‘A Man on a Mission…’
I was delighted to be featured in the latest issue of the prestigious ‘Warships’ magazine. Editor Iain Ballantyne’s piece touches on th appeal of the new Kydd titles; the importance I place on deep research, my latest book Persephone – and more…
The Powder of Death is Book of the Month at Allison & Busby
Inferno is the 17th novel in the critically acclaimed Kydd series.
It is 1807 and Kydd’s sea-faring prowess aboard Tyger has seen him snatch back his reputation from the bottom of Davey Jones’ Locker. He is now a celebrated hero but his work is not done… he must head into the inferno of battle to prevent Denmark’s navy being taken control of by French Forces.
What is truly arresting about the Kydd novels is the application of Stockwin’s vast maritime knowledge which is woven intricately and with great narrative skill throughout the novel. Never once overbearing, this historical context only adds to the plot which is enthralling and exciting in equal measure.
Thomas Kydd himself is an interesting protagonist and it does not take long before the reader is swept away by the story and willing him to succeed at every turn. Pitted against figures both of historical provenance and of the author’s own creation we see a hero who is struggling with the accolade – caught been the celebrations of the nation and his duty to King and ship and this makes him all the more appealing. This is a flawed man who knows the extremities of a sea-faring man’s reputation and as such his position is never quite certain. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to like Kydd and his devotion to the navy he serves.
This is a truly captivating novel perfect for anyone who enjoys historical fiction or naval fiction looking for knowledge bound up in excellent story telling.
The Powder of Death out now!
I’ve always been fascinated by pivotal points in history – events and discoveries in the past that have shaped our modern world. I’m delighted to announce that my second book in ‘The GameChangers: Moments of History Series’, The Powder of Death, will be launched on August 18 in hardback, ebook and audiobook.
The Powder of Death
1261. Oxford, England. An envoy returns from the land of the Tartars to meet with an English scholar and share a deadly secret that touches on the future of Christianity itself. The two men vow that the knowledge of gunpowder must die with them as the consequences are otherwise too fatal to contemplate.
1290. Hurnwych Green, England. After his quiet life is shattered by tragedy, local blacksmith Jared begins a pilgrimage to the Promised Land. Aboard a ship to Venice, he meets Sir Nicholas Gayne who invites him to join the Knights Hospitallers as their blacksmith on a holy crusade for King Edward.
The adventure that follows sees Jared encounter men from distant Cathay who harbour the secret of huo yao, and so begins one man’s obsession with the powder of death and a king’s determination to change the very nature of warfare . . .
Published by Allison and Busby ISBN: 9780749019303
Buy at Amazon
Inferno to be published in October!
1807. Captain Sir Thomas Kydd’s famous sea action aboard Tyger in the Baltic has snatched his reputation from ignominy. He is the hero of the hour. But though Britain’s Navy remains imperious at sea, a succession of battles has seen Napoleon Bonaparte victorious on mainland Europe. His enemies have sued for peace and the Emperor’s Continental System, establishing a European blockade, will mean that Britain will be cut off from her economic lifeblood.
But one small link in this ring of steel is still free of French control: the neutral state of Denmark, which controls the straits through which the entire Baltic Trade passes. The French army are already mustering at her borders. If her navy falls into French hands all Europe will have fallen.
Thomas Kydd’s great friend, Nicholas Renzi, now the Lord Farndon, is sent on a desperate diplomatic mission to persuade the Danes to give up their fleet to Britain. But the Danes are caught between two implacable forces and will not yield, opting instead for the inferno of battle. Kydd sails with a combined navy and ground force. Soon a bloody and fiery battle for Copenhagen is raging. Mariners, soldiers and civilians are caught up in a conflict in which the stakes could not be higher.
Toledo Blade on TYGER
‘Tyger’ teeming with authentic adventure
SPECIAL TO THE BLADE
There are only really two kinds of readers: Those who are devoted fans of British seafaring novels, particularly novels set in the swashbuckling era of the Napoleonic wars, and those poor benighted souls who aren’t.
And for those who do love a good seafaring yarn, there are also two — and only two — classifications: Those who have been lucky enough to have stumbled on Julian Stockwin’s Thomas Kydd saga, and those who have yet to discover these treasures, which have delighted many a sailor, armchair and otherwise, since the turn of the century.
