Bestselling author CJ Sansom dies days before Disney adaption of his Shardlake series airs


Author CJ Sansom, who created the character of Matthew Shardlake, has died at the age of 71, his publisher has announced.

Sansom first introduced readers to Shardlake – a lawyer who solves crimes while navigating the religious reforms and political intrigue of Tudor England – in the 2003 book Dissolution.

The Scottish writer released six further novels featuring Shardlake, as well as two standalone historical novels, Winter In Madrid and Dominion.

His works have just been adapted into the series Shardlake, which features The Innocents star Arthur Hughes as the main character and Game Of Thrones actor Sean Bean as Thomas Cromwell.

The first season of the Tudor murder mystery series is set to be released by Disney+ on Wednesday.

CJ Sansom
Pic: Pan Macmillian/PA
Sansom was described as one of Britain’s best historical novelists. Pic: Pan Macmillian/PA

Announcing his death on Monday, publishers Pan Macmillan wrote in a statement: “It is with immense sadness that Pan Macmillan announces the death of CJ Sansom.”

“‘It is an extraordinarily strange coincidence that Chris has died only a handful of days before a new generation of fans will meet Matthew Shardlake, Barak and Guy and co for the first time through,” his agent, Antony Topping, said.

“This is also a moment for which Chris’s established fans have been waiting a long time.

“Chris was so proud of all the work and determination that went into bringing the novels to our television screens, which I hope will bring an entirely new audience to the books and which will maybe also inspire some old fans to return to their favourite CJ Sansom novels.”

Sansom’s long-time editor and publisher, Maria Rejt, added that Sansom was working on a new Shardlake book but his “worsening health made progress painfully slow”.

Pic: Disney+ UK
Arthur Hughes as protagonist Matthew Shardlake. Pic: Disney+ UK

She described the author as an “intensely private person” who took immense pleasure in the public’s enthusiastic response to his novels.

“I shall miss him hugely, not only as a wonderfully talented writer who gave joy to millions, but as a dear friend of enormous compassion and integrity,” Ms Rejt said.

Shardlake featured as the protagonist in a total of seven of Sansom’s novels. Dissolution was dramatised once before by BBC Radio 4 in 2012.

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Pic: Disney+ UK
Sean Bean stars in the new series based off Sansom’s debut novel. Pic: Disney+ UK

With more than three million copies of his novels in print, Sansom was awarded the Crime Writers’ Association Cartier Diamond Dagger Award in 2022 for his outstanding contribution to the genre.

Born in Edinburgh in 1952, Sansom attended Birmingham University where he studied an undergraduate degree and PhD in history.

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He worked as a solicitor before becoming a full-time writer where he was able to combine his passion for history and law securing him as one of Britain’s bestselling historical novelists.

Sansom was also a signatory to an 2014 open letter advocating that Scotland should remain in the UK.

The author also donated £161,000 to the Better Together campaign, according to published accounts.

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