Bookpick : War at Sea

Although my primary interest is in the Age of Fighting Sail, having served in two navies – the Royal Navy and the Royal Australian Navy – I’m also interested in books about ships and weapons of around my time and before at sea. My selection for this blog includes a fascinating reassessment of the deliberate scuttling of fifty-four warships of the German High Seas Fleet; a tribute to the last British battleship HMS Vanguard; Norman Friedman’s analysis of British submarines in both world wars, and two volumes on the John Lambert Collection. I commend these titles to you and hope that students of naval history, ship modellers, maritime enthusiasts and even my old shipmates alike will find something of interest below.

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Aug VanguardThe Last British Battleship by R A Burt

The ninth HMS Vanguard bore one of the most illustrious names in the Royal Navy, with honours from the Armada to Jutland. Commissioned in 1946, she was the last and largest of Britain’s battleships. Part of the Navy’s response to the combined and increasing number of German and Japanese battleships in the early 1940s, she was recognisable by her transom stern and high flared bow and had fine sea keeping ability. Her appearance after the end of hostilities, however, and her huge crew requirements proved a conundrum for the Navy, her most significant role being that of Royal Yacht during the royal family’s tour of South Africa in 1947. She was broken up at Faslane in 1960. This book covers her design, construction and career, armour, machinery, power plants, and weaponry and includes some 35 plans, profiles, and line drawings as well as colour and black and white photographs. The author’s previous three volumes are definitive works on the subject of British battleships before 1945. With this new book he completes the story of the Dreadnought era, bringing to life the last of a magnificent type of vessel, which the world will never see again.

Aug submarinesBritish Submarines in Two World Wars by Norman Friedman

As with all Friedman’s books, this title is based on impeccable scholarship and analysis. For me the most valuable aspect of this is his revealing the actual decision-making processes behind the designs, the economic, political and professional pay offs that resulted in the appearance of the warships that we now know so well. On the way he brings to light much information that few will be aware of, such as the fact that in 1914 Britain had the largest submarine fleet in the world. And at the end of World War I it had some of the largest and most unusual of all submarines – whose origins and design are detailed by the author. During the First World War British submarines virtually closed the Baltic to German iron ore traffic, and they helped block supplies to the Turkish army fighting at Gallipoli. British submarines were a major element in the North Sea battles, and they helped fight the U-boat menace. These roles led on to British submarine operations in World War II. The author demonstrates how a combination of evolving strategic and tactical requirements and evolving technology produced successive types of design. The Royal Navy was always painfully aware of the threat enemy submarines posed, and British submariners contributed heavily to the development of British anti-submarine tactics and technology, beginning with largely unknown efforts before the outbreak of World War I. Between the Wars British submariners exploited the new technology of sonar (Asdic), both to find and attack enemies and to avoid being attacked themselves. As a result, among other things they pioneered submarine silencing. And it was a British submarine that demonstrated the vital postwar use of submarines themselves as anti-submarine weapons, sinking a U-boat while both were submerged, a unique feat at the time.

British Naval Weapons of World War Two by Norman Friedmann

Aug lambertA truly fascinating and ground-breaking work. John Lambert was a renowned naval draughtsman whose plans were highly valued for their accuracy and detail and which did so much to add graphic detail to Friedmann’s own works. By the time of his death in 2016 he had produced over 850 sheets of drawings, many of which have never been published. These were acquired by Seaforth and form the basis of a planned series of titles on selected themes, reproducing complete sheets at a large page size, with commentary and captioning. Two published volumes to date concentrate on British naval weaponry used in the Second World War, completing the project John Lambert was working on when he died. The first volume is on destroyer armament, the second covers weapons carried by the various types of British escorts and minesweepers of this era, including the passive elements like sweeping gear, decoys and electronics. The drawings are fittingly enhanced with essays by Norman Friedman, and a selection of well-chosen photographs are a welcome addition. Over time, the series will be expanded, offering a unique technical archive in published form.