Tyger: A Kydd Sea Adventure is the 16th and newest book in that series — and by most accounts, it’s the best one yet, a gripping yarn about a self-made captain whose loyalty to a man he admires earns him the wrath of those higher-up — and causes him to be stuck with command of a down-at-heels frigate fresh from a bloody mutiny.
Naturally, as anyone familiar with this wigmaker-turned-nautical hero knows, Kydd not only shapes up the crew and turns things around — but leads them on some adventures they’ve never dreamed of — secret and otherwise — and enough non-stop battle action to fill more than one adventure movie:
“Every detail of the enemy frigate could be seen through the eddying powder-smoke: The frantically laboring figures behind the gun-ports, the sadly scarred scroll-work, and the glitter of blades as a boarding party readied.
Then her deck erupted in a lethal spray of splinters, scattering the assembled party on a welter of screams … it went on, but Kydd could see that the tide of war was shifting. Tyger’s skill at arms — her matchless rate of fire — was telling.”
You won’t fall asleep reading this book. Action and adventure is one thing, but Tyger, like Stockwin’s other Kydd books, has a genuinely authentic feel to it, and there’s a reason for that.
Julian Stockwin, 71, is a man of the modern era — but he really did go off to sea as a boy. Not impressed into service, as was the fictional Kydd and too many real young men to count.
Instead, he joined Her Majesty’s Navy entirely of his own accord. Stockwin, whose uncle was a seaman on the Cutty Sark, seems to have been born with saltwater on his veins. With his family’s permission, he went off to sea-training school at 14 and joined the Royal Navy at 15.
Later, in an odd twist, he transferred to the Royal Australian Navy, served eight years and became a petty officer. But he was a great deal more complex than your average swabbie; he later dove into far Eastern Studies and did post-graduate work in cross-cultural psychology; became a software and computer manufacturer designer, returned to the Royal Navy, became a lieutenant commander, and was awarded the prestigious MBE — Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.
Having accomplished all that, what else was left but to become a novelist? Stockwin’s first novel, Kydd, appeared in 2001. A disciplined and prolific writer, he’s pumped out a book a year in the saga since then, with plus one extra in 2005 for good measure. (Not to mention an entirely separate novel, and a nonfiction work or two.)
While each book in the series can be read on its own, I think readers will benefit more if they begin with Kydd, when our hero, a young man without the slightest intention of going to sea, is grabbed by a press gang and forced into the British Navy.
But Tyger will, without a doubt, take your mind off that garage roof that needs to be fixed, your exasperation at the office, or that sinking feeling that ice and snow are on their way.
Be forewarned: If you are a strict landlubber who doesn’t know a mizzenmast from a remote control, this book is heavy on not only nautical terminology, but nautical terminology of the late 18th century.
Fortunately, the author provides a glossary at the end, plus a helpful and informative author’s note. My main criticism is that the glossary could have been more complete — and that both of these should be read before the reader plunges into Tyger, and the sea.
In an interview five years ago, Stockwin, who sports a white beard worthy of a sea-captain, reflected that “The sea has always had a special place in our psyche. Fashions come and go, but the sea has a timeless appeal.”
He added that his Kydd series seems to touch many readers because, while set two centuries ago, “It is in many ways a modern story — that of a man achieving against the odds and achieving greatness.”
Something, that is, which so many of us yearn to do.
Jack Lessenberry, the head of the journalism faculty at Wayne State University in Detroit, is The Blade’s ombudsman.
Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Waterford Today on The Silk Tree
Rome is about to be sacked by the invading hordes of the Ostrogoths and anybody who isn’t able to get out is set either to be murdered or enslaved. The Western Empire seems to be under continual threat and its citizens unless they are rich enough to get to safety under Emperor Justinian’s reign in Constantinople know that they are in serious trouble. It is only the Eastern Empire of Rome that has been able to survive over the centuries and has been able to survive through treaties, guile and intimidation from all the hostile forces that surround it. Two people trying to get to Constantinople are Nicander a merchant who has just seen all of his business go up in very fragrant flames, he was an incense dealer, and Marius a former soldier.
