Recent Posts

The Sandwich of Xanadu

11/12/2017

Last week, I went along to the Historical Writers’ Association Christmas bash. This is always great fun – it’s good to touch base with one’s fellow practitioners, especially because our line of work is, by definition, pretty solitary. Above all, it’s always reassuring to find that author A has exactly the same issues that you […]

Stasis Revisited: Part Two

07/12/2017

So now, as promised in Monday’s Part 1, here’s my utterly personal and idiosyncratic ‘top five’ of UK secondhand bookshops. As in the previous post, everything in black font after the section break below is material originally posted five years ago, when I only produced a top three; everything in red is brand new, and […]

Stasis Revisited: Part One

04/12/2017

Last week, I used my recent holiday in Galloway as a perfect excuse to update an older post about King Arthur, first published four years ago when this site had a much, much smaller following than it does now. This week, I’m doing a similar exercise with an even older post, from the very early […]

The Offpeak Day Return of the King

30/11/2017

A bit of an oddity for this week’s second blog. (And anybody thinking ‘the blogger’s a bit of an oddity anyway’ is toast.) Last week’s trip to Galloway – see the previous post – provided me with lots of inspiration of all sorts, and, thanks primarily to Wigtown, also provided me with lots more books […]

Dead Admirals Society Dons a Kilt

27/11/2017

Apologies for the ‘radio silence’ last week. Regular followers of this blog will know that I sometimes take myself off to Landmark Trust cottages to brainstorm new novels or just to chill, and I spent last week at the tiny but perfectly formed Glenmalloch Lodge in Galloway. The upside of this was that even by […]

Societal Intercourse

13/11/2017

I joined another society last week. Come to that, I stepped down from positions of responsibility at another, too, and the conjunction of the two events got me thinking about historical societies generally, and their roles in the modern world. I think I’m reasonably well qualified to comment on this, and to explore the challenges […]

Bang

06/11/2017

I’ve come late to the whole thing about the BBC series Gunpowder. First and foremost, it’s good to see any primetime TV at all about the seventeenth century; and second and, umm, foremost, it’s even better to see primetime TV about the seventeenth century getting big audience figures and plenty of reaction from the critics and […]

Dead Admirals Society Goes Danish

30/10/2017

In last week’s two posts, I talked about the lovely Swedish city of Karlskrona, and the international conference on dockyards that I attended there. I bookended the trip with stays in Copenhagen, which I’d never visited before – a shocking admission, especially as my grandfather was there as long ago as 1965, arranging the deal […]

Don’t Mention the Cold War, Part 2

26/10/2017

In this week’s first post, I gave my impressions of the dockyard town of Karlskrona and its terrific naval museum. Now on to the reason why I was there, an international conference on International Approaches to Naval Cities and Dockyards, held in the museum. From the moment it started, it was clear there was a […]

Reviews

PRAISE FOR ‘THE JOURNALS OF MATTHEW QUINTON’

There is a welcome return, too [in Death’s Bright Angel], for Captain Matthew Quinton of Charles II’s navy. J D Davies is an expert on the 17th-century navy, and his series about a gentleman captain in the Age of Sail has won him keen fans…Davies knows his subject and wears his knowledge lightly. Death’s Bright Angel is the sixth book in a series of real panache. – The Times (review by Antonia Senior)

Great naval fiction…Hornblower, Aubrey and Quinton – a pantheon of the best adventures at sea – Conn Iggulden

Exciting, emotive and utterly convincing, the Quinton Journals lead the field in naval historical fiction – Sam Willis, TV presenter and author of Fighting Ships, The Fighting Temeraire, The Admiral Benbow & The Glorious First of June

Finely shaded characters, excellent plotting, gut-clenching action and immaculate attention to period naval detail…these are superb books – Angus Donald, author of ‘The Outlaw Chronicles’

Welsh born/English adopted J D Davies is a guy who knows about his subject. He’s an academic and historian with a doctorate in Reformation naval history. Therefore the details of things like the equipment, traditions and tactics in his Matt Quinton series are spot on; as are the pacing, adventure and thrills. (An ability that’s a little more unusual in academic circles.) In short this is as exciting as it is informative for naval history fans as a for those who don’t know one end of a ship’s cannon from another but just want a ripping read…From the prologue to the author’s wonderful notes at the back, this is an excellent read. – The Bookbag (review by Ani Johnson)

A splendid addition to nautical adventure, and a grand story, to boot!—Dewey Lambdin, author of the Alan Lewrie series of novels

