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Saturday, 11 April 2015

Great Fictional Characters: John Trenchard

Continuing with the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge 2015

J is for John Trenchard.

Moonfleet, by John Meade Faulkner, is a classic. The tale of smuggling on the Dorset coast may remind you of others, but there is something special about Moonfleet, something that sets it apart. The film and TV versions do not do it justice, and I urge you (even more so than usual) to read the book.

John Trenchard is a fairly ordinary fifteen year old orphan, living with his aunt and attending the local school, while lusting after the beautiful Grace Maskew, who is nothing like her revolting magistrate father. Smuggling is a part of the economy, despite Maskew's best efforts, and John is used to turning a blind eye to shifty-looking men muttering in corners (or maybe he is just really na├»ve). What is more fascinating to him (other than Grace) is the tale of Colonel John "Blackbeard" Mohune, a terrible scoundrel, who was rumoured to have stolen a diamond from King Charles I and hidden it away somewhere. It is said he haunts the churchyard at night, and John himself has seen strange lights there after dark...

The old Moonfleet church

At church one Sunday, after a major flood, John hears knocking from below ground. Convinced it must be coffins of long-dead Mohune's floating around in the crypt below, John interest is further piqued when he spots Mr Ratsey the sexton and  Elzevir Block, owner of the Mohune Arms pub, acting suspiciously in the churchyard. A week or so later, a sinkhole in the ground reveals a passage seemingly leading towards the crypt. Does it lead to Blackbeard's final resting place- and his famous diamond? Is John brave enough to look?

Of course he is.

John Trenchard's conduit for the poor

Ita in vita ut in lusu alae pessima jactura arte corrigenda est (translated in the book as As in life, so in a game of hazard, skill will make something of the worst of throws) is an apt message for this book. As with all the most gripping stories, John is in control of his actions and, invariably, he chooses the most dangerous and exciting path. His skill in making the best of throws is a little hit and miss, but the outcome is always thrilling. He's a likeable character, with just the right mix of nice chap and daring rebel, doing bad things but only when necessary. He's very realistically written, with a teenager's mix of wanting to follow the rules taught by his elders and wanting to break them because they don't make sense. I found this a real page turner when I was a kid and, as an adult, it is still one of my favourites.

Part of what make the story come alive for me is knowing that Moonfleet is a real place! I've been there twice: once with my family, when I was about ten, and again on my own a couple of years ago. You can read about my last visit here.

Has this inspired you to read or reread Moonfleet? Let me know in the comments xxx


  1. Ok, wow. I have to read this book. It also is an actual place. Means this legend is true then. Thanks for sharing this...

    1. Only for a given value of "true"! But, when I stood by the church, looking out on the sea, my heart felt it was ALL true : )


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