Somehow this pair form an uneasy friendship as they try and make their way to the capital in the East. When they reach the city they go their separate way only to meet up again later when Nicander saves Marius from poverty. They decide to go into business together with Nicander providing the brains and Marius the brawn. But a very unlucky gamble means they are back at square one and looking for some other way to get rich. They hit upon a scheme to swindle the Emperor. It is completely outlandish but they think they will be able to get away with it. Central to their scheme is silk.
A hugely prized material shrouded in mystery the only thing that is known about it in Constantinople is that it is deeply coveted, that it comes from some place at the corner of the world called ‘Seres’ and that tons of gold are handed over to the Persians, their erstwhile enemies, to ensure constant supplies. Silk is so rare and so prized that a King’s ransom is paid every year in order for the elite in Constantinople to have access to it. Nicander and Marius decide to hatch a plan to con the court into giving them a lot of money to go to Seres and bring back the secret of silk, which at this point is believed to grow on trees and is harvested by maidens with combs. Through a combination of planning, sheer luck and circumstance they get the money but their plan to just run off with it doesn’t turn out the way they want it and the two find themselves traveling to Seres.
Much of the story in The Silk Tree turns on circumstance and chance as well as the wild good luck that is seldom seen outside of far fetched adventure stories. It is a testament to the quality of the writing that the reader’s credulity or patience is never taxed and Nicander and Marius do end up in Seres but not in the manner that they had planned. Now all they have to do is uncover the secret and bring it home. At this stage the story comes into line with the myth of how the secret of silk was brought to the west, by a princess escaping with her lover, although the myth is adapted to suit the particulars of the story.
If you like books that are full of the names and legends of far away places, histories of cultures that are rarely mentioned today and impossible tales of derring-do than this is certainly the novel for you. The travels and travails that Nicander and Marius go through are tough and unrelenting but they never give up and never give in. Their journeys are legendary but their trials are rewarded in the end. What is really rewarding is that the characters are fully fleshed out and there is a lot of humour in the book. The Silk Tree is an enjoyable, adventurous romp and time spent in the company of Nicander and Marius is no trial at all.
Chatting about my work with History Extra
photo: Allan House
One Magical City, Two Books
…Read the article here…
photo: Arild Vågen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Read my article on HMS Victory
…Download the May issue of Quarterdeck…
Interview: The Buchanan Review
My latest Guest Blog
The Birth of Pasha
…Download the March issue of Quarterdeck…
Acclaim for PASHA & THE SILK TREE
… in the March issue of Warships International Fleet Review…
Julian Stockwin, Maritime Author
… in the Friends of Tallships Worldwide emagazine…
The Silk Tree – Editor’s Choice
… in the Jan/Feb Good Book Guide …
A feature on the story behind the Kydd Series
…in the on-line literary magazine Upcoming4.me…
Daily Record BookClub Author of the Week
The latest edition of Quarterdeck magazine ran a feature on the ships in which Kydd has served. You can download and view the feature here.
The Buchanan Review on The Silk Tree
Julian Stockwin is best known for his ‘Kydd’ series of nineteenth century nautical adventures, but with the publication of ‘The Silk Tree’ he changes tack, delivering instead a tale of Byzantine exploration, complete with historic detail, raucous action, and wry humour.
Escaping the sack of Rome in 549 AD, a Greek trader, Nicander, stumbles, almost literally, across the path of a former legionary, and hardened man-of-the-world, Marius. The two make for unlikely friends, but between them plot to re-establish themselves as men of substance by convincing the Emperor Justinian to fund an exploratory mission to the mystical east, where they propose to steal the secret of silk from the Chinese, and thus allow the Emperor to circumvent the long and costly Silk Road trade in that most exotic of materials. What neither Nicander nor Marius count upon, however, is the distance they must travel to reach their goal, and the number of potential enemies who will attempt to thwart them.
