J D Davies

Other South American Rivers are Available

I don’t usually plug other people’s books on this site, but occasionally, titles come along that really deserve a bit of a leg-up – especially if they fall within my usual very strict and narrow remits (i.e. seventeenth century, naval, seventeenth century naval, or absolutely anything else whatsoever that interests me), and/or if their publishers are slightly off the beaten track, and/or if I’ve got some sort of personal connection with them. Next week, for example, I’m hoping to have a guest post that fits several of these bills – watch this space – but this week, I thought I’d highlight some titles that can be found in the ‘available for pre-order’ categories of the proverbial tax-lite South American river, plus one that’s just come out.

The first is the intriguingly titled Lawson Lies Still in the Thames, by Gill Blanchard, being published by Amberley in May. This is a biography of one of the most intriguing admirals of the seventeenth century, Sir John Lawson, who moved from being an out-and-out radical under the Commonwealth to become a knight of the realm and staunch supporter of the restored monarchy. I’ve been interested in Lawson since I was working on my doctorate over thirty years ago, and he appears as a character in the third Quinton novel, The Blast That Tears the Skies. He was also the captain of the London, but wasn’t aboard when the ship accidentally blew up in the Thames in March 1665. I’ve blogged before on this site about the wreck of the London, and a lot more work has been done on the wreck since then, so having this book in print will be a big boost to those who are diving on and researching the site. I’ve exchanged emails with the author about aspects of Lawson’s career, and know that Gill has unearthed some previously unknown documents about her subjects, so I’m really intrigued to see what she says about this absolutely fascinating and historically important individual.

My next pick is Resolution: Two Brothers, A Nation in Crisis, A World at War, by David Rutland and Emma Ellis, being published by Head of Zeus in April. If you’re thinking that you’ve never come across Rutland as a surname, you’d probably be right; but the author in question is actually David, Duke of Rutland, and this is the story of one of his family members, an almost exact contemporary of Nelson (and son of the Marquess of Granby, of multiple pub names fame), who died at the age of just twenty-four. If you think Captain Lord Robert Manners sounds a bit insignificant to deserve an entire book, his contemporaries would have begged to differ. These days, one enters Westminster Abbey by the north transept, and pretty much the first thing you see is an unbelievably colossal baroque monument to Manners and the two colleagues who fell with him. I’ve talked to the authors about naval history on several occasions, supplied some research information for the book, and did some critical reading of drafts, so I know that this is going to be a really worthwhile and very readable study, drawing on the superb archives at Belvoir Castle and many other sources.

My final choice in the ‘forthcoming’ category has already been covered on this site, in a guest post from the author himself – so this is a gentle reminder to anyone who hasn’t ordered it yet that Richard Endsor’s book on The Warship Anne is being published in less than a fortnight’s time! The launch party took place at the wonderful Shipwreck Museum in Hastings last weekend; sadly, I couldn’t attend, but there are unconfirmed reports that the author is safe and well, and wasn’t led astray by the ‘usual suspects’ from the nefarious world of nautical archaeology.

And last of all, a book that’s just come out, and which I’ve just finished reading – Jacqueline Reiter’s The Late Lord: The Life of John Pitt, second Earl of Chatham. By coincidence, there’s a connection between this and Resolution, described above: the fourth Duke of Rutland, the second brother covered in that book, was one of Chatham’s closest friends. This is another case where I have to put my hands up and admit that I know the author, but this is a beautifully written, exceptionally well researched, insightful, and very balanced, analysis of the career of a man whose peculiar misfortune was to be the son and brother of far greater men, William Pitt the Elder and Younger. (Note: at this point, do not, under any circumstances, follow this link.) It’s particularly revealing about the controversial Walcheren expedition of 1809, which effectively wrecked Chatham’s career – and for a seventeenth century naval buff, it was fascinating to come across very familiar placenames that are so absolutely central to my own work, such as Vlissingen/Flushing, Middelburg, and Veere (Cornelia Quinton’s home town in ‘the journals of Matthew Quinton’).

Generally, though, my reading is on the back burner at the moment, which is always the case when I’m writing a new book. But the good news is that the next Quinton novel, The Devil Upon the Wave – set against the backdrop of the Dutch attack on the Medway, 350 years ago this June – is well on course, and should be finished quite soon! More updates as and when available.