Aug High Seas FleetThe Last Days of the High Seas Fleet by Nicholas Jellicoe

On 21 June 1919, the ships of the German High Seas Fleet – interned at Scapa Flow since the Armistice – began to founder, taking their British custodians completely by surprise. In breach of agreed terms, the fleet dramatically scuttled itself, in an operation that consigned nearly half a million tons, and 54 of 72 ships, to the bottom of the sheltered anchorage in a gesture of Wagnerian proportions. But even a century after ‘the Grand Scuttle’ many questions remain. Was von Reuter, the fleet’s commander, acting under orders or was it his own initiative? Why was 21 June chosen? Did the British connive in, or even encourage the action? Could more have been done to save the ships? Was it legally justified? And what were the international ramifications? This new book analyses all these issues using material from German sources and eye-witness testimonies. The circumstances of the scuttling are reconstructed, and the aftermath for all parties laid out. The story concludes with the biggest salvage operation in history and a chapter on the significance of the scuttling to the post-war balance of naval power. This book is an important reassessment of the last great action of the First World War.

Still looking for bookish inspiration?

You might also like to take a peek at my other BookPicks this year this year
And I have a very limited number of Signed First Editions, which I’m happy to inscribe with a personal message

BookPick: A Summer Selection


With the warmer months well underway in the Northern Hemisphere one of the great pleasures for me at this time of year is relaxing outdoors with a good book – and perhaps a chilled beverage. I have to say that much of my reading time is taken up with specific research for the current Kydd manuscript I’m working on but during breaks from that I enjoy an eclectic variety of titles over a broad range of historical periods. This BookPick is a selection of six titles I’ve enjoyed recently including a hunt for lost booty, an account of the now-vanished world of the lighthouse keeper, a war correspondent’s memoir, and a recreation of the last moments of the ill-fated Lusitania.
The Hunt for Moore’s Gold by John Grehan

summer 19 mooreHistory abounds with unresolved puzzles; one particularly intriguing one is the loss of the British Army’s military chest during Sir John Moore’s desperate retreat to Corunna in 1809 which I actually depict in
The Iberian Flame. In sub-zero temperatures, his troops traversed the snow-clad Galician mountains at a punishing pace. As they trudged on in deteriorating conditions, the bullocks pulling the army’s military chest could no longer keep up. In order to prevent the money from falling into enemy hands, the chest was thrown down a deep ravine. What happened to all those dollars and doubloons? A number were pocketed by the pursuing French cavalry. Some were retrieved by British soldiers who intentionally lagged behind, though their greed cost them their lives on the end of a French bayonet. But what of the rest of the booty? This question prompted the author to set off to search the archives and the mountains of Galicia in a bid to find Moore’s gold.

The Lusitania Sinking by Anthony Richards

summer 19 lusitaniaThe sinking of Lusitania is an event that has been predominantly discussed from a political or maritime perspective. This book tells the story in the emotive framework of a family looking for information on their son’s death. On 1 May 1915, 29-year-old student Preston Prichard embarked as a second class passenger aboard Lusitania, bound from New York for Liverpool. By 2pm on the afternoon of 7 May, the liner was approaching the coast of Ireland when she was sighted by the German submarine U-20. A single torpedo caused a massive explosion in Lusitania‘s hold, and the ship began to sink rapidly. Within 20 minutes she disappeared and 1,198 men, women and children, including Preston, died. On hearing of the tragedy Preston’s family wanted answers. Preston’s mother wrote hundreds of letters to survivors to try to piece together her son’s last moments. Anthony Richards based his moving book on their replies.

A History of the Royal Hospital Chelsea by Stephen Wynn and Tanya Wynn

summer 19 chelseaThe Chelsea Pensioners are always a distinctive sight in their red uniforms representing a much-venerated institution where they find a haven in the autumn of their days. The Royal Hospital was created at a time when few cared about veterans. It was a ground-breaking attempt to provide a system to repay the sacrifice of military personnel when their service was over and it was their turn to be cared for by society. The authors look at the hospital’s beginnings, with its Royal patronage and heritage which dates back to King Charles ll – and some of the colourful characters who have lived there over the centuries. This little volume is a fitting tribute to a warriors’ repose.

