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Book 3 in the James Blakiston Series

Book 3 in the James Blakiston Series is due out in August 2020 – next month. We are now at the closing stages of getting it ready for publication, and one of those final steps is the cover design. And that has created a bit of a challenge.

The covers for Books 1 and 2 follow a similar format, and my first thought was that I wanted Book 3 to be much the same. That’s received wisdom on series covers – you make each one look like the ones that went before so that people who read and liked the earlier books recognise this one and buy it. But it just wasn’t possible to find the right sort of images for Book 3, and so I had to look for another way.

Book 3 is called, The First Greeners in America. It’s rooted in an episode in A Just and Upright Man, the book with which the series began. Those who have not read that book, and those who have read it but forgotten it, may find a brief summary helpful. Blacksmith Joe Greener has been falsely accused of murdering Billy Bell and knows that he must get out of England or hang. His brother-in-law, farmer Tom Laws, agrees to pay for Joe and his youngest brother Miles to take ship for the American colonies. Although some of Book 3 still takes place in Ryton, County Durham, most of the book follows Joe and Miles as they cross the Atlantic and then settle as farmers in the Wyoming Valley in Pennsylvania.

The book’s title comes from a passage in which Sarah, the Dutch woman Joe has married in his new land, tells him he is to be a father. Here’s what it says:

‘Give me your hand. Put it here. Do you feel anything?’
Joe shook his head.
‘You will. You are to be a father, Joe. The first American Greener will be here in the spring.’
As Joe stepped forward, she reached out to take him in her arms. She raised her lips to be kissed.

Later, lying in bed beside the sleeping wife he adored, Joe realized that his decision was already made. With all its faults he loved America – loved its openness, its honesty, its freedom from hypocrisy and pretence.
He had not forgotten, and could not forget, how he and his kind lived in England and how Lord Ravenshead and Thomas Claverley and their kind acted towards them. Lord and rector must be respected because they had been put in their places by God. How did he know that? Because the lord and the rector told him so.
He was a free man here. This was his home. If it became necessary, he would fight for it. The new baby would not be the first American Greener.

The first American Greener was already here.

What I wanted for the cover was an image that would represent the transition to peace (though the peace will be short lived, because the War of Independence is coming and Joe and Miles will find themselves very much on the side of the colonists and against King George and his Redcoats). I just couldn’t find anything suitable – and so I asked Nicola Kelsall to produce an original artwork for me. Nicola is an artist based in Gloucestershire and I knew I was in safe hands because I already have a Kelsall print hanging on the wall of the room where I write. I wanted a peaceful scene in the American colonies away from the bustle of the growing towns. This is what she produced:

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I think it’s fabulous, and it’s now in the hands of cover designer Andrew Candy to produce the finished cover. If you want to be advised when the book is available in paperback and for Kindle, leave your email address here:

And if you haven’t yet started on the James Blakiston Series, you’ll find Book 1 here.

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