Olla-Podrida: Julian Stockwin Newsletter, Winter 2012




Broadly Boats News

Nighthawk News

Firetrench Directory

+ Feature article
Julian and BETRAYAL was the subject of the cover story in the October issue of “Quarterdeck”. <http://www.mcbooks.com/newsletter.php>

+ The audio download of BETRAYAL, read by Christian Rodska, is now available (some territorial restrictions apply).

The audiobook will be available in CD format at a later date.

+ Last posting days!
Looking to buy something special from Julian’s website? He is happy to write a special inscription, on request. To ensure delivery in good time for Christmas please make sure your order reaches us by December 1.

And to thank you for your support during the year all orders placed before November 15 will be eligible for entry into a draw for a full refund of the purchase price! This will be applied to the total spent by the first customer out of the hat in a random draw on November 16.


+ Ottoman Empire research
Julian and Kathy recently returned from a packed location research trip to Turkey where they were busy visiting various historical sites and delving into their archives in preparation for a future Kydd book.

+ Kydd series overview
Here’s a handy one-page overview of all the titles in the Kydd series to date

+ Fullsome praise for BETRAYAL keeps coming in…
Just a few reader comments:-

* Stockwin stands up there with the best of Napoleonic [fiction] and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

* I find some writers in the genre get a bit too tied up in the action, and whilst that is extremely exciting in Stockwin’s books, the character development, and the descriptions of on board life are equally important. Personally, I enjoy hearing about the lives and conditions of the characters on board, and the romance of the sea, and its horrors,and they should be important parts of stories about the age of sail, and with Stockwin, they certainly are. As a student of history, the other most gratifying thing about these tales, is the incredible attention to detail Stockwin puts into his research. Also, he discovers and writes about little remembered events that could have changed the course of history, and he does it with the authority and panache of a true storyteller, in love with his subject matter, and enormously capable of taking us, the audience along with his characters on their missions.

* Thirteen may be unlucky for some, but Julian Stockwin’s latest novel in the Kydd series … places him without doubt in the top league of writers whose stories are based, both on the sea and land, during the Napoleonic Wars.

Buenos Aires, where much of BETRAYAL is set, was actually founded twice. A settlement at the present day site was established briefly in 1536 by conquistador Pedro de Mendoza, but attacks by local indigenous tribes forced the settlers to move to Asuncion, Paraguay in 1539 and within a few years the site had been abandoned. In 1580, another settlement emerged.

Buenos Aires was established on the banks of the Rio de la Plata, “River of Silver.” The city was well-located to control trade in the region containing present-day Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and parts of Bolivia. In the eighteenth century, cattle ranching in the vast grasslands around Buenos Aires became very lucrative. This economic boom led to the establishment in 1776 of the Viceroyalty of the River Plate, based in Buenos Aires.

Today, Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina. As Julian mentions in his author’s note to BETRAYAL, the city bears little resemblance to what it was in Kydd’s day: vastly bigger (around 3,000,000 population) and with only the Plaza Mayor itself barely recognisable, the fort long gone and the waterfront an altogether healthier prospect. The river Chuelo where seamen heroically swam to build their bridge of boats, is now straddled by a vast dock area while Ensenada de Barragan is a naval base and the Perdriel ranch has been swallowed by the suburbs.

The northern shore is now Uruguay but Colonia del Sacramento still has a defiant Portuguese colonial feel to it, the little bastion at the water’s edge attracting curious visitors. Of this whole South American episode there are very few relics remaining but in the down-town church of Santo Domingo a visitor to Buenos Aires may stand before the actual colours of the 71st Regiment of Highlanders surrendered on that fateful day by General Beresford.

“Launch time of a new book is always a very busy – and enjoyable – time for me. The events associated with the publication of BETRAYAL kicked off with a literary festival in Lyme Regis on the Dorset coast, where I was invited to give a talk on September 11. Lyme Regis has a number of special attractions for me. It is, of course, mentioned by Jane Austen in ‘Persuasion’ and was a favourite recreational haunt of Georgian naval officers. It was also a busy port where 100 ships were built between 1780 and 1850, including the RN brig HMS “Snap”.

