DUSK’S lengthening and ever-darkening shadows might gradually have been enveloping the land, yet many a late December’s afternoon during my Warwickshire boyhood would find me delaying my journey homewards across the fields from Black Spinney.

This few acres of woodland ran parallel with Watling Street, which had, since the dawn of motor travel, been bestowed with the less romantic road classification ‘A5’.

But to me it was always Watling Street… and I was fascinated by it. Built by the Romans, this was the route that Boudicca, queen of the Britons, had taken before her fatal clash with the legions at nearby Mancetter.

Since that time, countless armies have marched up and down this ramrod- straight highway. And among them was the army of King Charles I, on his way from Shrewsbury to Edgehill, scene of the first battle of the Civil Wars in October, 1642.

For those of us fascinated by history, it’s important that any writings that come to our notice must be imbued with a sense of time and place. And when it comes to painting a picture in words, there can be few more skilled at it than historical novelist Celia Boyd.

Celia’s fourth book – An Ungodly Reckoning – follows the further adventures of civil war Worcester surgeon Tom Fletcher, who in previous volumes has found himself caught up in the thick of the fighting between Royalists and Parliamentarians as the war seesaws across the English Midlands.

Indeed, much of the action occurs in Worcestershire and Warwickshire - places many of us know well - and it is this familiarity that further helps to get the imaginative juices flowing.

This same attention to descriptive detail also graphically brings to life the stresses and daily horrors of a nation torn apart by internal strife. This was a countryside criss-crossed by bands of mercenaries, many of whom had fought during the Thirty Years War in Europe, a conflict that devastated vast swathes of the countryside.

Then there were the ‘assessment men’, thugs who could enter your home at will, and not only take everything you owned, but could also burn your house down should the mood take them.

Celia Boyd pulls no punches, and the effect is all the greater because her narrative takes on the aspects and idiosyncrasies of 17th century English speech patterns, which lend the story an even greater authenticity.

It’s a pity that there weren’t books like this around during the 1950s. They would have made ideal reading by the winter’s fireside after an expedition to Black Spinney… a place of ghosts where the legions of the lost can quite possibly still be observed on a dark December night when the conditions are right.

WORCESTER surgeon Tom Fletcher travels through towns and villages dotted about a landscape that would be almost unrecognisable today.

Nevertheless, we are at least familiar with the names. For example, the Severn would have looked very different in the 1600s – it was tidal up to Bewdley – but at least we can just about imagine a river that ebbed and flowed.

Once again, Celia Boyd gives us an idea of how this must have appeared. These days, noise from countless sources is the dominant feature of the age. Back then it would have been smell, squalor and pain.

She describes various surgical conditions and procedures that involve all three. In an age when no one knew of the link between bacteria and infection, quite often the treatment could kill as easily as the sword thrust or musket ball it was meant to cure.

Tom’s attempts to save life may involve subjecting the patient to pain so great that the trauma could also kill them. And a musket shot to a limb almost certainly meant amputation, as the bone would be shattered and gangrene had to be avoided at all costs.

If the wound was to the torso, very little could be done, other than clean the area involved, apply a dressing… and hope for the best. The author does not spare our sensitivities for a single moment. It’s gripping stuff without a doubt.

An Ungodly Reckoning is published by Graficas Books and available from Amazon seller Boyds and the Bees, price £7.50.