The Running Wolf

A German swordmaker is jailed for smuggling Jacobite blades. 
The English lords will hang him for treason. 
Can he escape a death sentence?

‘Liesl held a finished blade before the firelight and traced one finger across the running wolf inscription that told the world a Solingen blade was at its throat.’

When a German smuggler is imprisoned in Morpeth Gaol in the winter of 1703, why does Queen Anne's powerful right-hand man, The Earl of Nottingham, take such a keen interest?

At the end of the turbulent 17th century, the ties that bind men are fraying, turning neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend and brother against brother. Beneath a seething layer of religious intolerance, community suspicion and political intrigue, The Running Wolf takes us deep into the heart of rebel country in the run-up to the 1715 Jacobite uprising.

Hermann Mohll is a master sword maker from Solingen in Germany who risks his life by breaking his guild oaths and settling in England. While trying to save his family and neighbours from poverty, he is caught smuggling swords and finds himself in Morpeth Gaol facing charges of High Treason.

Determined to hold his tongue and his nerve, Mohll finds himself at the mercy of the corrupt keeper, Robert Tipstaff. The keeper fancies he can persuade the truth out of Mohll and make him face the ultimate justice: hanging, drawing and quartering. But in this tangled web of secrets and lies, just who is telling the truth?

Ideal for fans of Devotion by Hannah Kent, World Without End and Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett.


 Historical Novel Society

Master sword-maker Hermann Mohll is forced to flee Solingen in Germany in the 1680s as work dries up. He follows what keeps his profession alive – war – and lands in England with other migrants to set up a sword-making community in Shotley Bridge, County Durham. But he has broken vows to the sword-making guild which protected him and discovers that becoming an independent sword-maker is not an easy way to keep him and his family out of poverty.

Hermann is based on one of Shotley Bridge’s real sword-makers, and we follow his travails over almost 20 years. The wolf of the title refers to the maker’s mark on Hermann’s swords, a wolf running towards battle, and is also a reference to Hermann and his family running towards what they hope is a brighter future.

However, in the run-up to the 1715 Jacobite rising, Hermann is caught smuggling swords and ends up in Morpeth gaol for treason, facing hanging, drawing and quartering.

The book is told through the alternate voices of Hermann and Robert, his gaoler. Robert is puzzled when Queen Anne’s right-hand man, the Earl of Nottingham, takes an interest in Hermann’s case. Robert thinks he knows everything about his prisoner. But does he?

Helen Steadman obviously carried out a lot of meticulous research for her book, including learning the difficult art of making a sword herself and meeting a descendant of our hero. Her writing is at its best when descriptive, such as Hermann’s smuggling, a particularly effective skating scene on the river, and the sword-making process. An unusual novel that brings a little-known area of history and its craftsmen to life.

Kate Pettigrew