Walking Waterloo by Charles J Esdaile

summer 19 waterlooThis month, 204 years ago, the Battle of Waterloo, one of the decisive battles in European history, was fought. This compact guide to the battle illuminates the experience of the soldiers who took part in the battle through their own words. In a series of walks the author describes what happened in each location on 18 June 1815. Each phase of the action during that momentous day is covered, from the initial French attacks and the intense fighting at Hougoumont and La Haye Sainte to the charges of the French cavalry against the British squares and the final, doomed attack of Napoleon’s Imperial Guard. The book is illustrated with a selection of archive images from the War Heritage Institute in Brussels, modern colour photographs of the battlefield as it appears today and specially commissioned maps. A particularly informative guide to this historic site.

Archie’s Lights by Archie MacEachern and Anne MacEachern

summer 19 lightsBorn at a clifftop lighthouse in 1910, Archie MacEachern was a remarkable individual, one of the third generation of his family in the service of the Northern Lighthouse Board. Written using Archie’s words, this account by his widow Anne, vividly portrays a unique way of life by focusing on one man. From peacetime through war, the story brings to life the challenges of living and working at a lighthouse, including raising a young family at such an isolated and potentially dangerous place. Lighthouse men had to be resourceful and courageous; the sea ruled their lives. Archie’s service as a full-time keeper continued in part-time capacities, extended over a period of 67 years. A revealing window into a close-knit world, now gone.

Deadlines on the Front Line by Paul Moorcraft

summer 19 correspondentWhen Kathy and I lived in Hong Kong we often had the pleasure of meeting and partying with reporters from various war zones at the Foreign Correspondents Club. I was therefore very interested to read Paul Moorcraft’s biography on assignments for wars in over thirty combat zones in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. As a war correspondent and paramilitary policeman, he was somewhat of a magnet for drama and action. His descriptions of sometimes tragic and often hilarious escapades in war-torn countries are written in a self-effacing but gritty style chronicling hazardous travels to strange, often little-known places where he met people who were often all too keen to lock him up or try and kill him. As well as being an entertaining read the book offers an insight into the turbulent world of the late 20th and early 21st century.

Still looking for bookish inspiration?

You might also like to take a peek at my other BookPicks this year this year
And I have a very limited number of Signed First Editions, which I’m happy to inscribe with a personal message

To The Eastern Seas: Collectors Set

I’ll be offering a Special Collector’s Set of my next book, To The Eastern Seas. This will comprise a signed, numbered and embossed UK First Edition and a signed cover postcard. The Set is strictly limited to 500. To add your name to the list email with your full details, including postal address. The Set, inclusive of p&p, is £29.99 for delivery to addresses within the UK and Europe; £39.99 for delivery to addresses in the rest of the world.

If you pre-pay, you’ll go into the hat for a full refund of your purchase price! This offer is valid until the end of April. The book is published on October 17 and we’ll get the Collectors Sets out shortly before that date.

To whet your appetite…

1024-TO THE EASTERN SEAS - HB packshotWith Bonaparte held to a stalemate in Europe, the race to empire is now resumed. Britain’s ambitions turn to the Spice Islands, the Dutch East Indies, where Admiral Pellew has been sent to confront the enemy’s vastly rich holdings in these tropical islands. Captain Sir Thomas Kydd joins reinforcements to snatch these for the British Crown.

The two colonial masters of India and the East Indies face each other in mortal striving for the region – there can be only one victor to hold all the spoils. The colonial genius, Stamford Raffles, believes Britain should strike at the very centre of Dutch spice production, the Moluccas, rather than the fortresses one by one but is fiercely opposed. Kydd, allying himself to this cause, conspires to lead a tiny force to a triumphant conclusion. Subsequently a battle for Java and an empire in the East stretches Kydd and Tyger‘s company to their very limits.

