“A terrific tale, gripping from start to finish.” The Times
Printed copies from all good shops, and the ebook from wherever you normally buy ebooks!
THE HIGHWAYMAN’S FOOTSTEPS and its sequel, The Highwayman’s Curse, are to inspire reading for pleasure in many schools, in the final two years of primary and first two years of secondary. Both books are now available as ebooks and have been reprinted many times.
Walker have produced a gorgeous downloadable poster here. Do print it for your school library.
About the Highwayman’s Footsteps
Full of dark deeds and danger, set in the gruesome 18th century, the book follows the adventures of Will and Bess. Will is wealthy but he has run away from home after arguments with his father and hated older brother. He steals money for food, and is on the run from the redcoats. Seeking refuge in a ruin, he finds that he is not alone: someone else is hiding there: a highwayman, who captures him at gunpoint.
Bess is the daughter of a highwayman and has learnt to ride and use weapons. After her parents’ brutal death, she was cared for by Aggie but when Aggie died, Bess was left on her own, aged 13. Bess, now 14, is very strong and independent. Will is not, but he learns to be. He thinks he’s a coward, because his father and brother have always told him so, but during his adventures with Bess he finds courage that he had never imagined.
Bess hates the redcoats because they killed her parents. So when Will and Bess come across a young deserter, Henry Parish, on the run from the redcoats for stealing flour, they vow to help him. But the redcoats are determined to catch Henry, so Will and Bess face great danger. Will also discovers something terrible about his father and vows to make him pay. Will and Bess now have a double mission: to defend Henry Parish and take vengeance on the redcoats and Will’s father and brother.
When is it set? 1761. The year of the Hexham riots, when local people protested against the way they were forced to join the militia. The authorities decided that the ring-leader was an old man and they hanged him for it. But then they discovered that he hadn’t even been there that day. This incident becomes very important in fuelling Will’s anger; he hates injustice and wants to fight against it.
What about the title? As soon as I started thinking about highwaymen, I was drawn towards my favourite poem, perhaps my favourite piece of writing anywhere: The Highwayman, by Alfred Noyes. For me it is perfect: SO beautifully tragic! It is about a highwayman and his lover, Bess, ’the landlord’s black-eyed daughter’. The redcoats want to kill the highwayman so they set a trap, tying Bess with a gun against her heart. But she wriggles until her finger is on the trigger and then waits till her lover approaches on his horse; when he does, she pulls the trigger, to warn him that the soldiers are waiting. To warn him with her death. She dies and he gallops away, not realising what the shot meant. Later, when he hears of her death, he gallops back in fury and allows the redcoats to shoot him dead, ’down like a dog’ on the road.
So, when I knew I was going to write story about a girl who was a highwayman, I knew she had to be connected. I decided that the highwayman and the landlord’s daughter had had a baby and that the story of their deaths would affect that child as she grew up. I knew that Bess would be brave and beautiful like them, but human and real too, with problems and depth of character.
So, Bess follows in the footsteps of her highwayman father. His spirit guides her and she will never forget him and all that he taught her about honour and bravery. Nor will she forget her hatred of the redcoats.
Something you might like to know: Henry Parish, the deserter whom the redcoats chased, was a real person. Henry stole the flour because his family were starving but the soldiers wanted it to whiten their hair. Often it’s the small people who change history: it was partly because of him that the British army decided to change its policy of using flour to whiten the hair of the soldiers.
Main reviews of both Highwayman Books
The Times, Amanda Craig: “… Morgan is a skilled storyteller who exposes the seamiest sides of history and explores ideas with real feeling. She shows us the miseries of poor people’s lives in England’s “golden age” … it is a terrific tale, gripping from start to finish.”
The Herald, Vanessa Curtis: “…the novel gallops along at a cracking pace, packed full of plot twists.”
The Telegraph, Sinclair McKay: “If what you are after is really serious retro-adventure, then it doesn’t get more sincere – or hauntingly conjured – than The Highwayman’s Footsteps … From the opening chapter we are hauled into the perilous life … Muskets are fired, horses are stolen, confidences are betrayed, shelter is sought in freezing, stinking hovels and all of this is played out against the unforgiving winter landscape of the Yorkshire Dales. Jeopardy lies round every corner, but Will and Bess come to form an impressive team, having constantly to think on their feet to stay ahead of soldiers and treacherous family members. There is no let up either in pace or atmosphere.”
The Bookbag, Jill Murphy: “…a wonderfully well-written book, with well-chosen vocabulary and serious moral dilemmas. It’s meticulously researched and a real epic of an adventure story too. Highly recommended for 10s and up.”
The Northern Echo, Rosalind Kerven: “Danger and fear jump out from every page in this gripping historical novel. …. There are no holds barred in this heart wrenching and highly recommended novel. (Age 11+)”
Scotland on Sunday, Janet Christie: “… Noyes’ poem runs throughout the novel and is the catalyst for much of the action. Morgan follows in the highwayman’s footsteps by stepping confidently into his leather riding boots and galloping off with a teen novel whose strong characters, vivid language and runaway plot not only stand, but deliver too. …”
Bookbag, reviewer Jill Murphy: “It’s as vivid and vital as the first book … as evocative of time and place as ever you could wish. …Clear-eyed, carefully structured and capable of analysis, yet vivid, energetic and motivational, I loved The Highwayman’s Curse just as much as I loved Morgan’s first book about Will and Bess. It’s everything you could ask for in an historical novel and it comes highly recommended by Bookbag.”
Waterstone’s, Sue Chambers from the Harrods branch: “The sequel to the Highwayman’s Footsteps and is as well written and gritty as that volume. Superb, atmospheric and glorious. Buy both and have a ball – absolutely WONDERFUL. Enjoy this adventure. I hope and trust there will be a third.”