The Grave and the Gay

The Lord. The Lady. And the handsome rogue they both are drawn to.

The Grave and the Gay is a historical romance based on the 17th-century English folk ballad “Matty Groves,” performed in recent times by the likes of Fairport Convention, Doc Watson, Joan Baez, and Robert Plant and Allison Krauss on their first concert tour together. The story centers on charismatic rogue Matty Musgrave, who tends the horses of his overly appreciative master, Lord Barnard, in Lancashire County, England. Two strong female characters – the barren and sexually frustrated Lady Barnard and the independent and alluring wash woman Alexandra – are both attracted to Matty, while Darnell, the loyal yet ambitious house servant, is jealous of his rival’s appeal to Alexandra and the Barnards. Freedom, desire, loyalty, and responsibility are tested as the masters and the servants cross boundaries, leading to an explosive climax that forces each character to make a stand – as each is transformed forever.

Learn more about the original folk ballad:

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Why I Wrote This Book
I have long been a fan of Fairport Convention’s version of “Matty Groves” from their 1969 (1970 in the US) album, Liege & Lief. Sandy Denny’s wonderful vocal and the instrumental interplay of guitarist Richard Thompson and fiddler Dave Swarbrick, propelled along by the rhythm section of guitarist Simon Nicol, bassist Ashley Hutchings, and drummer Dave Mattacks, cast a hypnotic spell over the course of eight rapturous minutes. The inherent pathos of the lyrics suggested to me that a dramatization would be appropriate, and I worked up an outline for a five-act play. Before I could begin developing it, though, I was dared to write a novel. Having my outline in hand, I rose to the challenge.

That was November 2006. The journey from then until now is a story unto itself….