I've taken the liberty of reposting the review here... ever heard of 'The Levellers Revolt'? No? Just reminds you that history tends to be mediated by the 'victors' .Whether you're a fan of 19th century fiction or not, if you look beneath the 'popular' historical adventure romance style of this novel, you might just learn something about The Acts of Union iand their practical consequences in 1724. Has that much really changed in nearly 300 years?
The Dark o’ The Moon (First published 1902) S.R.Crockett
This sequel to ‘The Raiders’ was published some eight years after the first part. Indeed Crockett had been keen to use the title for his original novel, but shelved the idea, worried that people would not understand it. If one compares ‘The Raiders’ with ‘Kidnapped’ then one might feel inclined to compare ‘The Dark o’ the Moon’ with ‘Catriona.’ In my opinion Crockett’s sequel works better than Stevenson’s. But both of them fall victim to the vagaries of adding to a story which has already become well loved. Some people can take to the notion of adding to a story, some baulk at the idea, wanting to preserve the ‘original’ as complete. For my money, it’s always worth exploring why a writer decides he has more to say with a particular set of characters.
In Crockett’s case, he takes the story on a generation (though you do have to suspend disbelief in the time framing a bit) with the ‘hero’ being Maxwell Heron, the son of Patrick Heron and May Maxwell – hero and heroine of ‘The Raiders.’ Maxwell is every bit as ‘ordinary’ a hero as his father and every bit as subject to Crockett’s ironic humour. This story also brings back the character of Silver Sand (who will get his own ‘prequel’ in another 12 years!) though Maxwell is less sure of Silver Sand’s honesty than his father was. Many readers will be happy to engage with Silver Sand again, but for me the stand out character is the darker one of Hector Faa.
While the novel follows perhaps a similar ‘romantic’ vein to ‘The Raiders’ the romance between Maxwell Heron and Joyce Faa is somewhat of an exciting backdrop to the more political incidents of the story. The historical frame of the story is the little known 1724 Galloway Levellers Revolt. I believe it is unique in fiction in dealing with this incident and as such is interesting on this count alone.
Beneath the ‘love’ intrigue Crockett weaves a tale that is uncompromisingly harsh with regards to the practical consequences of the Hanoverian monarchy in Galloway in particular and Scotland in general. Set between the two Jacobite rebellions, this novel offers us a different picture, an alternative perspective and a Lowland view which might surprise those who have been taught to oversimplify Scottish history as Jacobite vs Hanoverian.
Running through the novel is Crockett’s observation that the Hanoverians are more ‘gypsies’ than the gypsies. Their ‘smuggling’ is on a wider scale. They pressgang men and carry off women all in the name of monarchy. Crockett puts the case for the older way, that of honour and respect only where it is due. Gallovidians are seen as fiercely independent and all the better for it.
It amazes me that this novel has been so long overlooked, though perhaps the political message sits uneasily with our times. If you like ‘The Raiders’ and its panoply of characters, you will find many of them again in this novel, and yet there is much more to it than simply being a ‘sequel’. It’s like a sequel plus – showing movement in time and the immediate impact of The Acts of Union on the ordinary Scottish people. Of course you can read this as a lightweight adventure romance. But particularly at this present time, we might be well advised to delve a little deeper into the social history which Crockett presents in loose fictional form, and ask ourselves some penetrating questions about the nature of democracy, independence and the notion of constitutional monarchy.
You can buy The Dark o’ the Moon in ebook format (Kindle or epub) from Ayton Publishing for £3.99 HERE (You can also buy it as an ebook from Amazon UK or US)
To buy the paperback copy in UK from Amazon click HERE £10.99 and in the US $16.99 click HERE