Fiction on Location: The Tower of London, England


      When the thought of The Tower of London springs into mind of the average person, it would be to view the place as a prison and where the most notorious prisoners were kept. This is a true well-known fact, but it was also a home for many of the English monarchy till 1660, where Charles III moved from the Tower into Westminster. It was a home, a prison, a place of very famous executions, along with murders, suicides and many more gruesome things. But this does not stop from people all over the world coming to the Tower to see and listen to its stories. I have to admit I was always intrigued by the Tower, from the spooky stories surrounding it from the grey walls that protected many monarchs throughout the years. The Tower isn’t a working prison anymore, the last time it held a prison was in 1962 with the Kray twins being held there; they were very famous Whitechapel serial killers. Here are a few pictures from the Tower itself:

(Pictures are Tower-view from another tall building in London, The White Tower in the middle of the walls where the Monarch’s lived, a walkway leading to the Bloody Tower known for the place where murders and suicides took place, a memorial to show the spot where the 7 people who were executed in the Tower walls, and the Tower across the river Thames.)

               The two authors that come to mind when it comes to putting such a dark place in their works are Philippa Gregory and Paul Lawrence. Both are historical fiction writers but for different time periods and use the Tower in a different ways. Philippa is most known for her Tudor period novels and if you know the history behind Henry VIII then you know the reason she is mentioned with the Tower. The Tower is the place where two of Henry’s wives were sent to their death; Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Her two novels were The Other Boleyn Girl and the Boleyn Inheritance. He was too snobby to have lived in the Tower himself and preferred to live at Hampton Court instead. Another novel that looks at the family and tragedy in the tower is The White Queen; who loses her two sons when they go missing in the Tower. I have to admit I haven’t read much of her novels; I know shame on me. I am a history buff and I love all things historical fiction, you think this would be right up my alley but I never got around to reading any of her books. I think I started The Other Boleyn Girl but got distracted by another book and forgot about it. I really should pick them up again, what book do you recommend by her? Which one do you think I should start with?

               The other author who takes a look at the Tower in a new light is Paul Lawrence who is a historical thriller writer, looking at the London history in 1664. His books The Sweet Smell of Decay and A Plague of Sinners are about a man, Harry, Lytle who works for the Tower as a clerk is surrounded by prisoners of an infamous nature is called to investigate deaths of the wealthy and powerful of England. The Tower is the center of his world; from where he works to places and people to get information from. He witnesses his fair share of public executions and deals with death on a daily basis. Harry must solve the murders put in front of him along with keeping his head by not getting into too much trouble from those who want him dead. I have read The Sweet Smell of Decay and this book is fascinating. It is not ideal for someone who had a weak stomach since it is very gory; there were some scenes that made my stomach feel a bit funny. This book is not nice and sweet adventure about London; these novels take place during a time in London when it was corrupt, dirty, and unpleasant time to be an Englishman. You need to have a strong stomach and a level head to read them; they are not for your average reader. I haven’t read A Plague of Sinners but I hope to soon!

               The Tower has played an important role in English history which allows these books to be written in the manner that they are. They represent the end of many people’s lives and could be a place where someone’s life is evolved around. It is a place that haunts and intrigues people throughout the ages, and it will continue to do so. There is much mystery and curiosity around this old, strange place and I enjoyed my time there learning about its history, looking at old armor, swords, and seeing the crowd jewels. Yes ladies, they are nice! If you haven’t been and are willing to pay the money to go, then I would look into it!

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