About the author

Keith Bradbury was born in Manchester in a year that was very good for Gevrey Chambertin. He studied English and Drama in Manchester before going into the world of education which put up with him for more than thirty years before he managed to escape to Spain to write. He spends his time doing just that as well as reading widely, walking around Madrid, playing guitars, watching cats and cooking. His first novel, ‘Let the Dead Hold Your Hand’ is published shortly by AM Publishers, London and New York. He currently lives in Madrid.

Below is the cover of his first novel in the Lucy E Hawksmoor series

Out very soon in all good bookshops and online! Date TBA.

LET THE DEAD HOLD YOUR HAND

Granada, Spain 1492 Boabdil, the last King of the Moors, is making plans that could change the course of history forever. Meanwhile, the Christian Queen and King, Isabella and Ferdinand arrive to claim the Alhambra, the last piece in their jigsaw of reconquest that ends a magnificent 800 year Arab rule of Al-Andalus. The actions of all three set in motion a chain of events that will resonate across the next centuries. But Boabdil’s plan is far more long term.

2017 Lucy E. Hawksmoor, lecturer, history detective, and finds the present crashing in on the past as far-right groups try to stop her quest to find the final resting place of Boabdil, the last King of the Moors. Lucy meets the mysterious Gloria who claims to have clues to its location. Lucy is unaware of the danger until she receives threats and an Muslim student is murdered. But who can she trust? Is Gloria who she claims to be or a member of a Jihadist group? Is Inspector Gomez up to the task of tackling such violence and protecting Lucy? As Far Right groups from across Europe gather in Granada something has to give. Will Lucy find Boabdil’s tomb before her enemies, and if she does, what will be the consequences for the Muslims of Spain? 

Why I Wrote Let the Dead Hold Your Hand

When I first moved to Madrid in 2017, I decided to do some travelling around Spain. I visited Cordoba, Granada and  Zaragoza and I was completely enthralled by the architecture. The more I read about the 800 years that the Moors of Al-Andalus spent in Spain, the more I was fascinated by them. I decided to learn as much as I could about their culture, history and their writings, particularly their poetry. Back home in Madrid I was also becoming aware of the rise of the far right both in Spain and across Europe. I needed to understand the background as to why people were turning in certain areas to such extreme politics and racist views. I read as much as I could about the Spanish history from the time of the Reconquista to the civil war of 1936-39. I already could see what was happening in Britain post the Brexit vote and the problems it was causing for minorities and foreigners on those shores. I then came across an excellent online newsletter called opendemocracy – https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/ –  and was staggered to learn how quietly and insidiously the far right were spreading their tentacles across Europe, often under the guise of nationalism. At the same time, I read a book that was to change my life, The Moor’s Last Stand by Elizabeth Drayson. It tells the story of Boabdil the last ruler of Granada, a story to quote the blurb ‘of intrigue, treachery, cruelty, bravery and tragedy.’ His defeat at the hands of Isabella and Ferdinand, the Catholic Monarchs, has ‘reverberated powerfully down the centuries.’ Indeed it has. This book is not only an excellent introduction to the last days of Muslim Spain, but it was also the inspiration for my novel. I realised I just had to write about Boabdil and try to imagine what might have happened under other circumstances and more so, through my protagonist, Lucy E Hawksmoor. 

There are flashbacks to set the scene, though most of the story is set in the 21st century. I wanted to reflect how there are people in politics today in Spain who want to enact a new Reconquista – forcing out those the far right see as non-Spanish, including Muslims, Jews, homosexuals, gypsies as well as limiting or preventing freedoms from abortion to gay marriage. And what better way than to stir up the hornet’s nest than suggesting what might happen if the history books are wrong – if Boabdil did not leave Spanish shores – if his body could still be on the mainland and how that might annoy those racists who fear a new rise in appreciation of all things Muslim should his resting place become a shrine.

For Isabella and Ferdinand to suggest they were claiming back Sapin for the Spanish is ridiculous. The Moors had lived in Spain for 800 years – they were Spanish. It was simply a desire for power – using religion as an excuse.

