Adventures on the Costa del Sol

A brand new character and series written by James Hartley will make their debuts this October in three English speaking newspapers in southern Spain with a combined weekly readership of 500 000.

“I´m really excited about introducing the new story and character to the world,” James said. “The action is all set on the Costa del Sol and Costa Blanca in Spain and I couldn´t have wished for more than having the stories serialised in newspapers from the region.”

The story, whose title has not yet been revealed, will run from October to December.

“I can´t say too much about it now except that the deal is in place and we´re all looking forward to it. The stories are fun, mystery adventures that anyone who lives or has ever been to the Spanish southern coasts will enjoy.”

Illustrations will be provided by Ben Hartley.

More information at or contact James directly at



On August 15th, Napoleon´s birthday, the first installment of The Napoleon Diaries – Imperial Exile – will be released exclusively on Kindle. You can read three free chapters here.

You can pre-order the book here.

The book, “faction” gleaned from all the extant diaries and letters of the time, is a close-up, detailed account of exactly what happened during Napoleon´s time on the island.

Read the Foreword to the book:

It is dusk on Monday 16th October 1815 and we are floating amid the tension, fear and expectation rising from a hushed crowd gathered on the edge of one of the most remote islands on earth.

Soldiers, slaves, shopkeepers and ladies jostle for a view of the shadowy figure being ferried across the still, dark water from the 74-gun ship-of-the-line whose silhouette dominates the bay. Will he have one burning eye staring out of his forehead? Will he growl and gnash his teeth and eat the children? Will he rage and shake his chains, this daemonic, petulant, parvenu midget who has bled Europe almost dry with his insatiable power lust?

Napoleon Bonaparte walks down the gangplank into the lantern-light a man of average height, his chin buried in his buttoned up greatcoat, eyes averted, riled at the gormless staring of the multitude. As what seems like the entire population of the island swells closer the sentries are ordered to stand with fixed bayonets and bark warnings: “Stand back! Give him space!”

Napoleon will sleep his first nights on St Helena in the house of Mr Porteous in James Town and he heads there now, head bowed, hurrying uphill with his most trusted aides. His suite of almost thirty people – men, women, servants and children – will be lodged about the island and aboard ship until permanent dwellings can be found. This has all happened so quickly nobody is quite sure how things will be organised.

None of the onlookers can quite believe that man walking away from them is really Napoleon Bonaparte. They´d only learned he was coming a few days earlier, the same time they had heard about Elba, the hundred days and the Battle of Waterloo.

But, yes, there he goes.

Just a man.


The decision to exile Napoleon to St Helena was debated by the British cabinet on the same day as London received news of his surrender to Captain Maitland aboard the Bellerophon off the French coast: 24th July, 1815.

Lord Bathurst, the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, explained the government´s decision to the Duke of Wellington thus:

We have nearly determined, subject to what we may hear from Paris in answer to Lord Liverpool’s letter a week ago, to send Bonaparte to St Helena. In point of climate it is unobjectionable and its situation will enable us to keep him from all intercourse with the world without requiring all that severity of restraint which it would be otherwise necessary to inflict upon him. There is much reason to hope that in a place from whence we propose excluding all neutrals, and with which there can be so little communication, Bonaparte’s existence will be soon forgotten.

Although Napoleon had wanted to be allowed to live out his remaining years in England, perhaps anonymously, the British government and its European allies were wary. Could Napoleon ever live anonymously? Crowds of locals had swarmed to him in small boats for a glimpse when he was anchored, a prisoner, off the English coast; there would be rescue attempts, the constant fear of another escape. While some European leaders called for Bonaparte´s execution there were also moves to try him in a court of law.

With his official status murky, legally speaking, the British decision was quickly made and acted upon: take him as far away from anywhere as possible and keep him there under strict supervision.


“It looks like something the devil shat out,” the wife of one of Napoleon´s intimate generals said when she and everyone else got their first sight of St Helena from the deck of the Northumberland. Fanny Bertrand, daughter of an Irishman, mother of three and Parisian socialite, immediately tried to escape this horrible vision, her new home, by jumping through an open porthole. She became stuck and was saved.

Napoleon was no less impressed by the sheer, dark cliff walls of his prison but he hadn´t made it from stuttering foreigner to Emperor of France without being made of sterner stuff. The man who´d rattled the thrones of Europe, who´d captured the imagination of romantics, who´d controlled an Empire which stretched halfway around the world, who´d won some of the most audacious military victories ever seen, who´d changed mankind´s thinking, laws and history, despite not being one of them, was not going to do anything else but wonder how this ghastly rock and all it meant could be not be turned somehow in his favour.

