"For me, historical fiction is always a trip in a time machine, a fantasy lived."; -- C.C. Humphreys,

Anyone who thinks writers are withdrawn, stay-at-home types who think up a bunch of stuff in the safety of their pajamas might not want to meet C.C. Humphreys-he would change their way of thinking.

Prior to turning his hand to historical novels, Humphreys, during 25 years as an actor, has played Hamlet, Clive Parnell in Coronation Street and Jack Absolute in Sheridan's The Rivals. And let's not overlook Caleb the Gladiator.

For his gladiator gig in the 1980s NBC/BBC mini-series, AD - Anno Domini, Chris Humphreys spent ten months filming in Tunisia, playing Metellus, Gladiator (aka Caleb the Zealot), flexing his pecs like Russell Crowe and using a variety of weaponry.

"For a swordsman, historical nut and all-round fantasist time traveller,"; he says, "it didn't get much better."; He also got to hang out with people like Susan Saradon and Ian MacShane.


Born in Toronto, C.C. Humphreys grew up in Los Angeles until age seven, then lived in London and the U.K. A third-generation actor and writer on both sides of his family, he was a schoolboy fencing champion before he became a fight choreographer for actors. All of which led to his novel, Shakespeare's Rebel (Orion 2013)

C.C. Humphreys integrated his knowledge of Hamlet and Shakespeare, along with his experiences with swordplay, to craft a new novel that could have been called Shakespeare in Joust, except Shakespeare is not the hero, only a supporting character.

Overly fond of whiskey and women, John Lawley, England's finest swordsman, just wants to cool his Elizabethan jets and help his old pal, Will Shakespeare, put on a new tragedy about a Danish prince down at the new Globe Theatre.

But, no, there is much rotten in the state of England. John's main rival for being the best jouster in the queendom is also Queen Elizabeth's lover, the dashing and somewhat demented Robert Deveraux, Earl of Essex. Meanwhile John must evade the equally deadly machinations of Robert Cecil, another of Queen Elizabeth's favourites.

Ultimately, in Shakespeare's Rebel, our hero must not only choreograph the fight scenes for The Tragedy of Hamlet, he is called upon, by fate and honour, to choreograph the rescue of the realm itself.


Humphreys' first novel, The French Executioner, is about the man who killed Anne Boleyn. It was shortlisted for the CWA Steel Dagger for Thrillers in 2002. Its sequel was Blood Ties. More recently A Place Called Armageddon recalls the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

He also written a trilogy of fanciful, "rip-roaring"; historical novels featuring Jack Absolute as the "007 of the 1770s,"; adopting the hero's name from the aforementioned Sheridan play. The third in this series, Absolute Honour (McArthur $10.99) typically follows the swashbuckling British soldier, Jack Absolute, as he cavorts from battlefields to bedrooms. Along the way he becomes a spy at the Jacobite Court in Rome.

In Humphreys' young adult fantasy novel, The Hunt of the Unicorn (Knopf, 2011), a girl falls into a tapestry at a New York City museum, and finds herself taken prisoner by a tyrant king. His earlier trilogy for young adults, 'The Runestone Saga,' combines Norse myths, runic magic, time travel and horror. The trilogy consisting of The Fetch (2006), Vendetta (2007) and Possession (2008) has been published in Russia, Greece, Turkey and Indonesia.

Thus far, Humphreys' historical novels have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Sticking to English history, his novels, Plague (2014) and Fire (2015) are thrillers set in London in 1665 and 1666.

He describes The Plague as essentially a religious fundamentalist serial killer story set during the Great Plague of London.

"I grew up with the Plague. Every English schoolboy hears the lurid tales-the red crosses on the doors, the cries of 'Bring out yer dead!' The buboes! But it was not a period I'd especially studied. Then, as with most of my ideas, I became suddenly intrigued when I started to delve into the Restoration world.

"The ghastly effects of disease became a vivid backdrop to another story-this time, of highwaymen and thief takers, actresses and royalty-and serial killers," says Humphreys. "It was a world reeling from the horrors of civil war. Men and women were trying to cope with that legacy, and they were doing it with a new freedom of conscience that until then had been ruthlessly suppressed. As well, it was a time when sober puritans were suddenly ruled by a thoroughly debauched king.

"So London 1665 was a marvelous place to visit. I just thank all my stars that I do not have to live there!";

The actor is getting his act together from his home on Saltspring Island. C.C. Humphreys returned to Canada in the 1990s, began writing in Vancouver, lived in London for twelve years, then returned to the West Coast in 2006. But Humphreys has not left acting behind completely.

In 2013, Humphreys choreographed some sword fighting sequences for his friend Christopher Gaze, who runs the annual Bard on the Beach Shakespeare festival in Vancouver. Gaze later produced and directed a production written by Humphreys, adapted from his novel Shakespeare's Rebel, that featured William Shakespeare as a character in the cast. The rehearsal process was fraught with friction and the play was not a critical success.

Plaque won the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Novel in Canada.


As C.C. Humphreys

The French Executioner (Orion 2002)
Blood Ties (Orion 2003)
Jack Absolute (Orion 2004)
The Blooding of Jack Absolute (Orion 2005)
Absolute Honour (Orion 2007)
Vlad (Orion 2009)
The Hunt of the Unicorn (Knopf, 2011) 9780375853500
A Place Called Armageddon (Orion 2011)
Shakespeare's Rebel (Orion 2013)
Plague (Random House 2014) - 9780385679923
Fire (Random House 2015; Doubleday 2016)
Chasing the Wind (Penguin Random House 2018) $24 978-0-3856-9048-5

As Chris Humphreys

The Runestone Saga - a YA trilogy
--The Fetch (Knopf 2006) 9780553494754
--Vendetta (Knopf 2007) 9780375844249
--Possession (Knopf 2008) 9780375844874

[BCBW 2014] "Fiction"