Spring Selection

I make no apologies for choosing the same subject matter, the Royal Navy, for all the titles in this Selection. As a former officer and before that, artificer, much of my value system and sense of duty has been shaped by my time in the Service and I have an abiding interest in both the Old and the New Navy. These three books deal with different aspects, from the memoirs of a vice admiral who joined when Britain really did rule the waves to an overview of the period of the war against revolutionary France 1793-1800 to the role of the Navy in the Scandinavian trade in the First World War. I commend them to all those interested in our naval history.

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The Royal Navy 1793-1800 by Mark Jessop

spring 19 1When France declared war on Britain in 1793 the Royal Navy barely had enough ships to cope. But eight years later she could claim to be a naval superpower. Author Mark Jessop, who himself served in the Royal Navy, seeks to show how this transformation actually occurred. Using primary sources of the era and secondary sources from the nineteenth century he gives a flavour of the language and opinions of politicians, naval officers and ordinary people swept up in the tumultuous storm of the last years of the the eighteenth century.

With the Royal Navy in War and Peace by Vice Admiral B B Schofield

spring 19 2Brian Betham Schofield served in the Royal Navy for forty-two years, joining in 1908 as a midshipman and retiring in 1950 with the rank of Vice Admiral. His long and varied career included diplomatic and well as command roles, with action in several theatres of war. In retirement he wrote numerous articles and books on naval history. This memoir, written in a graphic yet modest style, is a fascinating insight into a bygone era. The book is fittingly edited by his daughter Victoria, an historian and commentator.

Southern Thunder by Steve R Dunn

spring 19 3A detailed and compelling account of the Royal Navy’s hard-fought campaign in the North Sea to protect Britain’s vital Scandinavian supply lines and deny Germany the food and raw materials that she so badly needed. It is the story of destroyers and U-boats, critical merchant ship losses, the commencement of convoy, and the acute consequences for Germany of the Royal Navy’s ultimate success. First-hand accounts of the fighting from those who took part help create a vivid narrative of this little-known and often ignored aspect of our naval history.

Still looking for bookish inspiration?

You might also like to take a peek at my other BookPicks this year this year
And I have a very limited number of Signed First Editions, which I’m happy to inscribe with a personal message

BookPick: New Year Selections

Sometimes I feel it’s hard to keep up with all the excellent maritime/military titles being published. Last year I highlighted a selection of these books that especially appealed to me and I hope you found some titles of interest in my regular BookPick blogs. I’m kicking off the New Year with three fascinating and superbly illustrated reference works on various types of sea vessels – along with a book on the Peninsular War and a moving account of the tragic loss of HMS Truculent. Happy Reading!

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The World of the Battleship Edited by Bruce Taylor
new year1

This new volume presents a global vision of the development of the world’s battleships of all the maritime nations, covering historical, technical and gratifyingly their social and cultural aspects. In a collection of chapters by international experts, the design, building and career of emblematic battleships from twenty-one of the world’s navies is explored. A significant book on the great capital ships and their role in the expression of a nation’s seapower.


River Gunboats by Roger Branfill-Cook
new year2

The first recorded engagement by a steam-powered warship took place on a river, when in 1824 the Honourable East India Company’s gunboat Diana went into action on the Irrawaddy in Burma. In the 150 years that followed river gunboats played a significant part in over forty campaigns and individual actions, down to the Portuguese and American Brown Water fighting in Africa and Vietnam respectively at the end of the twentieth century. As well as the individual vessels, maps of the river systems where they operated are included, together with narratives of the principal actions involved.


They Were Just Skulls by John Johnson-Allen
new year3

Few people are aware of the loss of submarine HMS Truculent in the waters of the Thames in 1950 – and the human error that led to the tragic loss of over 60 men. Johnson-Allen, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Liveryman of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners, has put together, from many hours of recording, a personal account of the last survivor, Fred Henley. As well as the horrific nature of the disaster, the book chronicles Fred’s incident-filled Service life, providing a fascinating snapshot of the Royal Navy of that era. A touching and atmospheric read.


