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A Highlander and his Books

Rebel King, Hammer of the Scots
Book One, A Novel

Rebel King - Hammer of the Scots

Hardback: ISBN 0-9721674-0-4
Paperback: ISBN 0-9721674-1-2

Written by: Charles Randolph Bruce & Carolyn Hale Bruce
Reviewed by: Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Atlanta, GA, USA

For 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, winter’s 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. We’ll get back to this aspect later in the review.

Mel Gay, also known as Beth’s 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. I’m 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 Scotland’s 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!

By: Frank R. Shaw, FSA Scot, Atlanta, GA 30327-1862, USA <email:>

Charles Bruce Carolyn Bruce
Charles Bruce                                           Carolyn Bruce

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 Robert’s 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 II’s wife was but a child in France when The Wallace was rampaging). For years, I’d look at my unsold script and growl a lot.

Then in 1999, I was on a trip and put a tape from Nigel Tranter’s "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 that’s 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 haven’t 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, how many?

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 haven’t 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: 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 don’t yet have it in stock, they should have it before long, or they can special order it for you. (Writer’s note: go to the top of this article for the ISBN number to take to your bookstore.)

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)

See further review and a story by the author here!

Return to Feb/Mar 2003 Index


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