At long last, I’m thrilled to be able to confirm that the first book in my new Tudor naval fiction trilogy will be published by Canelo this summer, currently as an e-book only.
And the title is…
Followers of this blog will know that this book has had a long and pretty unusual gestation period. Whereas authors invariably have to edit their work down to an acceptable length (unless you’re George R R Martin, obviously), I found myself having to more than double the length of a story that had originally been conceived as a novella. This proved to be quite fraught, and took rather longer than anticipated (with a knock-on effect on other projects), but it’s finally ready to go. And here, for the first time in any medium, is a preview of the book…
It is a dangerous time.
The religious changes enforced by the capricious old king, Henry VIII, have created fear, uncertainty and suspicion, while the king’s pride has led the country into simultaneous wars against France and Scotland. Against this backdrop, Jack Stannard, a young shipmaster, grieves for his dead wife, while hoping that the wars will provide an opportunity to distinguish himself, to provide for his motherless children Meg and Tom, and to restore the fortunes of his hometown of Dunwich. For centuries, though, the sea has eaten away at ‘England’s Atlantis’, while its rising neighbour, Southwold, plots incessantly to supplant it. Jack also has to battle the demons personified by his own father, a man with a dark and violent history, albeit now brought low by a terrible illness.
As he sails to fight the Scots, Jack is accompanied by his mentor, Thomas Ryman, erstwhile soldier and equally erstwhile friar. Together, they fight ferocious battles in Scottish waters, while also contending with insidious enemies within their own ranks. Meanwhile in London, Jack’s old schoolfriend, Will Halliday, and his master, William Gonson, the effective organiser of the king’s navy, struggle to fit out a fleet for an even greater war against France, even as Gonson is consumed by memories of the terrible, unjust fate that befell his son. Jack and Will once harboured ambitions of singing before the king as members of his elite Chapel Royal, but destiny has now set them upon very different courses, with their futures, loves, and very lives, depending on the success of King Henry’s wars.
Fresh from the campaign in Scotland, Jack Stannard sails for France and the great siege of Boulogne. There, he encounters an exotic foreigner whose words have a profound influence on him, challenging his entire view of the world and of his own future. Meanwhile, in Dunwich, Jack’s precocious nine-year-old daughter Meg has dreams and ambitions of her own, dreams and ambitions that have no place for the potential new wife who seems to be being foisted on her father. But Meg’s aspirations, and indeed her very life, are soon threatened by the sea’s relentless assault upon the ancient port.
The story culminates in the dramatic events of 1545, when the French launch a colossal invasion fleet against England. Sailing into battle against it, Jack and Ryman are hamstrung by treachery from closer to home than they could ever have expected. Events move inexorably to a shattering climax aboard the pride of Henry VIII’s navy – the great ship Mary Rose…
Destiny’s Tide is based closely on the historical record, and upon the true stories of both ‘the lost city’ of Dunwich and the Gonson family. Although the Stannard family is fictitious, the England in which the three generations of it at the centre of the trilogy live and strive is recreated as faithfully as possible – a land torn apart by bitter religious divisions, even as the kingdom takes a dramatic new direction, a ‘turn to the sea’ in which gallant, ambitious merchants, mariners and warriors start to cast their eyes and set their sails far beyond the realm’s traditional boundaries and ambitions. Together, over a period of forty years, the Stannards and the Gonsons will be at the very heart of the astonishing rise of England’s Navy Royal.
The second book, set nearly a quarter of a century after the events of Destiny’s Tide , will take the Stannards to the Caribbean in company with John Hawkins and his young protege, a certain Francis Drake, while the final instalment, another twenty years further on, will centre on the titanic fight for England’s very survival as the ‘invincible’ Spanish Armada approaches its shores…
I’ve already started work on the second book, which Canelo hope to publish as soon as possible after the first. But I certainly hope to get back to writing further titles in the Quinton series as soon as possible!
In the meantime, I’m trying to work out how I managed to commit myself to giving five talks in the first fortnight of February (I suspect the words ‘yes, I’ll do it’ might be part of the answer). Most of these are to selected audiences, but on 7 February, I’ll be talking at an open event in the wonderfully historic St Nicholas church in Deptford (full details here). This is under the auspices of the Lenox Project, which aims to build a replica of a particularly important Restoration warship, and I’ll be speaking alongside my old friend Richard Endsor, author of the definitive book about the ship. It should be a fun night, with music (not provided by us, have no fear) and refreshments, so if you’re in the general vicinity, please come along – it’s free!