J D Davies’s depiction of Restoration England and the British navy is impeccable, his characters truly live and breathe, and the plot kept me in suspense. Gentleman Captain is one of the rare books that I have read with a smile on my face from cover to cover. I could not recommend it more. — Edward Chupack, author of Silver: My Own Tale as Written by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder

A beautifully written and masterfully told story…an excellent book, well researched, well written and thoroughly enjoyable…terrific characters, a thrilling adventure, and a wonderful sense of time and place…a delightful tale… a naval adventure that goes well beyond the usual outlines of the genre to paint a lively portrait of England in the 1600s…these are superb books…the best series of historical fiction I’ve ever read – From various reviews of the series

Reviews of ‘The Journals of Matthew Quinton’

WINNER OF THE SAMUEL PEPYS PRIZE AND LATHAM MEDAL, 2009

‘You will want to give this book to your favourite armchair seadog’ – James Srodes in The Washington Times

‘This superb book…not only an impressive technical publication to satisfy the dedicated researcher, it is also a jolly good read for the enthusiast’ – The Nautical Magazine

‘[A] magnificent and superbly illustrated volume’ – Professor Eric Grove in Navy News

‘This superb book…well written…beautifully illustrated throughout…this outstanding book is also very good value for money. Highly recommended’ – Marine News

‘Outstanding analysis’ – The Oxford Times

‘This great vade mecum…the research embodied in this work is excellent…no student of the late seventeenth century navy can afford to be without this admirable compilation’ – Professor David Loades in The Mariner’s Mirror

‘A book which should be in the bookcase of every student of Royal  Naval history…the author deserves huge congratulations for the expertise and knowledge so well recorded in this superb book’ – David Clement in South West Soundings

‘Fantastically detailed and comprehensive…an absolute must for anyone with an interest in the sailing navy’ – Janet Dempsey in Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine

Reviews of ‘Pepys’s Navy: Ships, Men and Warfare 1649-89’

SHORTLISTED FOR THE MOUNTBATTEN MARITIME LITERARY AWARD, 2014

Davies’s aim [was] to produce a highly-readable and engaging account, and in this he has certainly succeeded. This book, then, is that rare beast, one that deals with academic ideas, but manages at the same time to communicate these to a broader audience. He writes with no little panache and considerable wit: there were moments where he had me smiling quietly and even a few occasions when I laughed out loud… The author’s sense of humour is evident throughout the book, raising it above the usual staid historical accounts that often favour plain, dour prose. At the same time, such comedy should not take away from the serious points which are made within the book’s 288 pages. This work demonstrates that the relationship between Wales and the Royal Navy was – for all its complexity – one of mutual reliance and interest. More broadly, he has greatly advanced the study of both Welsh and maritime history. For generations of Welsh people, the sea and more particularly the Navy were been essential to their lives, fortunes and sense of self. This was clear to many who heralded from Wales, not least the one Welshman to become Prime Minister of Britain: David Lloyd George. In 1925 he stood up in the House of Commons and noted that ‘there is no part of the Kingdom that, in proportion to its population, contributes more to the British Navy than Wales’. Lloyd George was not alone in realising the importance of the vital relationship between Wales and for the Royal Navy, and in turn, David Davies deserves considerable plaudits for telling this story in such a rich, accessible way. – Dr James Davey of the National Maritime Museum, International Journal of Maritime History

…it is perhaps deceptively easy for the uninformed to pass over the enormous contribution that Wales and the Welsh people have made to the story of British naval mastery over the years. Equally, the massive extent to which naval affairs and their influences have impacted profoundly on the lives of the Welsh people and on the country at large. is not at all as well understood as it very much ought to be, either in Wales or elsewhere in these islands. Well, J D Davies’s splendid new book will do much to correct the facile view that the maritime heritage of Wales is only about labouring tramp steamers…and it is therefore much to be welcomed, for it deals with a history and an experience of Welsh seafaring that has never hitherto been properly recounted.

The writer…takes the reader on a marvellous passage through 2000 years of Welsh seafaring endeavour…Handling a complex array of diverse and complicated sources with an enviable facility and writing in a polished prose which does justice to the depth and significance of this history, this is essentially a book about opening doors and windows and letting the light into a subject that has been unfairly neglected and largely ignored for too long, and that makes it a most valuable contribution to scholarship in modern naval history which can be strongly recommended. And a fine one it is…a good and important book. – Dr Campbell McMurray, Maritime Wales

 

Reviews of ‘Britannia’s Dragon: A Naval History of Wales’