Over the coming months I’ll be celebrating the earlier titles in the Kydd Series, it’s Artemis for this blog. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this book, either as a first-time reader or if you’re a re-reader and have read the book more than once! It’s very gratifying for an author to be told that his work has inspired people to go back an read it again. And some of you have told me you have done this more than twice! Either reply to this blog or email me. Every respondent goes into the hat for a chance to win a very special thank-you prize: a limited edition print of the cover of Artemis.
‘It’s remarkable how quickly the interest in colourful naval adventure has grown in recent years. Foremost among able practitioners is Julian Stockwin and his book, Artemis, which builds on the solid achievements of the much-acclaimed Kydd; here again is the same flinty characterisation, stunning narrative skills and (most of all) considerable imaginative skill in evoking the wind-lashed atmosphere of the best nautical novels: full of sharp detail and keenly evoked atmosphere.
It’s the great age of fighting sail, when the seven seas are stalking grounds for prey and prize money. Aboard the crack frigate HMS Artemis, life can be invigorating – and short. Now a fully fledged Jack Tar, Stockwin’s doughty hero Kydd returns to Portsmouth and a hero’s welcome after cutting a bloody swathe through French ships. But urgent family matters force him to return to Guildford where he finds himself less able to cope than he was at sea. Soon, land-bound life is chafing him, and Kydd is happily back on Artemis setting out for the Far East, and encounters with some lethal opponents. After a grim encounter with slavers, Kydd finds himself facing his own mortality in the waters of the Great Southern Ocean. Stockwin’s particular ability (among so many) is his fastidious evocation of life aboard a sailing ship and the tensions that exist between the men locked into this dangerous life. The dialogue may take a little getting used to, but it’s quickly apparent that this is one of the author’s key strengths: this, you feel, is how these men really spoke. Most of all, though, it’s the exhilarating recreation of the sailing life and its attendant dangers that keeps the reader transfixed.’
– Barry Forshaw, broadcaster and critic
My Sea Artefacts
As I wrote in the Author’s Note to Artemis, at my desk is a length of rope from the 74 gun ship-of-the-line HMS Invincible that two centuries ago struck on the sands off Selsey Bill. The rope still smells of sea and Stockholm tar. I have other relics, too; a seaman’s tankard, a gunlock flint – an Admiralty issue clerk’s writing kit – each one bringing that far-away world straight into my consciousness. This I value above all things – as the one thing that I would most like the reader to take away from my books is a perception of the reality of Kydd’s world.
The Kydd Collection
Superb limited edition prints of the first eight of the Kydd series book covers, based on original paintings commissioned from Geoff Hunt RSMA, are available from Art Marine. All respondents to this blog (and emails about the blog) go into the hat for a chance to win a print of Artemis. Deadline: Monday 22 February. I have the prints framed and hanging in my Devon home and they all draw admiring comments but Artemis has always been my favourite! There’s something about the movement of the frigate and the power of the Great Southern Ocean that is very compelling.
Minor character spotlight: Quashee
In Chapter one of Artemis, Kydd joins his mess and is introduced to Quashee: ‘If yer wants to raise a right decent sea-pie, he’s your man…’ Quashee’s ancestors were Akan-speaking Ashanti, sold into slavery by Arabs and eventually brought to Jamaica. A revolt by a kinsman, Cudjoe, resulted in a treaty with the British that established the Maroons, escaped slaves who had set up their own settlements in the mountains, as free people. Quashee’s easy nature came from his family; his mother was renowned for her peach-fed iguana while his father’s talent at gaily decorated yabba pots and gourds ensured they would not have to toil for long in a grung (smallholding).
As a young man Quashee tired of the posturing of the proud Maroon youth and shipped out in a coaster trading with Charleston in the US. There, to his dismay, he was several times mistaken for a notorious escaped slave, and to avoid this had to sign on as a cook in a humble Honduran mahogany drogher. War came to the Caribbean, and the Port Royal naval base filled with men-o’-war. Quashee was quite taken with the pomp and ceremony, and offered his services to a large frigate where he was told that a cook in the Royal Navy was a warrant officer, but that if he volunteered as a landman he would soon make a fine sailor. The frigate sailed for home and paid off in England, her company turned over into HMS Artemis.