David West graduated in engineering science from the University of Oxford. During a career in engineering and project management he was commissioned by Gower Publishing (now Taylor Francis) to write a book on Project Sponsorship. He caught the writing bug and completed the Open University creative writing and advanced creative writing courses.
He found his subject whilst reading a biography of Sir Francis Drake. Sir Anthony Standen had been Walsingham’s key spy feeding him detailed information on the preparation of the Spanish Armada. Standen was his mother’s maiden name. He read everything he could find about Standen and traced his family tree to discover that Sir Anthony was his 10th great-granduncle.
His first book, The Spy who Sank the Armada is a fictionalised biography of Standen. The subsequent books are historical fiction crime stories featuring Sir Anthony, and increasingly, his fictional children.
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The first in a series of spy novels about the real-life Sir Anthony Standen, an English spy for Queen Elizabeth I.
This novel fictionalizes Standen’s contribution to the sinking of two Spanish fleets meant to invade England during wars between Catholics and Protestants in Europe. He’s the Catholic son of a lawyer, and he was traumatized by his early witnessing of religious violence. He joins the Scottish court, eventually saving the life of Mary, Queen of Scots, and gaining a knighthood. Embroiled in political conflict after his employer Lord Darnley is murdered and consequently unwelcome in England, he finds himself at the English Embassy in Paris in 1567, seeking to gain the English queen’s pardon through employment under spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham’s recommendation. Standen’s many adventures take him across Europe as he takes on multiple identities in France, England, Italy, the Netherlands, Ireland, and the Ottoman Empire. West does a masterful job of introducing Standen’s character while also showing 16th-century Europe through his eyes. The novel also delivers a remarkably nuanced depiction of diverse cultures and kingdoms along the way. The author establishes early on that his protagonist seeks “fame and fortune,” and keeps Standen’s characterization consistent and intriguing as he pursues these motivations. West carefully documents the consequences of Standen’s desire to prove himself and gain material wealth, creating a complex portrait. Spy techniques, fight scenes, and an array of attractive supporting characters give the novel a James Bond–esque atmosphere while staying rooted in historical context. - Kirkus Reviews
The Spy who Sank the Armada
Spying for the Queen who exiled him.
Book Excerpt or Article
This book would equally make an excellent action comic book or television serial! Sir Anthony Standen inhabits his world like some inverted, world-weary, and cynical ‘Candide’. In the words of Shakespeare ”bestriding the narrow world like a Colossus.” – The Historical Fiction Company.
An incredibly detailed and well-thought out book, the research into the historical events and characters throughout pays dividends as the reader is immersed in a fully fleshed out and authentic setting. Aside from the settings, it is clear that a great deal of research has gone into all aspects of this book including the languages that Anthony learns and the mathematics required for the ciphers. I enjoyed the plot, it has plenty of action and twists and turns as Anthony experiences both successes and hardships. A solid historical fiction, with plenty of intrigue I think that any fans of historical fiction would find this book entertaining. It’s been enjoyable getting to know all of the characters and the book sets up nicely for the instalment of the series, ‘Fire and Earth’. – LoveReading
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