Excerpt from The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Judge Hunter

by Christopher Buckley

The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley X
The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley
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  • Published:
    May 2018, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Emily Isackson

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October 13th, 1660. To my Lord's in the morning, where I met with Captain Cuttance, but my Lord not being up I went out to Charing Cross, to see Major-General Harrison hanged, drawn, and quartered, which was done there, he looking as cheerful as any man could do in that condition. Thus it was my chance to see the King beheaded at White Hall, and to see the first blood shed in revenge for the blood of the King at Charing Cross. From thence to my Lord's, and took Captain Cuttance and Mr. Sheply to the Sun Tavern, and did give them some oysters.

—Samuel Pepys, diary entry

– CHAPTER 1 –
London, February 1664

Balthasar de St. Michel was contemplating his excellent good fortune at having such an influential brother-in-law as Samuel Pepys when he looked up and saw the head of Oliver Cromwell, mummifying on a pike. Revolting, he thought.

It had been there for—what—three years now? When the late king's son, Charles II, was restored to the throne, he ordered the moldering corpses of his father's executioners dug up, hanged, and decapitated. "Symbolic revenge." Ten of the fifty-nine men who signed the King's death warrant were rather less fortunate than Cromwell. They got hanged and butchered while alive.

Balthasar shuddered and moved briskly along to his destination, the Navy Office in Seething Lane, a busy warren near the Tower of London.

"Brother Sam!" he said with a heartiness suggesting it was a social call.

Samuel Pepys, Clerk of the Acts of the Royal Navy, looked up from his desk. His face did not convey delight. He knew from experience that this was not a social call.

"Brother Balty. I fear you find me much occupied."

"I was passing by. Thought to stick my head in. Say hello."

"Good of you," Pepys said heavily.

"What's the commotion?" Balty said, looking out the window at the bustle in the courtyard below.

"Meetings. So as you see, I am somewhat—"

"Say, how long are they going to leave Cromwell's head on that pike?"

Pepys sighed. "I wouldn't know. For as long as it pleases his majesty, I expect."

"Frightful thing."

"Yes, I imagine that's rather the point."

"Weren't you present when they"—Balty made a chopping motion—" lopped off the king's head?"

"Yes. I was sixteen. Played truant from school. And was well whipped for it. Now if you'll—"

"Didn't you also see the execution of the first of the regicides? What's his name . . . Harrison?"

"Yes. Well, good of you to—"

"Must have been ghastly. Hanging, disemboweling, cutting off the privy parts. Then—"

"Yes, Balty. It was horrid. So much so that I endeavor not to dwell upon it."

"People will suspect you've a penchant for gruesome entertainments." He pronounced the word in the French way, himself being half French. Balty and his sister, Pepys's wife, had the tendency to lapse into their father's native tongue.

"My penchant, Balty, is to be witness at great events. I do not attend only executions. I remind you that I was aboard the ship that brought his majesty back to England from Holland four years ago."

Pepys did not mention—to Balty or anyone, for that matter—the diary he'd been keeping since 1660. He wrote it in a shorthand decipherable only to himself, so that he could tell it all.

"Well, good to see you," Pepys said. "Do give Esther my love."

Esther was Balty's wife of two years, and the latest addition to the growing number of mouths it fell to Pepys to feed. His rise within the Navy Office had barely kept pace with the proliferation of impoverished relatives.

Excerpted from The Judge Hunter by Christopher Buckley. Copyright © 2018 by Christopher Buckley. Excerpted by permission of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Beyond the Book:
  Samuel Pepys's Diary

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