Researching the Kydd Novels #4

One of the elements of writing my Kydd tales that I particularly enjoy is the research, and it’s one of the things I’m most questioned about when I give talks or do author signings. There are many aspects of this – consulting primary and secondary sources, speaking to experts, undertaking location research, visiting museums and archives. I’m often asked about the length of time research for a book takes – that’s a difficult thing to quantify because in some ways I guess I have been doing it subconsciously all my life – during my years at sea absorbing the universals all mariners hold dear – and ingesting material from countless maritime books, both fiction and non-fiction, that I’ve been drawn to from an early age.

Passport Stamps


Kathy checks the guidebook in Malta

Location research for my Kydd tales has taken me all over Europe – Spain, Portugal, France, Sweden, Finland, Turkey, Gibraltar, Malta, Denmark – and a number of other countries as well, such as Canada, the Caribbean and Iceland. My father-in-law in Tasmania has a wall map with a pin in every location Kathy and I visit!

On these visits the main challenge for me is to strip away the trapping of the 21st century and in my mind’s eye go back to the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In quite a few instances there are enough old buildings/streets etc. to facilitate this. In some places, however, appearances have radically changed – seafront areas have been reclaimed, buildings of the Georgian era either flattened in war or demolished to build skyscrapers, making my task more difficult. Local archives are invaluable if this is the case, with their carefully preserved street maps and architectural drawings, as are contemporary paintings from my period of interest.

On these research trips I always try to get out on the water to look back at places from seaward to get an idea of what Kydd would have glimpsed as he came to rest at anchor. For this I use my invaluable research camera which not only takes the GPS co-ordinates of where a picture is taken but the direction I was facing and even the altitude!

I’ve spent time sailing in the Mediterranean in a variety of craft, and, most recently, around the Baltic for my upcoming book The Baltic Prize, which is published in November.
And of course there are some magnificent maritime museums to be found – and I’ve spent many happy hours engrossed within their walls.

Here are just a few of the ones I’ve visited recently:

The National Maritime Museum, Stockholm
The Maritime Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen
The Maritime Museum, Lisbon

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