Researching the Kydd Novels #7
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.
In Home Waters!
It wasn’t until The Admiral’s Daughter that I set a whole Kydd book in home waters – and I found it as wild and exotic a location as any – with spectacles such as the Plymouth naval base and dockyard, employing many thousands of men, a wonder of the age that drew visitors from around the UK and across the world, including a young Princess Victoria!
On location research for this book Kathy and I stayed in Polperro in Cornwall, an eighteenth-century smuggler’s cottage right on the little harbour. Space precludes me mentioning all the townspeople who assisted with research but I am particularly indebted to ex-fisherman Bill Cowan and former harbour-master Tony White. And the Trustees of the Polperro Heritage Museum very generously opened it up for me out of its official season. Located in the Warren overlooking the harbour, the museum houses a remarkable collection of both smuggling and fishing memorabilia. Well worth a visit!
Other books in the Kydd series deal with the British Isles to a greater or lesser extent and their research has taken me to many and varied domestic locales.
Kydd’s hometown is Guildford in the county of Surrey and living there myself gave me an appreciation of such landmarks as The Castle and The River Wey, which are mentioned in the books.
Further afield my research has seen me deep in the secret bowels of Dover Castle, in the footsteps of the maverick American inventor Robert Fulton, thanks to the kind permission of English Heritage.
In Portsmouth the then curator of HMS Victory Peter Goodwin honoured me with several personal tours of that splendid vessel. And not forgetting the capital, visits to meet my publisher and agent there have always seen the Stockwins stepping out through areas of Georgian London familiar to Kydd and Renzi.