He was the Emperor Napoleon, after all.

This, like everything else, was war.

And war he was good at.


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Cover by Ben Hartley.

Tibetan Sky Burials and the Ragyabas

There is a social group in Tibet called the Ragyabas, whose job it is to break up the bodies of the dead and feed them to vultures in ceremonies held on open land called Sky Burials. Traditionally the Ragyabas lived seperate from society, a version of the untouchable caste of India.  In Patrick French´s book Tibet, Tibet, he describes how Ragyabas have various tax duties, how they would chant and beg at aristocratic weddings and how, as well as dealing with corpses, they were expected to do other tasks such as clean the drains.

When monks needed skeletons for religious ceremonies, the Ragyabas were called in to disinter bodies and bring them to the religious sites. They had their own master and hierarchy and they interbred and lived in ghettoes.

Percival Landon, writing in The Times after witnessing a sky burial in 1904, wrote: “It is difficult to imagine a more repulsive occupation, a more brutalized type of humanity, and, above all, a more abominable and foul sort of hovel than those, which are characteristic of these men. Filthy in appearance, half-naked, half-clothed in obscene rags, these nasty folk live in houses which a respectable pig would refuse to occupy.”

The English, of course, were not quite sure what they were witnessing. It also made no sense for them to paint Tibet in semi-mystical terms as they´d just killed five thousand Tibetans armed with slingshots and swords when marching on Lhasa. Later, when China invaded and British interests were threatened, they would change their tune.

In sky ceremonies, the bodies of the dead are carried out to bare spots and cut up by the dead breakers. The Ragyabas, after offering incense, make a special call to the birds and slowly and methodically butcher and chop to pieces the bodies with special tools. The morsels are thrown to the birds and the vultures swoop down, crowd in and pick clean the bones. It takes about an hour.

Sky ceremonies are thought to pre-date Buddhism in Tibet: they are  a practical way of desposing of dead bodies in a land where fuel is scarce and the ground is hard. It is a tradition which has been incorporated into Buddism because of its importance to the Tibetans – and it continues despite revulsion from the latest foreigners to take up residence in their land – the Chinese.

As a bright footnote to quite a sombre theme, Wade Davis, in Into the Silence, relates how Francis Younghusband, one of the British who had made it to Lhasa at the turn of the last century, and very much the old colonial,  left the country a changed man.

At the first opportunity after leaving the city, Younghusband slipped away from the others and walked alone in the mountains. The sky was radiant blue and the light was violet.

He looked back at Lhasa and thought upon the words of the Lama who had presented with him an image of the Buddha as a gesture of peace – Younghusband would keep it on his person for the rest of his life.

“And with the warmth still on me,” he wrote, “and bathed in the insinuating influences of the dreamy autumn evening, I was sensibly infused with an almost intoxicating sensation of elation and good will. The exhileration of the moment grew and grew til it thrilled through me with overpowering intensity. Never again could I think evil, or ever again be at enmity with any man.”

Younghusband went on to form the World Congress of Faiths.

“Such experiences are all to rare and they but too become blurred in the actualities of of daily intercourse and practical existence. Yet it is these few fleeting moments which are reality. In these we only see real life. The rest is ephemeral, the unsubstantial. And that single hour leaving Lhasa was worth the rest of my lifetime.”

What´s it like to live with blood cancer?

Joshua Stedford was 16 when he got the diagnosis. His life changed.

This is Joshua´s story, told with his own unique wit and searing honesty. Read, in this first installment, how it feels to go from being a normal kid obsessed with the Xbox and school, to a cancer patient.

Josh continues today as a patient at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London and would love to hear your thoughts on his work.

Click here to read the first part of The 25th Hour of the 8th Day.


COLD FIRE to be published Spring 2018

COLD FIRE, the second book in James Hartley´s popular Shakespeare´s Moon series for young adult readers, will be published by Lodestone Books in Spring 2018.

The novel, which tells the story of a group of friends at St Francis´ School who become involved in the plot of Shakespeare´s Romeo and Juliet, also features the story of a young schoolmaster from Stratford Upon Avon who arrives at the school four hundred years previously.

“I´m thrilled Lodestone have decided to publish Cold Fire,” the author, James Hartley, said.

“I know readers are going to enjoy finding out more about the history of St Francis´ and I think they might be surprised at how Romeo and Juliet´s story is told.”

Cold Fire forms the second “act” in the series. The first, The Invisible Hand, is currently stocked at the National and Globe Theatres in London and in bookshops all over the world.

