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May 1, 2014

A 'Rich, Royal and Powerful' return

Newburyport authors featured in Tannery Series program

The Tannery Series is back in Newburyport tonight with “Rich, Royal and Powerful,” exploring the lives of kings, lovers and ordinary people with powerful missions.

Newburyport authors Rhina Espaillat and Anne Easter Smith will join Massachusetts native Susan Rich at Jabberwocky Bookshop for readings, discussions and a question-and-answer session.

Rich, a prominent poet and human rights activist based in Seattle, will introduce her latest book, “Cloud Pharmacy,” which deals with love and belonging to another.

Following the theme of “Rich, Royal and Powerful,” Smith will read an excerpt from her fourth book, “Queen by Right,” part of a five-book series on the Wars of the Roses. Focused on the real-life series of civil wars between two 15th-century noble houses, Smith’s novels are works of fiction that track the inner lives of their historical subjects.

Smith is enthralled by the figure of Richard III, whose throne was taken by his enemy, Henry Tudor, at the conclusion of the wars. Richard III has been portrayed by history books, written accounts and even Shakespeare as a deformed and murderous king, but modern scholars believe that his barbarity was largely Tudor propaganda. Smith hoped to show the king’s more human face.

“In my early 20s, I discovered that Richard might not have been responsible for some of the murders that he supposedly had done,” she said. “I’ve made a study of him for the last 40 years. I eventually went on to want to write my own historical novel about the real Richard; the one I discovered was not the hunchback that Shakespeare made.”

Smith hinted that her excerpt would concern Richard III’s mother, Cecily Neville, using the power of faith to perform a “brave act” under “extremely dangerous conditions.” Neville is part of a long line of female protagonists in Smith’s books.

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