As usual, I was invited to a number of bookstores to do formal signings and always enjoy meeting readers at these events. At one signing a charming gentleman wandered in to buy a copy of ‘the second Stockwin title’ – after being informed by the staff that the author, coincidentally, was actually in the shop that day, he came up to say hello – and left, with a big smile on his face, clutching a full set of all the other titles.

The official launch of BETRAYAL was at Tavistock Library where I was greeted with rum punch, delicious nibbles and a very enthusiastic audience.

But of all the events I’ve undertaken recently, it was the Trafalgar Night dinner of October 18 at HMS “Drake”, where I had the honour to be the guest speaker, that was particularly special for me.

The evening started with drinks in the bar, after which we assembled to watch a precision military drum display in the foyer. Then it was in to the resplendent wardroom mess, sparkling with silver and candlelight and a magnificent five-course dinner, with the Baron of Beef paraded around the room before serving.

I chose to talk about how a novelist approaches writing about such a famous historical personage as Horatio Nelson, speaking about the research I undertook before I wrote VICTORY and the things that most impressed me about the man as I delved deeper into history – traits such as his moral and physical courage, his devotion to loyalty and duty.

In my talk I particularly wanted to highlight one aspect of him that I felt had not been given the attention it deserved – his lucid grasp of the global picture. His top down appreciations of the overall political stakes made him approach battles quite unlike the usual admiral whose main concern was his theatre of operations. It’s no accident, that where Nelson was in charge, battles were not just that, they changed history itself – think of the Nile, Copenhagen, Trafalgar.

One example brings this out very clearly and I’m surprised it’s not better known. In the year or two before Trafalgar, Nelson was commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean. He was responsible not only for the Toulon blockade but the other half of the Mediterranean as well. Very few histories bother with the Eastern Mediterranean because nothing ever happened there. But why not? Since Napoleon’s grab at India through Egypt, which was stopped by the Nile it had turned into a hotbed of intrigue and simmering discontent. There was no way a commander could tolerate in his rear a situation that could turn explosive at any time. So, as the man on the spot he set about neutralising the threat. First there was the Ottoman Empire, controlling vast amounts of territory from the gates of Vienna, through the entire Middle East and across all of North Africa. It was ruled by the wily Sultan Selim who was being wooed vigorously and successfully by the French, who saw a way to get their land route to India by another means. But then there were the Russians, who craved a world stage for their fleet and empire and were also being wooed by the French. The problem for them were the Turks, who essentially controlled access to the Black Sea then as now. It was the Levant at its most treacherous and rich in duplicity and romance!

It seems miraculous but in the teeth of every French intrigue, he spent the time necessary to get the Turks and the Russians to set aside their differences, which they eventually did, and which nicely secured for Nelson the flow of naval stores for his fleet from the Black Sea and grain from Odessa vital to sustain the fleet and support facilities. Not only that but he even persuaded the Russians under the canny Admiral Seniavin to place an active squadron in the Med that could work with the British, and take the weight of securing the east. This they did in true Nelson fashion, ending up taking the Ionian Islands opposite Italy and thereby neutralising anything the French could do in terms of threatening his rear. Nelson then wove a tight and complex web of merchant intelligence through the whole region that told him in advance anything that was on the go. And with the Turks he took great pains to cultivate the crafty Sultan and his Pashas such that he was awarded that superb chelengk, a clockwork spray of diamonds that you can see always on on his cocked hat, together with the sorgush, the star and crescent which was, sadly, the mark for Redoutable’s sniper. The net result? He could forget about the other half of the Mediterranean and get on with the day job!

Following last month’s piece on officers’ uniforms, we’ve had a few emails asking about Jack Tar’s work attire.

When Kydd joined the Navy, the ordinary sailor’s “uniform” was quite individualist, usually purchased from the purser’s “slops”. Julian describes how a newly-pressed Kydd finds himself being issued with a blue and white open-necked shirt, white duck trousers, a black leather belt, a short dark blue jacket with plain anchor buttons and a glossy black tarpaulin hat, the cost to come out of his pay.

Sometimes wealthy captains outfitted their men in a style of their own choosing. The eccentric Captain Wilmott of HMS “Harlequin”, for example, dressed his boats crew in pantomime clown costumes, and those of HMS “Blazer” sported a jacket that is popular to this day.

