I, autodidact
… a private investigation … an historical enquiry…
M S F Johnston
‘An immensely enjoyable read. Great fun!’
‘A fresh approach to history… A new kind of story that I really enjoyed.’

"A thoroughly good read"

M S F Johnston has written an interesting investigation into the fall of Richard II, king of England, in 1399 and the subsequent rise to power of Henry IV. His hero, Damian Email, employs unusual, and possibly unique, investigation techniques to get to the bottom of what really went on in those dark times. Damian's journey of discovery involves meetings with unusual intellectuals in interesting public houses, amongst other things. The book flows well and the narrative romps along. A thoroughly good read which should appeal to anyone with even the slightest interest in history. - J Watson, Amazon

About the book.

‘I, autodidact’ is a modern comedy for people who like history. Those who can’t resist a castle, cathedral or museum, and academics alike will enjoy reading this original novel on their favourite subject.

‘I, autodidact’ is unconventional historical fiction set in the present in which Damian Email develops a sympathetic collusion with those trapped in the amber of the past and a special respect for their plight – so stand by to meet some big names: Richard II himself, his nemesis Henry IV and many others; along with mysterious mentors, secret societies, cover-ups and cocktails in a seriously funny read.

Here’s what readers have said about ‘I, autodidact’.

I found it funny and inspiring. I even began to look up Elizabeth Lancaster and gisants.....!
J.S, Notts.
What intrigued me most was the idea of undertaking research by talking to effigies, which I don't think anyone has hit on before.
Dr B, Central South-West
I loved the language; M S F Johnston definitely has the storytelling knack, and the way it conveys history is terrific!
J-M J, Montreal
This is an immensely enjoyable read. Great fun! A book we need to read in these difficult times.
J P, Somerset
It is a fresh approach to history and the intrigues and Soprano-esque infighting has encouraged me to find out more. The whole thing is neatly done. A new kind of story that I really enjoyed.
G W, North East
Wonderful in so many ways!
It is an intelligent and highly entertaining book which is both playful and profound. It looks at motivation, enquiry, and what really motivates us beyond what we are told to do by others. Readers may find themselves following their own muse- just for the enjoyment and satisfaction of doing so.
K D, Berwickshire
Having a lifelong interest in etymology and history, leading to roles in both Literary Festivals and History Groups, a book which brings in the origins of words and English history is right up my street.
What I didn't expect to find was the wordplay, wit and humour from almost every character as they interact in an intriguing story. The author has written an unusual book which fits into so many genres and is well worth a read.
A. P-S Amazon
I thoroughly enjoyed ‘I, autodidact’. Having a visitor’s knowledge of most of the tombs, I was carried along by Damian’s conversations with the effigies. These people were no longer long-dead characters of medieval history, but brought into our world.
B.S. Surrey.
Two plus points for me were that all the lead characters are likeable and, and this was surprising, the book appealed to me on a spiritual level.
M.P London.

About the Author.

M S F Johnston has had a lifelong passion for history from an early age.

‘August 1973, I was 8, and we were on holiday near Newcastle - I bought my first copy of the children’s magazine ‘Look and Learn’ - the cover was a naval action in the Russo-Japanese war of 1905. I never looked back.’

He returned to the North-East to study Modern European History and French at Sunderland Polytechnic.

‘I had a great time there and was able to use my degree to parlay jobs in European sales and marketing, then playing cards, and latterly secondary-school French teaching - until I became a writer.’

Married and living in Malvern, he is currently working on the sequel to his first book.

‘It’s like Pandora’s box – once you open the lid on those people from the past you can’t close it again – not until you’ve given them what they want: a role in the real story.’


What is history for you?
It’s been around for ever, so it’s about time we found a new way to understand what went on in the past. The bee in Damian’s bonnet just happens to be Richard II and Henry IV, but it could be anything, and he needs to find his own way to get to them, a new way, to get to the truth.

Were you influenced by Josephine Tey’s ‘The Daughter of Time’ about Richard III?
Not for the first book, ‘I, autodidact’, but I’ve read all her books since and I can certainly agree with her veiws on history so, then ‘no’, but now ‘yes’. She didn’t like how people in the past can be used as ‘cardboard cut-outs’ to prove a point, and neither do I.

Where does the title fit in?
It’s an essential part of the story. Please don’t ask me for plot details either - I have to protect the reader’s experience, but the Review section has hints.

How would you describe ‘I, autodidact’ in 4 words?
Serious, funny, scholarly, flippant.

And will there be a sequel to your first book?
Yes, coming out late 2021. Damian has more work to do. There will be a overlap with the first book but it’s mostly Henry IV/Henry V/Henry VI this time. The title’s ready: ‘I, autodidact – Aye! Aye!’.

Order your copy online today!