One of the elements of writing my Kydd tales that I particularly enjoy is the research, and it’s one of the things I’m most questioned about when I give talks or do author signings. There are many aspects of this – consulting primary and secondary sources, speaking to experts, undertaking location research, visiting museums and archives. I’m often asked about the length of time research for a book takes – that’s a difficult thing to quantify because in some ways I guess I have been doing it subconsciously all my life – during my years at sea absorbing the universals all mariners hold dear – and ingesting material from countless maritime books, both fiction and non-fiction, that I’ve been drawn to from an early age.
Passport Stamps: North America and Canada
Location research for my Kydd tales has taken me to North America and Canada. In the States I was delighted to renew my acquaintance with George Jepson, editor of Quarterdeck magazine; we met up in Boston to pay homage to USS Constitution, one of the original six heavy frigates of the United States Navy (Kydd in Quarterdeck finds himself aboard Constellation in the heady days of the birth of the navy).
In Halifax I was able to get a real feel for the frontier town that it was in Kydd’s day at the many museums the city boasts. The splendid Maritime Museum of the Atlantic was well worth the time I spent there! I also visited with great interest the York Redoubt, a 200-year-old fortification on a high bluff overlooking the entrance to Halifax Harbour, the wilderness area of Chebucto Peninsula and Prince Edward Island.
And what are the odds of coming across a signal book actually belonging to a lieutenant on the North American station at exactly the same time as I need Kydd to learn his craft as a signal lieutenant there? Retired Paymaster Commander William Evershed generously extended a loan of the precious family relic for me to study.