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The Ellen Payne Odom
Genealogy Library Family Tree
The Family Tree - February/March 2003
A Highlander and his Books
Rebel King, Hammer of the Scots
Book One, A Novel
Written by: Charles Randolph Bruce
& Carolyn Hale Bruce
Reviewed by: Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Atlanta, GA, USA
those of you who enjoy Scottish novels, particularly historical ones, this is a great book
to settle down with in front of a fire on a cold, rainy, winters night. Get yourself
a glass of wine, a wee dram, or a cup of cappuccino to warm your soul. The book will, too!
Other than Sir Walter Scott and Nigel Tranter, I normally do not make a habit of reading
historical novels, and already you have a heads-up as to what I think about this book. I
must confess that I was a little slow getting around to reading it. After all, it is a
407-page book! I take my reading time very personally. I do not casually read a book; I
devour it like a leg of lamb or a beer-can chicken from my oft used backyard grill. Rebel
King, Hammer of the Scots was no exception. I actually found myself eagerly
returning to the book until the last page was read. When I had finished the book, I wished
there had been more than the 407 pages. Well get back to this aspect later in the
Mel Gay, also known as Beths husband, introduced me to an
interesting man at our Clan Chattan tent last October during the Stone Mountain Highland
Games. Charles Randolph Bruce wanted to chat about his book. He spoke passionately and
eloquently about what he and his wife, Carolyn, had written concerning "the
chronicles of Robert de Brus, King of Scots". In a letter from Mr. Bruce, he
described the book as "a fast-paced telling of the Scottish Wars of Independence,
beginning only months after the unjustly and horribly meted out death of Sir William
Wallace, subject of the Mel Gibson movie Braveheart." While this is a story
informed Scots are familiar with, there are many others who have carelessly passed it by
over the years. Both groups would do well to spend time with this book - the former to
refresh their memories and stir their hearts once again, with the latter learning what
they have put off far too long. Randolph and Carolyn Bruce have written a wonderful book
worthy of the Scottish communities attention. Thanks, Mel!
Mr. Bruce informed me that the book "started out to be a family
story that grew into a Scotland story". From my perspective, this is a
book for anyone who enjoys an exciting and jam-packed book of suspense and intrigue.
Simply put, it is an exciting, well-written novel. Im glad I read the book, and I
firmly believe if you read the first chapter, you will read the entire book like I did. It
ends with the death of "the Hammer of the Scots", Edward I. We learn the story
will continue with a sequel or two. Knowing this action filled account of the heroic
Robert de Brus will continue is, to me, the best part.
Professionally, Randolph and Carolyn Bruce are both commercial
artists, an added bonus for all readers. Their book is graced with artistic talent at the
beginning of each chapter where you will find pencil drawings of the main characters - a
very nice touch. Personally, the authors are parents and grandparents like so many
of us. But, unlike so many of us, they have portrayed the beautiful story of Scotlands
quest for freedom in words and drawings. The good news for this modern man is that the
ancient story will continue as this talented husband and wife team weaves their magic
formula again hopefully in the near future!
A CHAT WITH RANDOLPH AND CAROLYN BRUCE
By: Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Atlanta, GA
30327-1862, USA <email: email@example.com>
Q: Do you mind telling our readers what type work you both do?
Give us a brief note about your family and background.
A: (Carolyn) Both of us come from professional backgrounds of
advertising, copywriting, and commercial art and illustration. In fact, we met while
working in the same art department at a now-defunct printing company many years ago.
Our separate families migrated into the mountains of western Virginia
around the time of the Revolutionary War, if not before. Both of us have Scottish ancestry
with surnames like Bruce, Agnew, Fraser, Dunn, Thompson, Ingram, Preston, and others.
Q: Randolph, how and why did you and Carolyn decide to write a
book, an historical novel, about Robert de Brus, at this stage in your lives?
A: (Randolph) Oh, it started way before Carolyn and I met. I was about
four or five years old when my grandfather first told me that I was descended from Robert
the Bruce, king of Scotland. It meant little at the time, but I always sort of thought of
myself as being part of King Roberts family.
