Jake Arnott will be giving a reading from ‘The Fatal Tree’ at the next Polari event, at Printworks in Hastings on 12 December. London, the 1720s. Welcome to ‘Romeville’, the underworld of that great city. The financial crash caused by the South Sea Bubble sees the rise of Jonathan Wild, self-styled ‘Thief-taker General’ who purports to keep the peace while brutally controlling organised crime. Only two people truly defy him: Jack Sheppard, apprentice turned house-breaker, and his lover, the notorious whore & pickpocket Edgworth Bess.

The Fatal Tree

From the condemned cell at Newgate, Bess gives her account of how she & Jack formed the most famous criminal partnership of their age: a tale of lost innocence & harsh survival, passion & danger, bold exploits & spectacular gaol-breaks – and of the price they paid for rousing the mob of Romeville against its corrupt master.

Bess dictates her narrative to Billy Archer, a Grub Street hack and aspiring poet who has rubbed shoulders with Defoe and Swift. But he also inhabits that other underworld of ‘molly-houses’ and ‘unnameable sin’, and has his own story of subterfuge, treachery and doomed romance to deliver.

As the gallows casts its grim shadow, who will live to escape the Fatal Tree? By the acclaimed author of THE LONG FIRM, this is a tour de force; inventive, atmospheric and rich in the street slang of the era. Drawing on real figures and a true history of crime, punishment and rough justice, it tells a heartbreaking story of love and betrayal.

Book available in store & online. Printed Matter will also be having a stall at Polari on the night.

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