Richard Kurti is the author of the Basilica Diaries Medieval Mysteries series and Requiem of Revenge: a page-turning historical thriller based on the mystery surrounding the death of J S Bach.

Despite being the story of a man who leaves a trail of chaos and suffering in his wake, Requiem of Revenge began as a search for inner peace.

I always listen to music when I write, often choosing film scores that resonate with the tone of the story I’m working on. But as populist leaders took power in country after country and the world seemed to retreat from democracy, my mood slumped. Instinctively, I turned to the music of Bach and Handel.

The richness of their music was incredibly healing, and I clung to the thought that whatever dark times they endured, both composers were still able to produce works of incredible beauty. And then I wondered, What exactly did they live through?

I started reading about the lives of Bach and Handel. They were both born in 1685 in Germany, barely 90 miles apart; they spent their lives as composers and musicians, yet they never met. Although they are now recognised as being the greatest composers of their age, both men had very different lives. Handel moved to London, where he enjoyed wealth and fame, while Bach spent much of his life working in Leipzig, scraping a living as the director of church music.

Bach certainly knew of Handel and greatly admired him; he is even quoted as saying “[Handel] is the only person I would wish to see before I die, and the only person I would wish to be.”

And then, as I was rummaging around in the footnotes of history, I discovered an extraordinary coincidence: both composers were destroyed by the same fraudulent English eye surgeon, ‘Chevalier’ John Taylor.

I dug deeper into the Chevalier’s life, and realised there was a shocking resonance across the centuries: the charlatans who were wreaking havoc in the modern world seemed to be cut from the same cloth as the man who destroyed the genius of Bach and Handel 250 years ago.

Perhaps telling the story of one liar and cheat could shed light on how liars and cheats are able to triumph across the world?

And that was when I started writing.

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