Fast forward to about ten years ago. Carolyn and I were in the library,
and I happened upon a book about Scotland that included the story of The Bruce in a very
condensed form. Inspired, I thought it would make a great movie, and in a short time, I
had written a screenplay. After a fruitless quest to attract attention for the idea in
Hollywood, I threw the manuscript in a drawer. Along came Braveheart and its
short shrift of poor ol Robert and Scottish history (for instance, Edward IIs
wife was but a child in France when The Wallace was rampaging). For years, Id look
at my unsold script and growl a lot.
Then in 1999, I was on a trip and put a tape from Nigel Tranters
"Bruce" trilogy into the dashboard player and settled back to listen as I drove.
Tranter was a well-known author and authority on things Scottish. But, listening to the
tape I found myself growing angry - this was not the Robert de Bruce that I knew from my
research and knowledge of my stubborn Scottish ancestors! I decided then that I would take
my research and write the story of the Scottish hero as I saw him.
Q: I understand that the two of you wrote this book even though
there were unusual circumstances about where each of you lived. Would you care to explain?
A: (Carolyn) We actually reside in Virginia Beach, Virginia, but have
lived 250 miles apart for the past five years. My mom is elderly and though she does very
well, is not able to stay by herself for long periods of time. So, when Randy had written
a couple of chapters on this novel, he sent them by email for me to read. I thought they
were great, offered to "edit" for him, and he accepted. Well, I not only edited
by added my two cents worth. I sent them back to him, he liked what I had done and,
before long, we were writing the book jointly
though still apart! But thats how
the book, all 407 pages, actually got written.
Q: Word on the street is that this book might be considered movie
material. Any truth to that at this time that you care to tell us about?
A: (Randolph) We would love to see our novel on the screen, and a
number of our readers have long thought that our book would make a terrific movie. We are
working on several possibilities, but at present, we havent anything concrete. So if
anybody wants to make us a serious offer, negotiations are still open.
Q: Do you plan sequels to Hammer of the Scots, and if so,
A: At present, we plan to complete a tetralogy. The second of the four,
now in its early stages, is "working" titled, Rebel King, Winter Blood.
We hope to have it out in late summer of this year. The third volume will tell the story
of The Bruce through the Battle of Bannockburn, and the fourth, the Irish Campaign. There
is occasionally talk about a fifth volume, but we havent made that decision, yet.
Q: What is the best way to purchase this book since you have
created a new publishing company to print and market your book? Who should an interested
party contact to buy it?
A: Hammer of the Scots is available through many Scottish
clans and societies, and from our website: http://www.Robert-de-Bruce.com.
It is also in several independent bookstores, and we are working on getting it into the
national chains. Just ask for it at your favorite bookstore; if they dont yet have
it in stock, they should have it before long, or they can special order it for you.
(Writers note: go to the top of this article for the ISBN number to take to your
Q: Thank you for your cooperation in this "chat"
interview. Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
A: We appreciate the opportunity you have given us to present our book
to your readers. We have given much attention to historical facts, though sometimes
Scotsmen may differ on what those facts are. Some of the story takes Scottish lore into
account, and some minor things and characters are made up to move along the story. But we
have tried to be true to the Scottish people and the way we think they would have managed
during this heroic, horrible, inspiring period of our history. We have great hopes for the
series, and its success all depends on whether or not people read our book. Tis a
great story. Read it! (1/7/03)
Ellen Payne Odom Genealogy Library Family Tree
Tree - October/November 2004
A Highlander And His Books
King, Book Two, The Har’ships
By Charles Randolph
Bruce and Carolyn Hale Bruce
Reviewed by Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot,
Atlanta, GA, USA.
One thing is for sure – from
a personal perspective, you and I will never
know the hardships that Robert the Bruce
endured over the years fighting to free his
beloved Scotland. However, you can thank the
authors of this book for bringing that
message as close to home as possible.
Charles and Carolyn Bruce continue their
rich and exciting tradition of the oft-told
story of Robert the Bruce in
Rebel King, Book Two, The
If you liked their first
book, Rebel King, Book One, Hammer of
the Scots, you will love The
Har’ships, a book of sheer
enjoyment. This husband and wife team should
feel proud of their second volume. It does
not miss a beat, and the story actually
picks up a month from where the first left
off. It is a fascinating story of adventure
and high drama. In literature, books like
this are called historical fiction. In
baseball lingo, they are called home runs!
On top-ten book lists, they are called best
sellers. This is one of those books!
When I think of historical
fiction, I naturally think of the father of
the historical novel – Sir Walter Scott, the
greatest writer of his century. Nigel
Tranter, who wrote approximately 129 books
during his lifetime, was a worthy successor
to Scott. The Bruces have not earned that
comparison…yet…but when they are through
with all four of their books on Robert the
Bruce, maybe the subject should be
revisited. However, in my opinion, their
first two books do rival the wonderful
trilogy on Robert the Bruce written by Nigel
Tranter in 1969, 1970, and 1971
Once again, this talented
couple has done the Scottish community a
great favor. Their current book is just as
readable as the first one and just as
enjoyable. If you find yourself pulling for
the underdog (and who doesn’t?), you will
love this book. It is the fascinating story
of a small, out-manned, under-armed group of
courageous men who willingly give life and
limb to win back their freedom and their
Scottish kingdom, both stolen by Edward I,
the dreaded King of England who dubbed
himself “The Hammer of the Scots”. What is
rightfully theirs cannot be denied. This
book sizzles with excitement, and you will
An important feature of the
book is the inclusion of the many character
illustrations – 42 in all. The drawings are
exceptional and add a greater dimension to
the book. Check out the list of models in
the front of the book, and you may find a
name familiar to you. I did! My buddy Mel
Gay is listed. The “Mel man” never looked so
good! And on another personal note, my good
friend, Tom Burns is listed in the credits
as one whose expertise helped make the book
a better one. Tom succeeded!
A Highlander and his Books
A Third Chat with Randy and Carolyn Bruce
By Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Atlanta, GA, USA email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: Well, Randy and Carolyn, we meet again. I’ve never interviewed anyone three times, and now I wonder if this is the last time. Is Bannok Burn going to be the final book on Robert de Brus or will there be a sequel or two? If there are others to follow, what will they cover since Brus is now on the throne, and when can we look for them to be published?
A: We are happy to chat with you again, Frank. Our original intent was to publish four books in the series, which would create a dilemma for us at this point since in our research we have found many additional fascinating facts and historical events around which we really want to build more into the story of this great period in Scottish history. Of course, ahead of us lie the momentous events of the Irish Campaigns in 1315, the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320, and the rest of the lives of all of the main characters… every bit as intriguing but perhaps not as well known as the stories we’ve already told. At this point, then, we can say there will be at least one additional novel in the Rebel King series, and hopefully more. To this point we have been able to publish one novel every two years, so perhaps our next first edition will be in 2008.
Q: You dedicate this book to your children and grandchildren, “present and future”. You go on to say, “Your ancestors were at Bannock Burn”. Not many can make that statement, so tell us about your side of the Bruce family.
A: When Randy was a small boy playing in the living room floor of the Bruces’ Straley Avenue home in Princeton, West Virginia, his grandfather, Charles Leonidas Bruce, called him from his toys and told him about his heritage. Though he didn’t have any notion of what it all meant, he listened politely as his granddad told him he was descended from Robert the Bruce, King of Scots. Not knowing who Robert was or what it meant to be ‘descended from’ anybody, it was very much a ho-hum response… something like, ‘Okay’. It wasn’t until years later that the statement really hit home and he began to realize its import. We are continuing our research into both our lineages, and so far among our direct ancestors we find the surnames Agnew, Ballard, Bruce (of course), Cannaday, Chesney, Davidson, Dunn, Fraser, Ingram, Johnson, Johnston(e), Kerr, King, Nichol(s) Preston, Smith, Thomas, Thompson, Wright and others. With so many Scottish roots nourishing our tree, we feel safe in declaring to our offspring that they had ancestors at Bannok Burn.
