A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


C.C. Humphreys - Absolute Sword Player
Saturday, May 03, 2008

I have been re-reading Alexandre Dumas to satisfy my appetite for swashbuckler novels. Then I discovered Jack Absolute.

Former actor, schoolboy fencing champion and author (six novels and three plays) C.C. Humphreys was a few minutes late to my studio. He had decided to drive not walk. He was concerned he might be stopped on the way. He was bringing a cavalry sabre.

In 1987 in the opening night of the eighteenth-century comedy, Richard Sheridan's The Rivals in London, actor Humphreys played protagonist Jack Absolute, a young swashbuckler rake. In Humphreys 2003 novel, Jack Absolute , Jack goes to see the The Rivals and learns that Sheridan has stolen his name and made him the star of his comedy.

In Humphreys's third in the series, Absolute Honour (2006, the second was the 2004 prequel The Blooding of Jack Absolute ) Humphreys borrows back from Sheridan and incorporates part of the plot of The Rivals.

Canadian born, but British educated, Humphreys understands the importance of the Plains of Abraham in the making of Canada. In The Blooding of Jack Absolute Jack is a 16-year-old boy who fights in that battle. During his research Humphreys climbed up that back way to the Quebec City plains in training shoes. "It's not vertical but at 70 degrees it must have been difficult. Every time you place your foot it is treacherous and you slip. What would it have been like in boots, pack and musket? At the top there are two signs. The one in English stated that this was the path the British Light Infantry came up at two in the morning. The one in French hints that Wolfe snuck up and with superior naval power won the day. Which is bonks! The navy was not involved."

Humphreys the actor became obsessed with Absolute to create the protagonist of his novels. He also has played Hamlet enough times to find an equal attraction to the role. Of Hamlet he said to me, "It is the ultimate straight role. Whatever stuff you bring from your life, that's who Hamlet is on stage. It is a personal journey. It exposes a lot of your own things and stuff." In the Blooding of Jack Absolute Jack winters in a cave with a Mohawk called Até. He teaches him to read with the only book in hand, a cheap copy of Shakespeare's tragedy.

With lots of twists and turns, spies and sword fights(complex ones involving left handers), Humphreys satisfies my hunger for reading adventure. Now as a late Canadian citizen, I understand how the battle that made Canada was fought. I asked Humphreys what role a swachbuckler plays in the 21st century. "It is as ever it was. It is to give an example of someone who is engages in the pursuit of honour, justice and is prepared to risk all at the point of a sword to gain everything."

Humphreys has also published the novel The French Executioner (about the man who lopped off Anne Boleyn's head). For those who cannot wait for the next Jack Absolute they will have to wait longer. In October 2008 McArthur & Co. will be publishing Humphrey's novel about the true historical Dracula, Vlad: The Last Confession. Humphreys lives in Vancouver whith his wife and son. His website is: cchumphreys.com

© 2008 VLM/Alex Waterhouse-Hayward


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