‘The big trick is not to miss my stop!’
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I love meeting readers and am often humbled by their range of interests and accomplishments. Although I would love to be able to paint and draw, I do not have any real talent in this area – but I have a great admiration for gifted artists. Recently, Kathy and I met painter/musician – and New Yorker – Joe Ongie at a book-signing in Cornwall and he painted a charming little portrait of the two of us on the spot.
I am delighted to feature Joe as July’s reader of the month as he shares some of his thoughts on my books, art – and life in the Big Apple.
How did you discover the Kydd series?Six or seven years ago a friend recommended Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series and although I resisted at first, thinking they were books for teens or sailing nerds, I soon gave the first book a try and found myself hooked. I sailed through all 21 books, and followed them with the Hornblowers, which I also thoroughly enjoyed. After the final book, I was crushed thinking that that was the end of my seafaring adventures, when I happened to be perusing Geoff Hunt’s The Sea Painter’s World and on page 93 took notice of the mention of one Julian Stockwin and his Thomas Kydd series! I immediately bought KYDD and a year or so later finished CARIBBEE and am currently anxiously waiting for the arrival of PASHA. Come on October!
Was your recent visit to the UK your first time here and what was the purpose of the visit?
I have visited the UK many times and in fact, lived in London for a year in the late 1980s. I dearly love it there, and have always been a bit of an Anglophile. My favorite painters are mostly English (or based in England) and as a musician, I’ve been most influenced by the British Invasion. And, of course, the writers… The purpose of this recent visit was initially motivated by a desire to see the Dame Laura Knight exhibition in Plymouth and to explore Cornwall a bit, and of course do some painting.
If you were going to paint Tom Kydd what features would attract you as an artist?It’s funny, although I’m mainly a portraitist, I don’t really visualize characters in books in any specific ways. I think I would interested in capturing the sense of the sharp salty breeze on the sea, as Tom squints towards the distant horizon, the sound of the taut rigging and sails…. could that be painted? Perhaps Winslow Homer has managed it.
Do you have a favourite title? Favourite character?
If I had to choose a favorite, I think it would be THE PRIVATEER’S REVENGE/TREACHERY. From the poignant beginning, through to the intrigue and final triumph, and the setting in the Channel Islands, I found this book to be very satisfying… but then they all are. As to a favorite character, it would have to be our heroes, although it’s really the beautifully portrayed relationship between them (and with all the wonderful secondary characters). I truly believe it is these relationships that make for great books, not the plot or or setting.
You live in New York and are very much involved in the vibrant modern life there – so what attracts you to my historical novels set in the Georgian era 200 years ago?Has the world really changed that much? If so, maybe not for the better. There does seem to be this brief period where the sailing ships were of perfect size, before they became triple deck behemoths or steam powered motor boats, where their relation to the men sailing them seemed in harmony somehow. With the Georgian era is the last gasp of a perhaps more human sized world before the advent of the industrial revolution. And just as an aside, what may surprise you about my life here in modern day Manhattan is that I do much of my reading while riding the crowded subway down to my studio in midtown from my apartment on the Upper East Side, revelling in the adventures of Tom and Nicholas in 20 minute spurts. The big trick is not to miss my stop!
What are you working on at the moment?
My days are spent painting and my nights are spent making music, with all the pleasures of this great town sprinkled in between. I recently finished a portrait of a fellow artist and a large charcoal of Senegalese girl. I am planning on yearly trips to the UK to do more extended and serious painting.
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Re Joe Ongie’s search for novels about the the age of fighting sail. Has he tried Dudley Pope (Ramage series, set around 1760 – 1800 or the Ned Yorke series when buccaneers roamed the Caribbean), or perhaps Alexander Kent’s ‘Bolitho’ stories (contemporary with Ramage). Incidentally, ‘Alexander Kent’ is a pen name for Douglas Reeman, under which name he wrote about more modern sea heroes. All of them immensely enjoyable. Also, I have recently discovered Patrick Easter who has just begun a series of novels whose central character is called ‘Tom Pascoe’ and is located in and around the River Thames. Pascoe is a retired Royal Navy captain and one of the fore runners of the Thames River Police. Highly recommended.
I have been involved with the sea all my life and having read all of the Patrick O’Brian books I discovered your Kydd series and have read them all for the third time am now eagerly awaiting Pasha.