Q: I’ve always been curious as to what made you two decide to become publishers. Would you do it again? What challenges have you faced publishing your own books? Would you encourage other writers to do the same?
A: After we had our manuscript for Rebel King, Book One, Hammer of the Scots all but complete, we followed the rules of the publishing industry and began the search for an agent to try and sell our novel to a publisher. After a couple of months, we had a contract with an agent and continued polishing the manuscript while he hawked our wares. An uneventful period followed as we heard only occasionally from the agent and after some months, he said he had presented us to those he thought were likely publishers and would after six months or so, make the rounds again. This seemed a lackadaisical sort of business, and we asked for our contract to be voided, with which he complied. We sent out package after package to publishers large and small, only to be rejected, most as “not of our genre,” though some had never been opened! We thought to ourselves that, if publishing was so successful that they didn’t need to open the package to see what was being offered, it might be a good business to enter!
We did acquire a publisher interested in our novel and contracted with the firm, which had offices in New York and the UK. Then, after September 11, 2001, so many of their employees decided to return to the UK that their previous schedule for publishing our book was protracted beyond the time we felt we could wait, and the company graciously allowed us to have our contract returned to us without penalty. After discussing the tremendous risks and investment it would take, we decided to publish our own works.
Would we do it again? Yes! We certainly could not have come this far without the help we have received from our friends and the Scottish community in general, and we’ve never worked so hard or risked so much. But neither have we had so much fun. There is a great deal to be said for the excitement that comes from setting a lofty goal and working to reach it. The greatest difficulty we experience is in trying to do the creative and the nitty-gritty at the same time. There just are not enough hours in the week to get the day’s three “Rs” done, i.e. research, ‘ritin’, and red tape, and there’s nobody else to do it. Yet, we do encourage other writers to publish. We wouldn’t advise anyone not to follow his or her dreams. However, it’s important to remember that we collectively had many years of experience in advertising art and copywriting, marketing, and printing, and that practical knowledge has been an immense help as we have made our way.
Q: Sir Walter Scott is one of my favorite Scottish writers. He was a very successful author, known and revered the world over, the most successful writer in the world during his life, but when his publishing company went south and bankrupted, Scott was forced into financial ruin and nearly lost all of his possessions. What makes you two think you will be different from Scott?
A: We aren’t, except of course that he was world-renowned, an icon of Scotland and a poet beloved by all, and we are definitely not…yet!
Q: While we are on Scott, father of the historical novel, would you consider your books to be historical novels? Your characters seem to be a mix of both fact & fiction. Are they truly representative of the historical characters in the days of de Brus?
A: Yes, we consider our books to be historical fiction or novels, and most but not all of our characters are names out of Scottish and English history. The battles we mention were actually fought in much the same way as we describe them…at least as far as our research has shown.
As for the personalities of the individuals involved, we take as many indications of their strengths and weaknesses as we can from among the historical records and endeavor to build believable, real people. All of the major characters are based on our readings about the actual historical figures, but we’ve been known to, and called to task for, changing things about an historical personage or two. When it is done, it is to move the storyline along, and for no other reason.
There are others about whom we found the briefest of mentions and built histories for them, such as the character of Cuthbert, who was mentioned by John Barbour in his epic poem about the Bruce. According to Barbour’s account, Cuthbert scouted the earldom of Carrick before King Robert invaded the region in early 1307. We had him do so in our version of that event. With the exceptions of his name and the single scouting event, Cuthbert was made from whole cloth. Yet he’s a good character, and we have kept him among the king’s most faithful soldiers in the latest book, which takes place some seven years after the invasion of Carrick.
For every event in the history books there are at least two versions, Scottish and English, and multiple variations thereof. Somewhere among the most factual memories of the opposing “truths” lies what really happened. In a land where few could read, much less write, that’s a lot of opinions and viewpoints that have been handed down. We strive for the version or combination of versions that make the most sense to us, and from these we try to weave a plausible story.