French Warships in the Age of Sail 1786-1861 by Rif Winfield and Stephen S Roberts
new year4

In 1786 the French Navy had just emerged from its most successful war of the eighteenth century, having often outfought or outmanoeuvred the Royal Navy in battle, and made a major contribution to American independence. Despite the quality of its ship design and fighting skills, within a few years it would see defeat after defeat. Fine ships continued to be built, but it was only after 1815 that the navy revived, espousing technical innovation and invention, to produce some of the most advanced ships of the age. A comprehensive picture of the overall development of French warships in the latter half of the sailing era, and one that has its special place on my own reference book-shelf.


The Napoleonic Wars As illustrated by J.J. Jenkins
new year5

Originally published as Martial Achievements of Great Britain and Her Allies From 1799 to 1815 this is one of the most magnificent of all period art books ever produced. The text is unashamedly British propaganda but needs to be seen in the context of the times. The inclusion of fifty-four stunning colour plates make the book a must for the collector of British or Napoleonic military art and literature.

Still looking for bookish inspiration?

You might also like to take a peek at my other BookPicks this year this year
And I have a very limited number of Signed First Editions, which I’m happy to inscribe with a personal message

Listen to any good books lately?

The audiobook market continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Spending on audiobooks has more than doubled in the past five years, and demand continues to increase. I have been very fortunate to have had Christian Rodska as the ‘reader’ of the Kydd series right from the beginning. A multi-talented actor/narrator, he has a truly superb range of voices – and a real feel for stories about the sea. Kathy and I, along with many fans, have listened to the entire series several times.

The Kydd Series is now available as audio downloads worldwide. As a Kydd audiobook offers over 11 hours’ listening time, with 21 books out now that’s over 230 hours’ entertainment! Or nearly a month listening every day for 8 hours!

The latest audiobook, A Sea of Gold, is generating rave reviews; here’s three recent ones:

Julian Stockwin is like the gift that just keeps giving. This is an excellent series that I suspect I will just never grow tired of listening to and this is one of the very best of the recent books. There is lots of action, intrigue and for me no little learning about the period in which it is set. It’s hard to believe that this series has been going so long but when Stockwin can keep the like of Kydd, Renzi, Stirk and co. so fresh and introduce new and vibrant characters like the somehow dourly swashbuckling Cochrane to the scene, and Rodska can bring them all to life so authentically, a prognosis for a long and happy life for the series seems sound.

Amazing, can’t wait until the next adventure! Rodska is perfect in his narration.

Patrick O’ Brian’s Aubrey is excellent, C S Forester’s Hornblower is slower but very good, but Julian Stockwin’s Kydd Series is the best, I would recommend this to anyone of any age – it has the lot, historic and naval facts but best of all a darn good copper-bottomed yarn. I must also say that Christian Rodska has brought the whole series to life in a way that I can not see bettered.

(There’ve been a few rights issues with several of the latest titles in the US but I’m pleased to confirm that the whole Kydd Series is now available as audio downloads in the States.)

Where can I buy the audiobook?
In the UK : Audio downloads are available via Amazon UK
The Series is also available via iTunes
(Library users in the UK can borrow the audiobooks in CD format, but the latest titles are not offered for retail sale at the moment.}

In the US
Audio downloads are available via Amazon US
It is also available via iTunes

1024-JulianKathyStockwin 2013Christian Rodska had this to say: ‘It’s always a pleasure when my agent calls to say I have another Kydd adventure by Julian Stockwin to record… His research is impeccable, his knowledge and understanding of the sea and those who spend their lives upon it unparalleled and I look forward to the next one!’
So, on this the last blog for 2018, it just remains to wish you all a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year from Team Stockwin!

Bookpick: Seven Selections for Santa’s Sack

I’m a bit of a bah humbug creature when it comes to the commercialisation of Christmas – but there’s one thing that I fervently believe: a book is a present that, if well chosen for the recipient, will give hours of pleasure and be a lasting reminder in itself of someone putting thought, not just money, into a Yuletide gift. So do consider adding some of these fine books – all with a maritime theme – to your gift-buying list. Hopefully, there’s something for everyone in this somewhat eclectic selection.