There is a pettiness in racist behaviour. And Lucy experiences it first-hand – and how that pettiness can become lethal when these people’s ideology becomes all consuming. But the story hopefully also raises awareness that this movement of the far right is widespread across Europe. Often little reported in the U.K. press. For example, how many in the U.K know how strong Vox, a far-right party, are becoming in the Spanish government? How they are currently propping up the conservative PP party in Madrid.

But in the end, I also wrote it because I wanted to write a book that reflects all that is wonderful about the 800 years of the Moors in Spain, and to introduce a new kind of hero, Lucy Hawksmoor, whose life is turned upside down by events beyond her control. And through her I want the reader to experience all that is good about Spain, from the food to the architecture to the ordinary people, as well as showing how history does matter and we need to learn from the past to avoid making the same mistakes. It is a mystery, a thriller, a political commentary and at times a love story. I have already started the sequel.

 I hope you like Lucy and I hope you too will let the dead hold your hand as, with her, you follow her quest for the truth and to stand up for what is right.

ABU ABDALLAH MUHAMMAD X1, KNOWN AS BOABDIL RULER OF GRANADA 1482-1492

Poems Written During My Research

MEZQUITA TWILIGHT

A keyhole

An arch

A shaft of light

From several gods

Points the way.

Crimson and white

Wash your hands

Embrace the shade

She offers

The scent of lemons 

Grenadine and musk

And her skin

Her breath

Bronze and mint.

Kneel and pray

Face the east

Face your fate

You can’t turn away.

Beneath these stones

You’ll lie forever

Under a world you built

For a world you can’t understand.

Be still.

Be as one.

Hush.

Salam.

ARABIAN SUNSET

A curtain is drawn
I shield my eyes
To not see
But I feel
Despite the years
And all the tears.
A fountain springs
Brings to life
Memories that bless.
Behind the veil
She calls to me

Pulls my world into hers.
A butterfly dies
Beauty begs for life
A keyhole closes
A lock turns.
And I try to understand
But I’m weak.
Her face fades
And a church rises
Where once we lay.

Al-Andalus Winter

Stones
Tell tales. 
Listen. 
They speak.
They’re speaking now.
Touch their cold hard hearts
Faintly beating.
A Moor cries
A Jew sighs
Every day for centuries.
Beauty buried deep
Crawls from the very walls
They built.
And I stand here
Feeling guilt.
I know not why –
But these stones,
And their stories
Will not die.
Listen.

LOVE SONG TO CORDOBA

It hurts my heart to leave 
To slip away
At an early hour
Like the lover
I never thought I’d be
Leaving behind
Your scented breath
Your olive skin.
Beneath your gaze
I could lie for hours
Listening to your stories
Sharing all your glories
And feelings of sadness
Deep inside you
When your world
Was turned upside down
Forever.
But your beauty
Hasn’t faded
You’ll lure me back again
I know.
Take my hand
Through narrow
Whitewashed floral streets
And caress my cheeks
With your orange blossom kisses
Beneath the ancient
Crescent moon
Who watches over you
Every Arabian night
Til I can return
And let you
Fold me once more 
In your soft brown arms
Your magical love…..
Your Cordoban charms

THE MOOR’S PROMISE

(Boabdil and his mother -January 2nd 1492)

An unforgiving sun
Beats down
Like a Christian sword
Destroying the fabric
Of the land
And all that holds her world together.
Incessant drumming
Pierces her skull
Leaving her already torn senses
To scatter in the warm wind
Like a dead bird’s feathers.
She sighs.
Then weeps.
Gazes silently
At the beckoning Alpujarras.
Aware of filial eyes
Scanning her posture
Looking to see if she too
Is breaking.
She spies an eagle.
Wings buckling
Beneath the weight
Of the hard Granadan air.
It is a sign.
She knows.
The king is bending his knee.
To a tyrant.
Right is on their side
But today Allah is not.
She turns
Now dry eyed
And her son
In regal red
Bows.
Hols out his hand.
We will return
He whispers.
Our time is not of the here and now.
But we leave our breath
Our beating hearts
Burning
Beneath the Gates of the Seven Floors.
One day.
We will arise.
Spanish Moors.
Proud and defiant.
Now
Seal the doors
‘Til we once more
We ride through.
No tears.
No last sigh.
We hand over keys
That are physical.
But the keys we keep
Cannot be taken
Cannot be copied.
They were forged
Eight hundred years ago.
As we ride
Look forward –
Never back.
Mother – take my hand.
We may be leaving
Our land
But –

Our blood,
Our soul
Will forever be
Within these walls.

