Gosh, has it been that long since I last blogged? Oh dear, yes it has…
Sorry for the absence of communication, but it’s been a busy few months both professionally and personally, so I’m afraid things like blogging and social media have fallen by the wayside. Besides, if truth be told there hasn’t really been a lot to blog about – no major new book news, for example, and I haven’t really been doing a lot of serious academic work which might generate spinoff posts as in the past. But all that is changing, and so I’m coming out of hibernation to make two very important announcements!
First of all, until now my ‘Jack Stannard of the Navy Royal’ trilogy, set in the sixteenth century, has only been available in e-book format. But the lovely people at Canelo, my fiction publisher, have decided that the series should be available in ex-tree format too, and the first book, Destiny’s Tide, is being released in a print edition on 9 December – yes, at a perfect time to find a home on your own Christmas list, or to be given as presents to all your family, friends, colleagues and pets! Here’s a link to the Amazon UK site, where you can pre-order it, but if you prefer to buy books from a source that doesn’t think the solution to the world’s problems is to blast 90-year-old actors into orbit, then there are many alternative ways to get hold of your copies (for example, UK readers might want to try out Hive while readers in both the UK and US could also choose bookshop.org, both of which directly support independent high street bookshops). You can find a synopsis of Destiny’s Tide here.
Readers might recall that when the Stannard trilogy was first mooted, I had considerable misgivings about writing something set in the Tudor period. In fact, I’d vowed for many years that I would never, ever, write anything Tudor. Similarly, I also vowed for many years that I would never, ever, write anything set in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. After all, in terms of the naval historical fiction genre this is the traditional stamping ground, the home of those untouchable demigods C S Forester and Patrick O’Brian. The works of these and others, many of them outstanding writers in their own right, suggested to me that the era had been done to death, and any attempt by me to foray into that territory would be doomed to failure. After all, we all know the script. Captain Hercules Perfect, RN, rises from scrawny cabin boy to macho superhero via service in ships manned by the likes of lazy and incompetent captains, sadistic warrant officers, pressed men with either hearts of gold or pungent personal habits, pedantic administrators, and so on and so forth. On land he is a fish out of water and will have one or more disastrous / on-off / purely platonic (delete as appropriate) relationships with women who prove to be unattainable (married) / unattainable (dying of consumption) / all too obtainable (prostitutes). (Again, delete as appropriate.) These passages will be relatively brief because of the insistence of publishers and readers alike that Captain Perfect gets back to sea as soon as possible. There he will, of course, fight the French, who will be perfidious / incompetent / sadistic; at a push the Spanish, who will be sadistic / perfidious / incompetent; and perhaps even the Americans, who will naturally be good ol’ boys. He will have an obligatory meeting with Nelson, who will either pass on some pearl of timeless wisdom or ask him to pass the salt. He will be able to instantly tell the difference between, and assess the condition of, the flying abaft cross dodo bunt and the garboard bowline futtock shroud.
OK, you get the idea, and can hopefully see why I’ve been reluctant to venture into those waters. But finally my agent and publisher convinced me otherwise, so I can now announce that I’ve signed up with the same lovely people at Canelo to write a new series set in the great naval wars of 1793-1815. But as with the Stannard trilogy, I had to reconcile this with my conscience – I didn’t want to write about Hercules Perfect under another name, although now I come to think about it, he would make a brilliant hero in a parody of the entire genre. (Sadly, it’s already been done by Susan Wenger in The Port-Wine Sea.) I think I’ve found a way of doing that and providing a fresh take on the period, and more will be revealed in subsequent blogs!
Some of you may well be saying ‘But what about the Quinton series’? The good news is that there’s a complete new book, written during lockdowns, and yes, this is the one previously mentioned in this blog, set in the Caribbean and featuring Matthew’s encounter with Captain Henry Morgan. The bad news is that it has no publisher, but I’m looking to self-publish it as soon as possible. Quite when that will be is another matter, especially now that I have a contractual deadline for the first book in the new eighteenth-century series, but I’ll provide updates on this blog. The same is true of my long-gestating non-fiction about the Stepney baronets – completion of this was delayed by the closure of key archives during the pandemic, but it’s now back on track and again, in an ideal world I’d like to publish this via self-publishing as soon as possible. As for the prospect of any more Quinton titles in the future, that would depend very much on the reception of both the new self-published story and the new published series. So watch this space!