To directly answer your question, our characters, both historical and fictional, are constructed from our understanding of the medieval existence on those islands. They are blended and intertwined so that our story weaves a tapestry that gives a reasonable portrait of the people and their times. But in the end, we can only guess at the harsh realities of the Fourteenth Century.
Q: Speaking of historical facts, you have named the site of the battle “Cock Shot Hill” instead of the traditional “Gillies Hill”. What on earth in your research of 14th century Scotland could lead you to do so?
A: According to our research, the hill above the battlefield was called “Cock Shot Hill” at the time of the battle. It acquired the name “Gillies Hill” many years afterward, in remembrance of the gillies and others who were said to have hunkered there until called forth at battle’s end by King Robert. These gillies were referred to by John Barbour as the “small folk” (meaning people of lower rank and lesser importance to most historic endeavors). Today, some say these were Templar knights called into the fray at this point.
Q: This year (2006) is the celebration of the 700th anniversary of Robert de Brus being crowned King of Scots. Did you two plan on publishing Book III in connection with his anniversary or did it just happen?
A: It just happened. We probably would have put it off for another six months or a year if it weren’t for our readers, who kept asking us when book three was coming out. We were quite amazed and very pleased at their interest, and so pushed the book’s completion ahead. Still, we’re glad we did get it released this year.
Q: I notice you have the artistic drawings once again at the beginning of the chapters. How do you select people as your characters as to drawing them? Do you seek their permission to portray them? Who draws these figures?
A: These character studies are all drawn by Randy, who works from photographs that he takes of cooperative friends and strangers. Of course, he adds different clothing, hair styles and/or beards to make each character match his idea of what the individual should look like. We understand that this is a rather unique feature in a novel of this sort, but for Randy, having been a professional artist since he was 16, it was a matter of being unable to create a book without adding some art. It seemed to work and many of our readers have commented that they like having a face to go with most characters.
Without fail we get written permission from those who model for us, even those whose features won’t be easily recognized after Randy has altered them to suit the story.
Q: The name of Book III is subtitled, “Bannok Burn”. It catches the eye because the normal spelling is Bannockburn. Why the change?
A: For many years after the momentous clash it was simply called the Second Battle of Stirling. The immediate site of the battle had been long known as “Bannok”, or even Banok, and the stream or “burn” flowing through it was generally referred to as Bannok Burn. Because the swift-flowing burn had been a very critical element in the Scots’ battle strategy and an equally great part of the outcome of the conflict, the name eventually was morphed to Bannockburn. We titled our book “Bannok Burn” to be more correct to the time of the story.
Q: I keep hearing from time to time that a movie may be made about your books? Any truth to this or is it just talk on the street? If a movie is made, who would you like to see play Robert de Brus?
A: We’re still talking to an interested producer, and we have a letter of intent, but to date, no contract. Everybody, THINK MOVIE!!
About the role of Robert de Brus… We know a lot of young “leading men” that we would not like to see play the part! In a conversation with the possible producer, he strongly suggested an unknown, but we really don’t have anyone in mind…excepting the Sean Connery of about forty years ago! Would that not be the best!!
Q: When you are working the Highland and Scottish Games, what question do your readers generally ask? And, as far as you can tell, who reads your books the most, men or women? Why?
A: We tell people who have not heard of us and our series that they are about King Robert Brus who fought for the independence of Scotland in the early 1300s and usually they will ask how close to history have we kept the story.
We probably have as many readers of one gender as the other, possibly because we write without prejudice, meaning that we don’t adjust the story to “fit” either gender’s expectations. We just write it as we see it.
Q: As always, you have been as courteous in dealing with me regarding the book review and this chat article as anyone could desire. What concluding words do you have for our readers?
A: The “Rebel King” series is written about a great saga, a heroically epic story and a colorful period of Scottish and English history. As we tell folks, “we just put the words to it”. It started out to be a family story…that became a Scottish story…and in fact is an inspiring world story.
