Published in 1985 and described by Ronald Blythe in the Guardian as a 'great telling of a shocking story' Harry Hopkins examines the history of a bitter conflict that raged in England for over two centuries.
Coming across an obscure poacher's grave Hopkins finds two contradictory headstones: one denouncing the poacher as a murderer and the other saluting him as a martyr. So begins Hopkins's quest for the truth and it leads him to an age-old battle between peasant and landowner where for the price of a rabbit or a pheasant men were murdered, transported as convicts and executed. This ancient struggle over game was not just about food for the poor poachers and their families, it was about social rank and the power of the landed gentry, the burgeoning class politics of the time and the harsh realities of rural life.
Writers like Rudyard Kipling and politicians such as David Lloyd George all engaged in the debates surrounding the game laws and the effect they had on the families of those who were caught poaching. It was a bloody conflict and one that is as compelling now as it was two hundred years ago.
Harry Hopkins (1913 - 1998) was, to quote from the Guardian obituary, ' a quixotic figure who .....tilted against injustice'. He was born in Preston, educated at the local grammar school, and took a First in politics, philosophy and economics at Oxford. He was a journalist for much of his life and also the author of a number of books including The New Look: A Social History of the 40s and 50s in Britain and The Long Affray.