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dec 2018 bookpick1The Two Battles of Copenhagen by Gareth Powers

The Danish capital of Copenhagen was the site of two major battles during the Napoleonic Wars – the first Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, one of Nelson’s great victories – and the second, the British army’s assault on the city in 1807 (which I feature in Inferno). Interestingly, Powers describes these two major events from both the British and Danish perspectives, showing well how they fitted into the politics of this region during this turbulent phase of European history.

The History of Navigation by Dag Pike

dec 2018 bookpick2The author first went to sea aged 16 on tramp ships and experienced his first shipwreck two years later. Thereafter he had a long and varied marine career and is a regular contributor to maritime magazines worldwide. Charting both successes and failures, this is a fascinating account of mankind’s quest to explore his world from the earliest time, five millennia ago, to the present day.

Raiders From the Sea by John Lodwick

dec 2018 bookpick4The Special Boat Service was a small force during World War II, never more than about 300 men. Strong, determined individuals, together the men of this elite commando unit formed a deadly, cohesive fighting force which contributed much to the war in the Mediterranean. This reprint edition is a vivid account of one man’s experiences of war – and a fitting tribute to the colleagues he fought alongside in the SBS.

A Marine Artist’s Portfolio by Susanne Fournaise Grube

dec 2018 bookpick3The author, a Dane by birth, has long held a love and fascination for the sea. She paints in Acrylics, not only ships and small craft, but also the architecture of marine buildings and light houses. This volume gathers together a varied selection of her work, presented in six sections – liberty ships; tug boats, ferries & pilots; ocean liners; super tankers; lighthouses; and wooden boats & yachts. A visual delight.

The Trafalgar Chronicle by Peter Hore

dec 2018 bookpick7The Trafalgar Chronicle has established itself as a prime source of information about the Georgian navy. This year’s edition spotlights women at sea and reveals many fascinating stories in another absorbing journal from the 1805 Club. A selection of well-chosen colour plates and black and white photographs, together with comprehensive notes on each of the contributor’s papers, enhance the value to the reader. An important contribution to scholarship of the period – and a damn good read!

World Naval Review 2019 Edited by Conrad Waters

dec 2018 bookpick5Now in its tenth year, the Review is rightly recognised as an authoritative summary of global naval developments over the past 12 months. As well as regional surveys, important articles from various experts are offered, such as an assessment in this latest volume (which I found of particular interest) of modern naval communications by Norman Friedman. Essential reading for anyone – enthusiast or professional – interested in contemporary maritime affairs.

Submarines of World War II by Erminio Bagnasco

dec 2018 bookpick6Submarines came into their own, playing a significant strategic role in the war at sea in the years 1939-45, and this major reference book describes all the classes of vessel that were deployed by the eighteen combatant nations during those years. First published in English in 1977, this classic work has been redesigned and updated to include more of the author’s superb collection of photographs. Sadly out of print for a number of years, this new edition will appeal to a wide new audience.

Still looking for bookish inspiration?

You might also like to take a peek at my other BookPicks this year this year
And I have a very limited number of Signed First Editions, which I’m happy to inscribe with a personal message

Four More Kydds!

I’m delighted to have signed a contract with Hodder & Stoughton for four more Kydd titles. To the Eastern Seas, the first of these, will be published in October next year in hardback, ebook and audio download. Thereafter, another Kydd tale will be launched approximately every nine months. This will bring the total to 25, but rest assured, I have plans for further adventures for Kydd, Renzi and all the doughty crew after that!

Here’s a taster of To The Eastern Seas:

1024-TO THE EASTERN SEAS - HB packshotWith Bonaparte held to a stalemate in Europe, the race to empire is now resumed. Britain’s ambitions turn to the Spice Islands, the Dutch East Indies, where Admiral Pellew has been sent to confront the enemy’s vastly rich holdings in these tropical islands. Captain Sir Thomas Kydd joins reinforcements to snatch these for the British Crown.

