Sunday, 16 December 2012

Review - The Half Hanged Man by David Pilling

Publisher:                     Self/Independent
Year:                           2012
Price in sterling:            £6.42 (Pb) / £3.09 (E-book)
Paberback & E-Book
327 pages
ISBN:                          1480281956

Jean Froissard, a famous French chronicler, has been attacked by some men in a dark alley.  He seeks a dingy tavern in which to compose himself.  Most of his money, his clothes, boots and other valuable items have been stolen, but he has to his relief, been left with his quills and parchment.  It is 1395 and he has come to England to discover tales about bravery and chivalry in order to complete his life’s work.

A rugged looking man approaches the table at which Froissard has taken, and asks to sit down.  The fierce looking man is obviously down on his luck, but Froissard agrees once the stranger discloses he recognises the Frenchman and that he has a tale to tell. As the stranger reveals his identity, Froissard quickly dismisses the man’s claim that he is the notorious soldier of fortune, Sir Thomas Page; known as The Wolf of Burgundy to many, but infamously known to all as The Half Hanged Man. Page is a mercenary, part of the Free Companies who waged war in Western France during what was to become known as The Hundred Years War.

Froissard challenges the stranger to recant his tale, promising him wealth and further notoriety should he be telling the truth.  And so, with no further inducement required, The Half Hanged Man recants his brutal, violent and tragic story.


Balancing a tale steeped in violence whilst making your central character have a semblance of humanity is a difficult task.  The life of Sir Thomas Page was violent from the moment he was born, yet David Pilling manages to give this sociopathic character a sense of redemption.  He makes no excuse for the life he chose to lead, it was fight or die.  As he grew, trained and fought Page realised the role of a soldier was something he could do well.  Just as a Smith turns a lump of iron and steel into a balanced, ornate instrument of death, Page develops from a lowly sentry into a fearsome battle-hardened warrior.  

David Pilling’s historical research is impeccable and the style of writing harks back to the late 19th Century when characters like Flashman and Quartermain were all the rage.  This book will thoroughly entertain you and have you smiling, laughing, shaking your head with disbelief and willing the Half Hanged Man to get through his escapades in order to jump back into another.  I absolutely devoured this book in two nights, not wanting to put it down. I  am awarding The Half Hanged Man, not only 5 Crosses! The Half Hanged Man is bestowed with THE GOLDEN HAMMER & ANVIL SHIELD AWARD because David Pilling has written a book that grips you from beginning to end.

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  1. Congratulations on the 5 crosses to David Pilling! This is a fascinating period and the writing style, too, sounds is enticing.