It has proved a global hit with teachers and students, telling the story of children at a literary-based boarding school, St Francis´, who become involved in the plot of Shakespeare´s Macbeth.

Heart of Winter, a short story prelude to The Invisible Hand, is available free from Smashwords and Eve´s Christmas, a seasonal tale, is available for Kindle.

Creative Will, a national competition James is running in conjunction with Shakespeare´s Schoolroom, Stratford-Upon-Avon´s newest tourist attraction, gives young writers the chance to get their names into Cold Fire as one of the characters. The competition runs until the end of this month.


William Allen (Will) was a Year 10 student at St Anselm’s College on the Wirral in England. At the beginning of Year 9 he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour.

Although he missed periods of school during his last year (2016) for radiotherapy, Will was always eager to attend whenever he could. Even in the latter stages of his illness, Will would always contact his teachers asking for tasks and work to do. He wanted more than anything to be back in school with his friends.

Will´s stories, published on their own page, were written during his struggle with his brain tumour. His mother said he really enjoyed writing the stories, despite what he was going through.

Sadly, Will passed away just before Christmas 2016.

As you´ll see from what you read, Will was a writer. He loved words and had a talent for them. He left us these stories.

His page is dedicated to all writers, especially young ones, like Will, who want to see something they´ve written published.

Send all stories, articles, comments and scraps to me at

and I´ll publish as many as I can.

If you are under 18, please try and include a contact number or address for a teacher or parent, especially if you want your photo or name published.

Use the drop down menu up above or click on a cover to go to the story you want. If you want your story included here, write now!




Amazing Art inspired by The Invisible Hand

It´s a humbling and strange experience to walk into a school and see the walls lined with drawings of characters you´d only ever seen before in your mind, but this morning, at Orvalle School, I had that very experience – a boy was it a mind-blower.

Here are some taster pictures of what I saw – I also read poetry and watched a play based on the book. I was very humbled and moved and inspired!

Click on any picture to go to the main gallery.


Inspiring young writers with the magic of Shakespeare

James Hartley with Charlotte Bean, 9, and Annabelle Froud, 10.

By Ben Lugg, Stratford Herald, Stratford-Upon- Avon

An imaginative author is hoping to use the magic of Shakespeare’s Schoolroom to inspire local schoolchildren to take an interest in creative writing and the Bard.

James Hartley’s new novel, The Invisible Hand: Shakespeare’s Moon Act I, follows the time travelling adventures of two teenage boarding school pupils, wrapped up in the story of Macbeth.

Earlier this month James hosted a special creative writing taster workshop at Stratford’s Guildhall, during which pupils were invited to take part in a competition with a very special prize.

Older pupils will be able to submit entries for a short story competition, whilst younger ones will draw scenes from Shakespeare’s plays.

The winning entries will win another workshop from James for their whole class, but just as importantly, the author has promised to include the winning pupils as characters in his next book.

He intends to write another four novels in the series, each based around a different Shakespeare play.

James’ visit is part of a project called Creative Will, which is intended to nurture creativity in local schoolchildren.

James said: “I want to use the inspiration that is in this building to encourage the children to take an interest in creative writing. I thought the children were fantastic at the taster workshop, really engaged and imaginative, they always come up with new and different ideas. Children’s imaginations are endless.

“I believe passionately in the power of creativity, which can help children in so many different ways with their learning.  And there is no stronger influence on the craft of storytelling and language than the legacy of Shakespeare.  For young minds we need to make Shakespeare relevant, approaching it with the same energy and passion that the Bard himself had.  I’m very excited to be working with Shakespeare’s Schoolroom, which as a writer and English teacher is one of the most exciting places to visit imaginable.”

Sarah Jervis Hill, from Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall, added: “We want to bring to life the inspiration that has lived and breathed in the Schoolroom for hundreds of years and rekindle the magic from when Shakespeare not only attended school here, but also had his first professional theatrical experiences.  We’ll be doing this through a programme for children called Creative Will, which hopes to nurture and develop creativity in lots of different ways.

Sitting Where Shakespeare Sat

Shakespeare´s Schoolroom is a fantastic, evocative tourist attraction right in the heart of Stratford-Upon-Avon, and that´s where I was, launching a new, nationwide competition, last week.

The Schoolroom, which includes the Guildhall – most of that longblack and white building behind me – was where Shakespeare was taught. I was back there with a group of local schoolchildren to launch a new competition. Full details can be found here.

Can´t wait to start reading the entries – winners get their name in Cold Fire, the next Shakespeare´s Moon book (about Romeo and Juliet) – so please share if you know anyone between the ages of 11 and 17 who might want to take part.