UK novelist Hilary Mantel numbers Cromwell's days

Wed Jun 6, 2012 2:23pm EDT
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By Edward McAllister

(Reuters) - Looking out to sea, British author Hilary Mantel is plotting her next move. After chronicling the rise of Thomas Cromwell in her last two novels, now it is time to put him to death.

At her house on England's south coast, Mantel has the bones of a plan -- notes and sketches that she will stitch together to describe the downfall of one of English history's most equivocal and reviled characters: the blacksmith's son who carved his way to the top of Henry VIII's court and helped the king divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and execute his second, Anne Boleyn.

It's a challenging prospect for Mantel, whose first two Cromwell books -- the Man Booker Prize winner "Wolf Hall" (2009) and "Bring up the Bodies", which arrived in U.S. bookstores last week -- have won over critics and readers for their rich retelling, through Cromwell's eyes, of this well-trodden period of history.

"Wolf Hall" is being developed for a television miniseries written by Peter Straughan, who penned the screenplay for the 2011 movie "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy". A play is also in the works in Britain.

"If I get the third book right then in a sense my whole life will have come right," said Mantel, whose previous work has received critical acclaim but not the widespread popularity of the Cromwell books. "But if I don't, then I am going to see it as a failure. In my mind it is all one long project."

"The Mirror and The Light", expected in 2015, will mark the end of 10 years' research and the completion of an idea sowed nearly 40 years ago.

"I began writing in my early twenties and I thought, one day I will write a novel about Thomas Cromwell," Mantel said in a telephone interview with Reuters.

The final part of the trilogy will begin where "Bring up the Bodies" left off, with Anne Boleyn at the scaffold in 1536, and end with Cromwell's own execution four years later.   Continued...

Author Hilary Mantel laughs during a photocall after winning the 2009 Man Booker Prize for Fiction with her book "Wolf Hall" the the Guildhall in London October 6, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor