How it all started

A.L.Berridge is my real name. Although I've always been called 'Louise', I was actually christened 'Anne Louise', something I didn't find out until I first went to school and was confounded by the teacher addressing me as 'Anne'. The whole ‘middle-name as first-name' issue has caused a lot of inconvenience over the years, but when I asked my parents why they'd landed me with it they recoiled in disbelief. 'Because 'Anne Louise' sounds better than 'Louise Anne',' explained my father in ill-concealed horror. 'Surely you can see that?'

Words, and the sound of them, have always mattered a great deal in my family. My mother Joan was fortunate enough to read English at Oxford during the Merton professorship of J.R.R. Tolkien, while my father was the eminent historian and writer David Newsome, who won the Whitbread Best Biography in 1980 for On The Edge of Paradise, and always paid a great deal of attention to the crafting of prose. 'Always end on a monosyllable, Annie-Lou,' he would tell me. 'Say what you want to say, then fix it with a nail.' Writing Honour and the Sword many years later, it was with both surprise and humility that I discovered myself constantly labouring to do exactly that.

Writing was probably inevitable with such a background, and so, to some extent, was history. Perhaps less predictable was the enduring fascination with action-adventure, war and the military, but that too had its roots here. My father loved such things, and undeterred by the absence of a son, used to read his four daughters the books he loved himself. When I was seven years old he took us to see the film Zulu and a lifelong obsession was born.

It was then I first began devouring serious history books for my own pleasure - the original 1880 Story of the Zulu Campaign by Ashe and Wyatt-Edgell was followed rapidly by the 1959 The Washing of the Spears by Donald Morris. Worse, my sisters and I actually began to write our own stories about the characters, and a series of hideous handwritten Zulu Weeklys began to be pressed on long-enduring schoolfriends.

It was about a year later that my stories first took their present turn, when the BBC broadcast a version of the French television film Le Chevalier Tempête. The series was appallingly dubbed into English and rechristened The Flashing Blade, but it engaged the imagination of whole generations of children in the UK. Even now it has enormously high nostalgia value, and the whole series has recently been released on DVD.


We loved it. We had long been brought up on classic swashbuckling films, from Captain Blood to The Mark of Zorro, but it was this children's TV series that led me to read The Three Musketeers. For the first time my stories began to feature war and swords - and seventeenth century France.


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