For over two thousand years, London Bridge evolved through many fragile wooden forms until it became the first bridge built of stone since the leaving of the Roman invaders. In David Madden’s tenth novel, London Bridge is as much a living, breathing character as its architect Father Peter de Colechurch, who began work on it in 1176, partly to honor Archbishop Thomas a Becket, murdered in Canterbury Cathedral. Twenty-five years in the making, that version was a wonder of the world until it was dismantled in 1832.

In the year of the Great Plague of London, 1665, few Londoners, including the 135 merchants who have shops and houses on the bridge itself, remembered Peter de Colechurch. Daryl Braintree, a young poet living on the sixth floor of Nonesuch House on the bridge, began resurrecting Peter, recreating the building and the history of the bridge in his own imagination. As he also writes poems about the bridge, he mourns the disappearance of his father, the Old Chronicler of the Bridge, and reads his writing to his witty mistress, Mistretta, who would rather keep on making love. Throughout the Great Plague and the Great Fire the following year, the Poet remains immersed in factual research and flights of the imagination.

David Madden’s imagination reaches beyond the Poet and Peter de Colechurch, whose best friend was a famous courtesan, to embrace a gallery of equally important characters.
As a young boy, Lucien Redd, sexually and physically abused by both Puritans and Cavaliers during the English Civil War, was kidnapped off London Bridge onto a merchant ship. He aspires to become Lucifer’s most evil disciple.

Also as a young boy twenty years later, Morgan Wood is forced to serve on a merchant ship to pay off his father’s debt to goldsmith Clinkinbeard, a major merchant on the bridge. Compelled by a profound nostalgia for life on the bridge, Morgan keeps a journal. Coming onto the ship, Lucien befriends Morgan only to set him up for motiveless destruction.
Surviving plague and fire, but fearing that God’s wrath will turn upon the bridge, the bridge merchants, led by goldsmith Clinkinbeard, ultimately revert to an ancient pagan ritual by choosing one of their thirteen-year-old daughters to be buried alive in a pier at the South end. Having chosen Blythe, ignorant of the fact that she is no virgin, they hire Lucien, who has come to the bridge to burn it, to kidnap and place her in the pier. Blythe urges Lucien to take her innocent playmate Gilda.
Morgan, who has eluded Lucien, appears as the inhabitants of the shops and houses on the bridge are searching for Blythe.

Like his creation the Poet, Madden employs several innovative ways of telling this often shocking but also lyrical and complex story. His well-known mastery of imagery is at its most impressive.


Listen to a recent live dramatic performance by David Madden reading from

London Bridge in Plague and Fire at Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, NC.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Read THOMAS BECKET’S BONES ARE MISSING, A short story adapted from the novel [published in Sewanee Review].

For more on the history of Ancient London Bridge and a virtual museum, go to The London Bridge Museum & Educational Trust.


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 Posted by at 3:27 pm

  16 Responses to “LONDON BRIDGE IN PLAGUE AND FIRE by David Madden”

  1. David, I’m looking forward to purchasing and reading London Bridge. If you are interested in doing an interview for the site, please send a note to my gmail box. Usually there are ten to twelve questions. I have set up a link for my readers to visit this site and to purchase your books at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Best wishes, Charles

    P.S. At your suggestion I sent my novel Mister Lincoln’s Elephant Boy to Bob Loomis at Random House. It was an almost. Susan thought the novel would do better with an academic press. University of Michigan Press called, requesting the novel for a second look, then, for all practical purposes, they went out of business. I’m still in the hunt, but now with Loomis’ suggestions incorporated.

  2. That you want to buy and read LONDON BRIDGE IN PLAGUE AND FIRE encourages me to hope all my friends will go and do likewise. It’s now on sale, from me, inscribed or online or in stores. My best, not , I hope my last, I’m 79. I am well into seven books, 3 of them novels, including HIS TSUNAMI, started yesterday.

    • David Madden,

      Sorry if I missed it, but who’s the publisher?


      Joel Burgess
      Black Mountain News
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      • David Madden

        Joel Burgess, U of Tennessee Press published LONDON BRIDGE IN PLAGUE AND FIRE.
        Sorry you missed Malaprop’s reading. Great success and so was my reading last night at UT in KNoxville.
        I will read soon in Black Mountain, place and date not yet firmly set.
        Thanks for asking, David

  3. David,

    Thanks for reading for us last night! It was a great reading. Here’s a link to the event. Click it and then scroll to Nov. 12.


  4. David Madden

    Your saying the reading was great makes me very happy, JoAnne. Thank you for the link.
    Every good wish, David

  5. I’m trying to find an original lithograph or picture of the ss sultana taken by photographer t. w. banks. Can you help me ? thanks TONY

  6. David Madden

    Four good books published in the last 20 years include that photograph. So google books about Sultana and also google Sultana and hit IMAGES. If no luck, get back to me. David

  7. Nice to hear from you. I’fe now published 106 books with more in the pipeline. Cheers,

  8. I enjoyed reading the book, David. Coincidentally, I’d just finished Pepys’ diary and had read some of Evelyn. Made the fun even more fun. It’s great to know you’re still doing great stuff.

  9. David Madden

    Dear Kit, Wonderful to be back in touch with you. I often search for you, going to Peter Stit, after hearing you were in Gettysburg, and my friend Kent Gramm, who if you don’t know him, is a very fine fellow, brilliant writer in all genres. I am glad you enjoyed the novel. So what’s your latest? I have all your books, maybe even the latest. Robbie and I often wonder where you are, how you’re doing. so let us know, please, and come see us down here in Black Mountain, our new home for the last 3 years.

    • Yes, Kent is a fine fellow. I’ll get your email address from him if you don’t have mine, since I’d prefer to catch up in a less public forum. Kent told what yours was once as we passed in a stairwell, but I must have mis-heard because it didn’t work. I see my address up there in the reply box and logic tells me that you would too, but then these websites seem to be post-rational. I have one also, William Hathaway Poet. My latest book is called The Right No from the Somondoco Press. I was in Maine for some time but moved to Gettysburg a year ago so that my wife Ellen could work for Stitt.

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