This jewel.
This Alhambra.
This
Granada.

Song to Seville – La Esperanza

A hand across time

Reaches out to touch you

To touch your heart

To hold your pulse

And beat with you.

Slowly…..

You breather together –

Both imbibe

The orange blossom

The cinnamon

The jasmine

That perfume your world.

Her dark eyes

Are your eyes

Scouring the street.

Her ears your ears

Listening for voices

Soft and discreet

While whispered promises

‘Neath silken sheets

Of heavenly hues

Take you back to the time

When she was your muse.

Then the toll of a bell

Breaks the thousand year spell

And the sun of Seville

Rips the curtain in two.

And her hand slips from yours

Back to Arabic shores.

But this Andalus dream

Will not go away

She’s bitten you deep

And you’re in her sway.

Now sleep…

Til the next time

Her open palm

Offers you a chance

Of hope.

Of love.

Of mystical charm.

Listen Hard

Córdoba 2018

Listen hard

Listen well

Córdoba

Toledo

My heart

Your bell

I’m here

A constant.

When you change

I’ll know.

We wait

Spain and I

I’m chained here

Can’t lie.

But I need you

Or my land’s a country  

With a missing piece.

Can you see?

Madrid?

A man?

A love? 

A plea?

Don’t free me.

Till you’re sure.

I’ll stay

Forever.

Waiting.

Til you’re here.

Til you knock

Til you open

My door.

THE BOOK THAT STARTED MY JOURNEY AND INSPIRED ME TO WRITE MY NOVEL

The Moor’s Last Stand presents the poignant story of Boabdil, the last Muslim king of Granada. Betrayed by his family and undermined by faction and internal conflict, Boabdil was defeated in 1492 by the forces of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of the newly united kingdoms of Castile and Aragon. The Christian victory marked the completion of the long Christian re-conquest of Spain and ended seven centuries in which Christians, Muslims, and Jews had, for the most part, lived peacefully and profitably together. Five centuries after his death, Boabdil continues to be a potent symbol of resistance to the forces of western Christendom, and his image endures in contemporary culture. Based on original research in the region by a leading historian of Granada, this book presents a vivid account of Boabdil’s life and times and considers the impact of his defeat then and now.’

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED FOR ANYONE INTERESTED IN THIS PERIOD AND SUBJECT MATTER – BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN AND A BOOK I COULD NOT PUT DOWN. BEST IN ITS FIELD.

Elizabeth Drayson specialises in medieval and early modern Spanish literature and cultural history, and has a particular interest in the Arabic, Jewish, and Christian cultures of medieval and Golden Age Spain, as well as in the relationship between medieval literature, art and film. Her publications include the first translation and edition of Juan Ruiz’s Libro de buen amor to appear in England (Everyman edition), as well as essays and articles on the Libro de buen amor, Berceo and the Poema de mio Çid. She is the author of The King and the Whore: King Roderick and La Cava, The New Middle Ages series, (London and New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2007) which charts the reception of the legend of Roderick, last Visigothic king of Spain. Elizabeth has published several articles on the legend in medieval and early modern chronicles and early art, as well as giving numerous conference papers on the subject. Her monograph, The Lead Books of Granada, Early Modern History series (Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan, 2013, paperback, 2016) evaluates the cultural status and importance of the polyvalent, ambiguous artefacts known as the lead books, which were discovered on a hillside in late sixteenth-century Granada and embody many of the dualities and paradoxes inherent in the racial and religious dilemmas of Early Modern Spain.

Her book The Moor’s Last Stand: how seven centuries of Muslim rule in Spain came to an end (London: Profile Books, 2017) charts the life and times of Boabdil, last Muslim king of Granada, and has been reviewed in The Times, Sunday Times and The Guardian. It was one of the Times and Sunday Times Best History books of 2017, and appeared in paperback, and also in Spanish translation, in 2018.

Elizabeth’s latest book, Lost Paradise: the story of Granada (London: Head of Zeus, 2021) is a history of the city of Granada from prehistoric times to the present.’

Text in quotes taken from https://www.mmll.cam.ac.uk/eam33