Tenacious: the hunt for Napoleon’s fleet
The sixth book in the series is TENACIOUS. Kydd is in Halifax enjoying the recognition and favour of his fellow officers when his ship Tenacious is summoned to join Nelson’s taskforce on an urgent reconnaissance mission.
One reviewer said of this book:
- ‘More sea adventures of Thomas Kydd, this time meeting Horatio Nelson and taking part in the cataclysmic Battle of the Nile, where an outgunned British fleet takes on the might of ascendant France off the coast of Egypt in a blazing, history-changing, battle. The historical research is flawless, the battle scenes are horrific, Kydd’s efforts to become a gentleman are heart-rending, and the unending philosophical struggles of Nicholas Renzi are capped by a mortal sickness. I am totally hooked on this delightful series. It’s a 5!’
(I rather liked that review…)I’m sometimes asked had my original conception of Tom and Renzi altered much by the time I’d got the first half dozen or so books completed.
Yes, in some ways it had. Probably the main change was in the relationship between Kydd and Renzi. At first I thought Renzi would just be a useful foil to Kydd and as a vehicle for passing on elements of refinement on Kydd’s road to becoming a gentleman – but as successive books were written Renzi took on a new importance. Not only did he become a pivotal character in his own right but he needed Kydd as much as Kydd needed him.
The historical backdrop
In terms of material for TENACIOUS I was spoiled for choice. It was a time of titanic global stakes. If the Nile or Acre had been lost we would have seen Napoleon dominating a world which would have been very different today. And it was a time of deeds so incredible that they may seem like fantasy but are not – Nelson personally saving the king and queen of Naples at cutlass point, Minorca taken without the loss of a single man – and above all, the astonishing but little-known fact that Napoleon was first defeated on land not by a great army but a rag-tag bunch of sailors commanded by a maverick Royal Navy captain.
One of the highlights of my location research was Minorca. The charming island boasts a magnificent harbour, one of the finest in the world – nearly four miles long and a maximum width of close to half a mile.
The British occupied Minorca at three different periods in history, the last being from 1798 to 1802. It was interesting to compare it to Gibraltar, which admittedly was very strategic, being at the mouth of the Mediterranean, but because the Rock stuns the winds, it was not a very good harbour for a fleet. Minorca, on the other hand, was – and is – a fine sheltered harbour, certainly more in the geographic centre of things in the eighteenth century.
Ah, Naples. Glorious Naples! How I would have loved to have been there when Nelson sailed in to the magnificent bay with his battered ship and two other vessels of his squadron to be greeted by hundreds of boats full of joyous passengers – and the king of Naples in the royal barge. The feting of the heroes of the Nile didn’t stop there. There were parties – and a grand reception at which Emma Hamilton performed her famous ‘attitudes’. It’s not known when Emma and Nelson first became actual lovers, but it’s clear that Naples was a turning point for them…
In the book I decided to have Sir William Hamilton, a classical scholar and amateur scientist of renown, invite Kydd and Renzi to join him on a visit to Herculaneum, promising to take in Vesuvius on the way. One hot morning Kathy and I followed in their footsteps up to the fabled volcano and peered through sulphurous mists down into the hellish depths of the crater.
Well, closer to home, the Admiralty Hydrographic Office at Taunton, Somerset, proved most helpful allowing me access to charts of time and one of the actual maps used in the siege. I cherish maps and charts and could have spent the whole day there!
The book’s dedication
It was one of those happy coincidences that TENACIOUS was published in 2005, the year of the bicentenary celebrations of Nelson’s great victory of Trafalgar. I knew there could only be one dedication for my book:
- ‘There is but one Nelson.’ –Lord St Vincent
When I began the Kydd series, as I plotted out the general content of each book, I knew my central character Thomas Kydd would meet Nelson at some time. No writer in this genre can tell of the stirring events in the great age of fighting sail without being aware of Nelson at the centre. But it was not Trafalgar that I selected for this first meeting; it was at the Battle of the Nile – in my mind Nelson’s finest hour.
In the course of my research for this book my admiration for Nelson – which was already considerable – increased immeasurably. He was undoubtedly a true genius as a leader of men, but he also had a great humanity and such respect for the lower deck that he insisted on adding a pair of common seamen to his knightly coat of arms.
Battle of the Nile: By George Arnald [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons;
Emma Hamilton: Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Every effort is made to honour copyright but if we have inadvertently published an image with missing or incorrect attribution, on being informed of this, we undertake to delete the image or add a correct credit notice