As noted, this is a substantial departure for Stockwin, who had hitherto limited himself to naval fiction, set in much more recent periods. What emerges is still a man’s tale, aimed primarily at a male readership – just as his ‘Kydd’ novels have been – Stockwin was educated from an early age in one of Britain’s toughest sea-training schools, ‘Indefatigable’, and while you can lift the boy out of the sea (and a story which takes its protagonists across deserts and over some of the world’s highest mountain peaks certainly does that), you can’t hope to take the sea out of the boy. Nor would you want to – it is Stockwin’s understanding of the oceans, of world trade, and of the history of seafaring, that combine so readily with his knowledge of the sorts of men who would undertake these challenges, and help to produce a fast-paced, yet well-researched action-adventure. Whether ‘The Silk Tree’ remains a one-off, or will prove to be merely the first in a series of successful stand-alone novels from Stockwin remains to be seen. What it certainly does though is prove to the publishing world that he has more than one mast to his ship, and plenty of canvas to employ across the full spread of them.
‘Meticulous detail brings Kydd the Sailor to life’
I was delighted to be featured in one of Southwest England’s leading newspapers recently, The Western Morning News. The piece was wide-ranging, covering the lure of the sea from my very early years; the genesis of the Kydd series; my historical standalone, The Silk Tree; my working relationship with Kathy – and more…
Independent booksellers praise The Silk Tree
The Silk Tree has been picked by an panel of independent booksellers as one of their top recommendations, describing the book as:
A fast-paced historical adventure of friendship and courage. The tension and thrill of this book is rooted in the fascinating history of silk and follows a quest that spans a vast geographical canvas. With an air of myth, mystery and intricacy this epic tale will have every reader gripped.
Latest review for The Silk Tree
‘I enjoyed this book very much and will look out for this author again.’
There came certain monks who promised Emperor Justinian Augustus that they would provide the means for making silk from Sinae where they had learned the art…
Thus wrote Procopius, Byzantine scholar and Court historian at the time.
This story follows the journeyings of two such ‘monks’ from Constantinople to China and back, bringing with them some silkworm eggs. The journey is hazardous from the beginning, and our two heroes, Nicander, a Greek incense merchant who becomes known as Brother Paul, and Marius, a Roman Legionary (Brother Matthew), face hardship, danger and set-backs from page one. Their plans and schemes constantly go awry, and their lives are often at risk.
I knew that silk originated from China and was brought to the West in camel trains (the caravanserai) along the route that became known as the Silk Road, but had never known that the secret of how it was produced, and subsequently brought to the West, was thought to have been down to two monks. Here, Julian Stockwin takes this tale and turns it into a fascinating story, full of colour and incident. Many of his characters were real people who lived and died during this period of the 6th century. His other characters, including Nicander and Marius, are fictitious, but they dovetail in perfectly and are totally believable participants in the story. I enjoyed this book very much and will look out for this author again.
— Historical Novel Society
Pasha out in audiobook!
The latest title in the ongoing Kydd series is now out as an unabridged audiobook, superbly narrated by actor Christian Rodska, who is the ‘voice’ of all the previous Kydd titles.
Listen to me chatting to my editor Oliver Johnson at Hodder & Stoughton about the book
Buy in UK
Buy in US
Latest review for Pasha
‘One of Stockwin’s particular achievements is that he successfully broke the Trafalgar barrier that has defeated some other writers of naval fiction.’
This new book, set in the Eastern Mediterranean, is a standalone story in that it can be picked up and enjoyed without the reader needing to first read the earlier stories. However most readers will be motivated to buy earlier books because of the enjoyment they have gained from this tale. One of Stockwin’s particular achievements is that he successfully broke the Trafalgar barrier that has defeated some other writers of naval fiction.
Pasha is a cracking read. The only downside of this new book is that there is the wait until the next story is published. – Firetrench
You can download and read the full review here.
I was chuffed to learn that I was the lead story in the next issue of the popular online magazine celebrating historical and maritime fiction, Quarterdeck. As well as an interview about my two upcoming titles this year, Pasha and The Silk Tree, there’s reviews of both books.
Courtesy the editor, you can have an early peek at the feature.
You can download and read it here
Long live Kydd!
Recently I was interviewed by the prestigious Historical Novel Society and asked whether the Kydd series would continue in the light of the upcoming publication of The Silk Tree and my plans for further books on pivotal points in history. I was happy to assure them Kydd and Renzi have many more adventures to come… You can read the interview in full here