Mutiny: Divided loyalties

Thank you for all your kind comments on the post about my third book, Seaflower: Turquoise Waters, Deadly Perils. The fourth book in the series is MUTINY, dealing with the tumultuous times of 1797. Kydd is now a truly seasoned sailor and has advanced to the rate of master’s mate.

Before beginning to write MUTINY, I sat down for a long planning session about the plot specifics and the location research that needed to be done.

Top of the Rock!

Top of the Rock!

One of the things that had become apparent to me was that the mutinies at the Nore and Spithead had been virtually untouched by nautical fiction writers. I saw this as an opportunity – and a challenge – to bring to life – through Kydd’s eyes – one of the most extraordinary events in English history. Ten thousand men, one thousand guns and scores of ships held the country to ransom; the government near collapse, the economy on the brink of ruin…

Vitally, I had to decide where Kydd’s loyalties lay. Was it with his fellow seamen or King and country?

But this was only part of the book. The storyline I’d devised meant I would be dealing not just with the Nore fleet mutiny but also with the defence of the fabled Rock of Gibraltar and Venice in the tumultuous last days of La Serenissima Repubblica.

Sheerness was the first stop for location research for MUTINY. I’d spent several years of my boyhood there and found sailors’ clay pipes from the long ago anchored fleets in the mudflats, but that was many years ago – but as the main focus of the book was to take place there, it was essential to return.

I was pleased to be able to meet up with David Hughes, a local historian with a wonderful depth of knowledge of the events of 1797. Many of the locales Kathy and I visit may seem very exotic but Sheerness on a cold grey winter’s day is no picnic! After walking along the sea front into a bitter onshore breeze for over an hour there was no alternative other than to find the nearest hostelry for a warming double tot of rum!

Gibraltar provided a wealth of primary sources and many buildings from Kydd’s time still stand. During our time in Gibraltar we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, cracking a bottle of champagne ‘on top of the Rock’! Nice one…

Venice, city like no other. Spot the Lovely Lady!

Venice, city like no other. Spot the Lovely Lady!

But of all the research locations I’d been to thus far, Venice was – and is to this day – the one that stands above all the others because of its sheer presence: a city unlike any other on the planet. And in many ways it’s little changed from Kydd’s day…

Admiral Lorenzo Sferra of the Museo Storico Navale provided an insight into the state of the Venetian republic’s navy in 1797. This splendid museum is housed in a 15th century granary, which served the Arsenale, the vast state-owned ship-building complex. One of the highlights of the visit to the museum was seeing the magnificent model of the last Bucintoro, the ceremonial barge of the Doge of Venice.

Back in the UK local research mainly consisted of following the mouth of Devon’s River Erme inland from the sea, digital camera in hand. But the question of dialect posed a challenge. A very helpful expert of historic Devonian speech patterns, John Germon, came to the rescue…

At the end of each day’s research we have a firm rule that I must download the photos I have taken and make sure all are properly labelled and sorted, then transcribe my often extensive notes before we can declare the sun is over the yardarm…

With Commodore Johnstone-Burt at the launch of MUTINY at Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth

With Commodore Johnstone-Burt at the launch of MUTINY at Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth

For MUTINY I estimate I took over 600 photos. There were also boxes of photocopies of primary sources, reference books, nautical pilots and charts – stacked on top of each other they reached over several feet high.

The Launch Party for MUTINY was on November 4, 2003, at Britannia Royal Naval College in Dartmouth. It was a splendid affair, held on the Quarterdeck, the symbolic heart of the college. Its high vaulted ceiling, Portland stone columns and surrounding Poop Deck provided a stunning venue. A night to remember!

18 Comments on “Mutiny: Divided loyalties”

  1. Pingback: KyddFest-6: Mutiny | Julian Stockwin

  2. I just discovered your blog – I think it’s so great that you are willing to reach out and interact with readers this way! I’ve just begun reading the Kydd books after getting much more interested in 18th century history lately, and I am quite enjoying them. I started out with “Betrayal” because I saw it at the bookstore, loved it, and decided to start from the beginning.

    I have to admit, though, that I didn’t much care for the way everything went down in Mutiny. I thought it was the best of the “early” Kydd books I’ve read so far in terms of plotting – I’m currently halfway through Quarterdeck as I make my way up through the series – but Kydd essentially committed treason, which left a pretty bad taste in my mouth. I expected him to have divided loyalties, and his initial reaction to join the mutiny made sense based on what was going on at the time, but when he decided to stay on even after it was clear the mutineers thought nothing of harming England, that’s where he lost me. He seemed to have no agency of his own, being powerless to affect or influence anything or even make his own decisions – but heroes aren’t supposed to be powerless and ineffectual. The ending with Camperdown seemed rushed in there to give him a happy ending and promote him, but it all happened too suddenly and I still had all the lingering distaste from the mutiny fresh in my mind to keep me from enjoying it.

    As I said, I really liked Betrayal, and I am confident I’ll continue to enjoy future books, but I’m not sure I can really see Kydd as a hero after this book and after what he did. I do apologize for leaving a critical review as my first comment – even though it is honest feedback, it does feel rather rude! – but I seemed to be the only reader who had this reaction to this book, and I guess I wanted to get it off my chest. I think Kydd should’ve suffered a career setback or some kind of actual fallout from betraying his country instead of being instantly promoted, but it seems like he’s going to march on unscathed with no repercussions. I think it might be worthwhile to have his actions come back to haunt him someday, even if they were essentially wiped clean by fiat at the end of this book by the admiralty.

  3. Pingback: QUARTERDECK: Aft through the hawse-hole | Julian Stockwin

  4. Deck there! I have to do all my reading through talking books, but the reader of the Kydd books is absolutely right and I really feel as though i’m there, I love all the technical and historical background,…very impressed by all the research which goes into each book. Don’t have a all of them . Frances Beresford

  5. I buy and read a lot of fiction, especially about the sea, and I have to admit that the Kydd series are right up there at the top.

  6. The only problem I have with the Kydd series, is that it seems a damn long time from October to October! Excellent series Mr. Stockwin.

  7. Working my way through the series for the second time they havnt lost anything so enjoyable.
    Role on October and PASHA
    Peter P

  8. It’s amazing to see the amount of research, that goes into historical fiction. Your readers thank you. Do you still have those pipes, that you found as a young boy?

  9. Dear Sir,
    I cannot honestly say that I enjoyed ‘Mutiny’ best of all your novels, but only because I have enjoyed them all tremendously! And I have read them all, many of them more t than once! Do you have any new novels coming out soon? ‘Caribbee’ was the last I read.
    Thank you.
    Mike Martin

  10. ‘Mutiny’ is one of my favourites, the divided loyalty question and Tom Kydd’s dilemma, especially in view of his position between the Hawsehole and the Quarterdeck, make him very human and it is easy to empathise with him.

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