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INTERVIEW | Act of Oblivion: Robert Harris on his new novel, about ‘the greatest manhunt of the 17th century’

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Robert Harris. (Photo: Supplied)
Robert Harris. (Photo: Supplied)

INTERVIEW: Robert Harris

In his new novel, besteselling author Robert Harris imaginatively fills a gap in the historical record. In 1660, when the English monarchy was restored after the “interregnum” that was Oliver Cromwell’s republican commonwealth, King Charles II made a deal with Parliament. There was a general amnesty for supporters of the commonwealth, except for those who had sentenced his father, Charles I, to death. Most of the regicides were rounded up (and gruesomely executed), but some escaped, including Colonel Edward (Ned) Whalley and William Goffe, who left for the American colonies. Little is known about what happened to them, and in that gap Harris creates an epic chase narrative. An invented figure, Richard Nayler, a spy-assassin in the service of the king, is determined to track down the fugitive regicides (to “nail” them, so to speak), so he goes to America, and a manhunt begins ... I spoke to Harris about this new novel, Act of Oblivion (Penguin), named for the law that sought to consign the regicides to the dustbin of history. 

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