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Books: Opening Gambit

by Clive Russell

Opening GambitOne can pick up unusual items at a boot-sale and it is from one of these acquisitions by the Narrator, plus an interest in bone carving, that the Tayle develops. The story centres on a churchmouse who escapes the 1528 siege of the Vatican by hiding in the portmanteau of Cardinal Campeggio. The Cardinal, a fast talker but slow doer, was selected by the Pope to act as Papal Legate at the divorce hearing of Henry and Katherine. Charles 1st of Spain, who was on the throne of The Holy Roman Empire as Charles Vth and the instigator of the siege, just happened to be Katherine’s nephew so Clement VII was undecided on which way to jump and how high.

The Cardinal was the absentee Bishop of Salisbury so, after a long and tedious journey, he stopped off at the Cathedral to pick up some documents from the Vicar General before proceeding on to London and finally the court at Blackfriars.

It was in Salisbury that the mouse decided to stay and an unexpected meeting on the first night leads to a casual cleaning position within the Cathedral. This signals the start of a series of adventures including problems arising after the annual leper healing ceremony at the tomb of a martyr, through to an odious curate at St Thomas’ involved in a wine pilfering ring, and on to the first sponsored parachute jump from the steeple.

His friends and characters featured within the story include:

  • Ole and Margaret, the Mouse in Charge and his wife.
  • Angelica, the housekeeper who has an interesting sideline.
  • Gerard Du, an exchange mouse from Chartres.
  • MacDowell, a Glaswegian mouse who sorts out the difficult jobs.
  • Reggie, a black mouse on loan from the Balham Cathedral.
  • Johanne Maus, a Fliegermaus Flight Commander who plays a mean violin.
  • TC, a pacifist Cathedral Cat with an orange fur streak and a nose ring.

The story, woven around historical milestones and set in the traumatic period prior to the divorce of Henry and Katherine, has a length of about 50,000 words.


“In chess, an opening gambit is when a pawn is sacrificed to obtain a piece of higher value. The novel of the same name is a cheeky, rollicking tale of a churchmouse who stows away in the cardinal’s hat portmanteau for a trip to England during the time of Henry VIII. Giovanni, aka Spike, witnesses events such as the annual healing of the lepers, the plague, and all manner of events from the year 1528. This is a not a book to be read while distracted by TV, radio, or other family members. By that I don’t mean that it’s a hard read, but a book that requires close attention so its sarcasm, puns, and clever innuendo are not lost on the reader. Opening Gambit is a well-written novel with word play that would make Will Shakespeare grin.”

Ebook Reader Review, Friday, May 14th 2004



£6.99 + £1.00 p&p

ISBN : 978-1-906385-1-18

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All publications by Clive Russell    Clive Russell’s biography



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