The two colonial masters of India and the East Indies face each other in mortal striving for the region – there can be only one victor to hold all the spoils. The colonial genius, Stamford Raffles, believes Britain should strike at the very centre of Dutch spice production, the Moluccas, rather than the fortresses one by one but is fiercely opposed. Kydd, allying himself to this cause, conspires to lead a tiny force to a triumphant conclusion. Subsequently, a battle for Java and an empire in the East stretches Kydd and Tyger‘s company to their very limits.

A Collectors Set will be offered for this title, with details released in the New Year.

BookPick: Salty Memoirs

This Autumn Selection brings together a collection of true life nautical adventures, both above and below the waves. There’s a diving trilogy, one woman’s 18,000 mile epic journey of self discovery across the Atlantic and back – and a poignant portrayal of life at sea and ashore in the 1900s. Delightful reads for both arm-chair sailors and those at sea on their own salty adventures. And, highly recommended for anyone venturing into Neptune’s Kingdom, another excellent guide from Paul Boissier, this time on the nautical rules of the road.

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Recollections of an Unsuccessful Seaman by Leonard Noake

Oct SeamanNoake joined the nautical training establishment, H.M.S. Conway, in 1903 and served an apprenticeship at sea until 1908 when his detailed memoirs commence with him signing on as a second officer in the European/West African trade. During the First World War he sailed in a number of ships carrying horses, grain and coal. He survived not only being torpedoed in the English Channel, but also making 112 trips between England and Europe on a ship transporting war materials. Noake went on to a number of other adventures but sadly his seagoing career ended when he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Penned with warmth and humour, this is an engaging tale of one of the genuine war heroes of the age – one of those unknown seamen who signed on for voyage after voyage into war-torn seas to quite literally save Britain.

Into the Abyss by Rod Macdonald

Oct.AbyssRe-issued as the first volume in ‘The Diving Trilogy‘, this book chronicles diving adventures from the author’s long and varied career. It follows his progression from novice diver in the 1980s through the dangers of the deep air diving era and on to trimix diving in the 1990s where divers began to use commercial mixed breathing gases as the sport of technical diving was born. This opened up vast, previously inaccessible, swathes of the seabed, ushering in a great era of discovery of virgin shipwrecks. ‘The Darkness Below‘ and ‘Deeper into Darkness‘ complete the trilogy and together take the reader on a spell-binding journey beneath the waves.

In Bed with the Atlantic by Kitiara Pascoe

Oct BedAlthough never having stepped on a yacht, the author, with her partner, embarks on an epic sail of over 18,000 miles across the Atlantic, around the Caribbean, and then back. At first, she was dogged by doubt and throughout the voyage must overcome challenges and hardship. But sailing back to the UK after three years she realises the difference sailing has made to her life and understanding of the world: how easy it is not to do something, to protect ourselves from risks and ridicule and everything that makes us uncomfortable – but only when we take chances do we get reward and connect not just with the world at large, but with ourselves.

Learn the Nautical Rules of the Road by Paul Boissier

Oct boissierYou’re inward bound to a snug harbour from a boisterous sea in filthy weather; you’re delayed and night has fallen. Just as you’re over the bar into calmer waters, from out of a rain squall you see looming two white lights, one above the other and a confusing three reds around the higher and it’s coming up fast. You’re going to have to put about to get around the point – you decide to cross astern of the vessel after it passes. Too late you remember that what you’ve just seen are the lights of a ship Restricted in her Ability to Manoeuvre – and the heavy line of her tow brings your voyage to an unhappy end.

Learning, understanding and remembering the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea (COLREGs) is essential for anyone venturing onto the water. This book is aimed at both yachtsmen and professional mariners. Author Paul Boissier has spent much of his professional life at sea in the Royal Navy in a wide variety of vessels – and is also a very experienced yachtsman. Anecdotes and detailed explanations throughout this book make the nautical rules of the road very clear, as do the well conceived diagrams. A timely, readable and absolutely essential guide.

Still looking for bookish inspiration?

