I bet people have been wondering about this all these centuries. After all, defining a nation, revolutionizing social culture, conquering the world, defending against cuckoldry, protecting your kingdom against your evil witch sister, and defeating usurpers on the field of battle can take a lot out of a guy.
It’s tough being a messiah, especially when you are so very, very flawed–as King Arthur clearly is.
Then there is the whole grail quest: a lifelong obsession at best, the key to madness at worst. And, given the nature of the grail, it is bound to lead to disappointment.
Did these things keep Arthur awake during the moonlit hours? Thanks to British author Mark H. Williams, now we know.
As it turns out, all we had to do was ask Arthur’s butler. The entire story is captured in the 2013 romp, Sleepless Knights.
The 20th century is filled with retellings of the Arthur tales by writers like C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, Guy Gavriel Kay, Roger Lancelyn Green, Roger Zelazny, and T.H. White. We have also seen a number of farces, most notably in film (like Monty Python). What Williams has done is provide for us a hilarious farce filled with antics and adventures, that still somehow treats the material for the rich and varied source that it is.
This risky narrative is achieved by a sophisticated time-structured pattern to the story outline, moving us in and out of the historical Camelot as it exists in several different time lines. The changes in narrative voice are not always smooth, simply because they are rooted in a single character. But that single character’s point of view serves to solidify what is a truly mercurial plot.
I met Mark Williams when, in line for dinner at Mythcon, my careless questioning caused him to admit that his book was Shortlisted for the 2014 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. I ordered the book for myself and it sat in the teetering pile of books on my bedside table. I finally made it a Christmastide read, and have not regretted it. A bit on the long side for a farce, but a superb book for its entertainment value and unusual treatment of Arthuriana.
Meanwhile, check out Sleepless Knights. It won’t keep you up in the worried ways that caused Arthur to roam the halls of his mind (and his castle), but it might keep you up turning the pages to see what happens next.