If flush, sailors sometimes bought their uniforms from civilian tailors ashore. In 1790, a mercer and sea draper in Portsmouth had the following sign displayed:-

“Sailors rigged complete from stem to stern, viz – chapeau, napeau, flying jib and flesh bag; inner pea, outer pea and cold defender; rudder case and service to the same; up haulers, down traders fore shoes, lacing, gaskets etc.”

(A “chapeau” was a hat, “napeau” a handkerchief, “flesh bag” – a shirt, “inner pea” and “outer pea” – different kinds of pea jacket, “cold defender” – a woollen comforter, “rudder case” – trousers, “up haulers”, “down traders”, “lacing” and “gaskets” – various tapes and ribbons.)

But it was not until 1857 that official dress codes for petty officers, seamen, landmen and boys were introduced in the RN. This was to consist of a double breasted blue cloth jacket, blue cloth trousers fitting tight at the waistband with two pockets and a broad flap, a duck or white drill frock.
Todays uniform is remarkably similar.

The book, the bag, the cap!
By popular request, here’s another chance to win a copy of BETRAYAL, a Union Jack Tote and a navy blue Kydd cap – in what year did the KYDD Series begin? Emails to <admin@julianstockwin.com> Please include your full postal address. Deadline: November 30

About this time of the year we start making Christmas present lists. Among the interesting salty tomes we’ve come across recently that would be welcome gifts from Santa are these three –

The Coming of the Comet
by Nick Robins
Published by Seaforth

This year is the 200th anniversary of the famous paddle steamer “Comet”‘s first journey on the Clyde. Now perhaps a maritime curiosity, the paddle steamer nevertheless had a huge impact on shipping and transport in its heyday. It became a key link with Empire, provided an all-important link with the Americas, and offered emigrants to the New World a means of pushing westwards.

Robins tells the tale of the paddle steamer with enthusiasm and affection. American readers will be interested that Robert Fulton (who features in INVASION, with his submarine inventions) later went on to pioneer the paddle steamer on the Hudson River in the States.

Caricature and the Navy 1756-185
by James Davey and Richard Johns
Published by Seaforth

Julian has always been a great fan of Georgian caricatures, especially ones connected with the navy. This delightfully illustrated book with its insightful narrative of the context and content of the prints, particularly caught his fancy! A special gift for naval buffs with a sense of humour – or indeed any student of eighteenth century society and history.

The book publication coincides with a special exhibition at the National Maritime Museum, running until early February 2013.

Wellington’s Voice.
The Candid Letters of Lieutenant Colonel John Fremantle, Coldstream Guards 1808-1837
Edited by Gareth Glover
Published by Frontline Books

Fremantle was on Wellington’s personal staff through the later years of the Peninsular War and the Waterloo campaign. He had a uniquely privileged view of the general and this fascinating new book delivers an honest portrait of the man, warts and all. The book includes a foreword by Charles Fremantle, a direct descendent of Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Fremantle and the uncle of Lieutenant Colonel John Fremantle.

(Glover, a former Royal Navy officer, is a respected authority on British archive material of the Napoleonic wars. He has brought more than 30 previously unpublished Napoleonic memoirs into the public domain.)

The Georgians enjoyed a range of sports and games, some of which, such as cock-fighting, seem quite brutal to our modern sensibilities. One of their more gentler pastimes was cricket, which gained in popularity as the eighteenth century progressed.

The earliest definite reference to cricket being played in England is in evidence given at a 1598 court case which mentions that “creckett” was played on common land in Guildford (which also happens to be Kydd’s home town), Surrey, around 1550.

The game underwent major development in the 18th century and became the national sport of England.

In 1787 Lord’s cricket ground was opened. And in 1805, the first of the Eton and Harrow matches was played.

In 1796 there was a famous cricket match at Greenwich Hospital, between the pensioners with one arm and those with one leg. The one-leggeds won!

One of the features of the game of cricket was its democratic nature. Teams might consist of a country squire captained by his own gardener. Only skill counted!

Nevertheless, the Georgians were not ones to let an opportunity to place a bet pass them by. Large sums were won and lost on wagers on the outcome of a cricket match.

Sailors ashore on banyan days often played an impromptu cricket match on the beach.

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