A Review by T. A. Bruce for the Blue Lion (Bruce International Society
Robert the Bruce, King Robert I of the Scots, who
lived 700 years ago, was the monarch of a small country on the fringes of Medieval Europe,
and never commanded large armies, but his fame is still very much alive here in the
Twenty-first century, as one of the two Scottish national heroes. His life has been the subject of much myth-making
as one of the greatest lights of a country that has provided many great lights to the
world, far beyond what might have been expected given its size and population. His most influential biographer, Archdeacon John
Barbour, in his epic poem The Bruce, tells of his great bravery, his
magnanimity, and his brilliance at the art of warfare.
It can be said that Robert the Bruce invented what is today known as guerilla
With all of the above in mind, it must have been a
daunting task to set out to compose a novel, which, by definition, must find most of its
value in the entertainment it provides, about such a national hero. Charles Randolph Bruce and Carolyn Hale Bruce have
done a very admirable job in blending fact, and admittedly some myth, into a very
entertaining story that leaves the reader eager for the projected next part.
The title may require a little explanation. The term Hammer of the Scots refers to
King Edward I of England, who had the Latin phrase Malleus Scottorum posted on
his tomb in Westminster Abbey. Before long
the reader finds out the reason for the inclusion of the phrase in the title, though;
Edward I is the main obstacle in Robert Bruces quest to become King of Scots and to
restore an independent Kingdom of Scotland. The
book commences at the beginning of 1306; Edward has set himself up as ruler of Scotland,
and his ruthlessness and military power will fall like a hammer upon anyone who opposes
As the story progresses it becomes apparent, in the
novel as it did in fact, that Robert Bruce is the only person who can hope to restore the
old Scotland of David I and William the Lion. Historical
novels often have difficulty in capturing this kind of political truth and at the same
time making the story interesting, but the Bruces do it quite well.
Their description of Robert Bruces murder of
his chief rival for the Scottish crown, which was a tremendous setback that would have
been the end of any other claimants ambitions, is especially vivid.
Another highlight is a very fine explanation and
description of the chain of events that led to Robert the Bruces coronation being
repeated, upon the arrival the day after the first ceremony, of a representative of the
family that possessed the ancient right of placing the crown upon the head of the Scottish
As always, the devil is in the details. There are several anachronisms and inaccurate uses
of terminology. For example, mention is made
of the ancient Pictish practice of warriors painting with blue woad before going into
battle, but this practice was long abandoned by the 14th century. These anachronisms will for the most part concern
only the specialist, and do not seriously detract from the story.
This book, which is planned as the first of four,
ends in July, 1307. There is much more to
look forward to in future installments, including the Scots great victory at the
Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
R.W. Munroe: How through toil
and weariness, hunger and peril (in the words of the Arbroath declaration of 1320)
he won the independence of his country as well as his own right to the throne is a story
and an achievement which has made the name of Bruce dear to the Scottish people.
(Munroe: 9) With Rebel King, Book
One: The Hammer of the Scots my kinsman Charles Randolph Bruce and his co-author
Carolyn Hale Bruce have proven themselves storytellers worthy of this awesome story.
Quotation from: Munroe, R.W. Kinsmen and Clansmen.
Edinburgh: Geoffrey Chapman Ltd., 1971.
Reviewed by Thomas Allen Bruce
High Commissioner of the Chief of the Name of Bruce
Commander of the Most Venerable Order of St. John
Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland
Life Member of Bruce International and served as National President from 1994-2000
The Book Reader
"In this golden age of publishing, the reason
the Bruces decided to publish their own historical fiction of Scotland is rather unique.
They sent the manuscript out to agents and publishers...and often the envelope was
returned unopened. "We figured, if they were too busy even to open their mail, it
must be a good business to get into!" Give the Bruces credit for gumption, insight
and downright genius for writing this grand tour of fourteenth century Scotland - its a
graceful, exciting and unsettling picture they present.
In a world sliding headlong into enslavement, the
rulers use torture and death to instill obedience: "Fear," says one ruler,
"is the driver of folk's wits and souls."
Written with passion and deep erudition, this
powerful, multifaceted history that takes us into one of the most thrilling and important
moments in the Scottish struggle for freedom.