Sunday 30 January 2022

Chapbook Project: Initial Research C J Samson

C. J. Samson

 C J Samson (Born in 1952) is an English writer who studied History at Birmingham University and went on to complete a PhD.  Samson became a solicitor and practiced in Sussex and then became a full-time writer. Samson's most successful series is set in the time of Henry VIII and the hero Matthew Shardlake, a barrister at Lincolns Inn becomes involved through Thomas Cromwell in a variety of cases.  The series Samson has created is an adventure through history and is a historically accurate study of the time, through Shardlake history comes alive and we, the audience fall in love with this lawyer.  Samson states; '"I'm drawn to it," he explains, "because it's the moment at which the medieval certainties that had endured for centuries were turned upside down. It was a time of extraordinary ferment: in the space of a few years, the state took on a completely different meaning. And the more I read about it, the more I realised how like the 20th century it was in its anxiety and uncertainty, even though people thought so differently then.' (Crown S. 2010) 

It is clear when reading Samson why it is so fascinating, connecting with the characters is a joy and this is Samson's strength, his characters do have all the same anxieties despite it being different times.  Samson has clearly also drawn on his own experience as a lawyer to create his main character Shardlake.  Samson, speaking in a Guardian interview stated; '"I thought it made sense for Shardlake to be a lawyer for a number of reasons. First, the law was my profession: I find legal practice endlessly interesting. Second, it existed then and now, so it provides a point of contact for readers. And third, it's democratic: it offers a way into any number of mysteries, and puts Shardlake in the way of an endless variety of characters."' (Crown S. 2010)

The reason for looking at Samson is that I want to introduce a religious element as in my own story, there will be a monk appearing and reference to St Jude (the Saint of lost causes) I am interested in how Samson weaves the religious sensibilities of each character into the story (obviously at this time Christianity was in turmoil in England) 

Gaskill in the London Review of Books writes on Samson's Dissolution; 'In this time of Reformation, the superstitions of Catholics and witches are deliberately conflated. Prior to setting off on his mission, Shardlake is briefed by Cromwell, who sits at a desk piled with confiscated relics destined for the bonfire. As ever, Shardlake has mixed feelings, which he admits to us alone and which of course make us like him.' (Gaskill M. 2020) 

Again, connection to the characters is key to the writing and in my own story I have to create a protagonist who will have an appeal, have flaws and at times might do the wrong thing but the reader still roots for that character.  

I have read all of Samson's books and did not want the last one to end.  Great writing you want to keep reading and wanting more. 

References 2022. C. J. Sansom: The Official Website - Homepage. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 January 2022].

Crown, S., 2010. CJ Sansom: a life in writing. [online] the Guardian. Available at: [Accessed 30 January 2022].

Gaskill, M., 2020. Malcolm Gaskill · Man Is Wolf to Man: C.J. Sansom · LRB 13 January 2020. [online] London Review of Books. Available at: [Accessed 30 January 2022].

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