a man is tired of London, he is tired of life.

     What applied in the 18th century also applies today in the 21st. London is a vibrant city that fires the imagination just by its very presence; you cannot get tired of London because you cannot explore all the city has to offer—history, architecture, art, culture, dining, diversity, markets, business, parks, pageantry—and a whole lot more.

          London is a major world city. Its influence and attraction extends beyond the white cliffs of Dover. It is a centre of intrigue, passion, excitement, busyness and colour. You find the world living and vibrating on its streets.  It is the heart of democracy—from Magna Carta to the current constitutional monarchy—and is an example to the world of how to “do” democracy—with all its flaws, corruption and failings. (Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill said that democracy was the worst form of government—except for all the others!)

          No wonder London is a prime setting in all three books. It is the heart of government—a government that is under attack from terrorists of all stripes, including my evil Druids. From the pomp and ceremony of the opening of Parliament (The Excalibur Parchment) to the machinations of an egotistical self-centred politician concerned with his own agenda instead of public service (The Prince Madoc Secret), the stories cannot be set in any city other than London. It brings together the “good guys” and the “bad guys” and gives them a stage to operate on.

          The Houses of Parliament rise majestically on the banks of the Thames River (if you go, the best view is from the London Eye across the river) and has been the target of numerous terrorist attacks from the days of Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up Parliament (1605) through to the attacks in 2017.

          Not far away is Buckingham Palace, a reminder of the stability of the British monarchy, but also the symbolic home of the Queen and the Royal Family, themselves often threatened by terrorist plots from foreign sources and homegrown alike.

          Beyond the historic sites like the Tower of London and magnificent churches such as Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral, there are many more interesting corners, hidden treasures and fascinating places to grab the visitor’s attention.

          London is such a magnet that the “real London” often merges in the mind with the fictional London from the thousands of books set in the city or the thousands of movies and television programmes that have been shot on its streets. Baker Street is real—but also, at 221b, the home of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. Notting Hill is a real village in the heart of the city, but also where Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant met in a bookstore. The list goes on.

Do you fancy shopping or street markets? By all means go to Regent St. and Oxford St.–the main shopping streets/ But don’t miss out on the smaller sites. Try Petticoat Lane or Portobello Road. Or go to the Borough Market, Spitalfields Market and Covent Garden. Are shows your thing? The West End theatres feature top hit shows and lesser-known—but equally enjoyable—productions. Don’t miss Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, for example, which opened in 1952 and has run continuously ever since to packed houses.

         Seeking peace and quiet? How about the many parks where you can rent a deck chair and relax surrounded by green and away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Hyde Park, Green Park, St. James Park, Regents Park, Hampstead Heath—all free and all inviting.

          There’s the popular sightseeing London—Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s, the Tower, Buckingham Palace and so on. But there’s also the literary London, the artistic London, the musical London, the shadowy London—whatever interests you have, London provides a bountiful plethora of places to go, things to see and things to do to meet your own particular areas of interest.

          In short, Johnson was right. There is so much to do and see in London, you can never get bored. Since Roman times it has been a hub drawing people from all over the world and all walks of life.  In other words, a perfect setting for a myriad of stories—mine included.

          You owe it to yourself to visit this great city.