You might also like to take a peek at my other BookPicks this year this year
And I have a very limited number of Signed First Editions, which I’m happy to inscribe with a personal message

Cover Story: A Sea of Gold

A book’s cover is basically the face of the work, reflecting its genre and what a reader might likely expect inside. These days it’s also important for a cover to look good as a thumbnail so that ebook browsers can readily spot what they’re interested in. I’ve been very fortunate in the covers of the Kydd Series – initially painted by the renowned marine artist Geoff Hunt, and now created by the very talented digital artist Larry Rostant, who’s been behind the book jackets of Clive Cussler, Simon Scarrow, Con Iggulden and many other famous authors.

So just how was the stunning ‘face’ of A Sea of Gold created? A big thank-you to Assistant Editor Thorne Ryan for taking us behind the scenes of my latest Kydd tale.

Over to Thorne. . .

A Sea Of Gold HB_packshot

‘Julian is a wonderful author to work with in all regards, but especially concerning cover briefs. He always sends over clear instructions for what he wants on the cover of his books, from the positioning of the ships to the flags that should be used at the top. I put these instructions into a briefing form and email it to the art department. It then goes into the monthly briefing meeting that is attended by various people including our MD, Sales Director, Head of Sales and Art Director. They discuss the brief and, if approved, the cover is signed off.

Sarah Christie, the designer who always handles Julian’s titles, works with Larry Rostant to put the cover together, and then sends it over to Julian’s editor, Oliver Johnson, for approval. He passes this on to Julian for his comments. Once everyone has approved, the full cover layout is circulated three times, at which point any corrections to blurb, author biography etc. are made. When the cover has been signed off as final, a ‘wet proof’ (a mock-up of the final cover, including final finishes such as foil, embossing, spot UV etc.) is produced to make absolutely sure the cover looks as wonderful as it should – and it always does! Finally, the cover goes to press.’

Larry Rostant elaborates on his role. . .

Larry‘My work is created from photographic images that are combined and manipulated to create the final image.

The process starts with a very precise brief from Hodder’s design manager, and a lot of technical input from the author, then it’s a question of finding imagery that works, either from my own library or from online photo libraries. Searching – or indeed shooting – the source images takes as long as combining them, especially as there are limited images available of appropriate ships; I often have to combine several ships to create the final one in order to get round this. Once I have all the images that I need, I can begin the process. This can take a day or two but when I finally have all of the elements roughly in place, I can send the image over to the publisher and the author for approval. As the image and reference are so well briefed, there are often very few alterations needed . . . happily! I then make any changes required and finesse the art for the final cover.

The series changes gradually as we continue in order to keep it looking fresh. Note that we no longer use two weapons crossed over the flag and I’ve started adding sparks and smoke to give more of a sense of atmosphere.’

Avril McCready, who deals with the production side of the Kydd books, explains this process. . .

‘Our cases (hardback covers), covers (paperback covers) and jackets are printed at the same supplier as the interiors. In some cases, and depending on the complexities in the finishes, some of the finishes may have to go out to another specialised supplier.

The printer works from files which are digitally produced to suit the presses that we will be using and the materials that we will be printing on. The covers or jackets are mainly printed in four colours: Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black – or CMYK. So, every colourful image is broken down into four different combinations of dots or pixels to create a printed reproduction of the original. For some of the covers, we may print with an additional fifth colour if we cannot reproduce a colour using the CMYK colours. This colour is selected from the Pantone swatch catalogue. This is very rare, and we get a very good representation from printing in four colours due the advancement in inks, colour-matching profiles and printing technology these days.

When the covers or jackets are printed, they go through the press and all four inks hit the paper at once. The ink is dried instantly as the paper passes through the machine. The sheets are automatically collated and then rested to allow the paper to settle before they go the finishing stages. The finishing stages can consist of foil stamping, UV varnishing or embossing etc.

For the Kydd covers, we apply a foil to the dried printed sheet. The foil is a very thin layer of metallic pigment sheeting and very similar to the foil used in gilt edging. It is an expensive process and used only on a handful of our titles. The foil is heat-transferred by stamping the foil with a brass block which shows the text in reverse, so that the words appear on the cover in the right reading order. This is then allowed to cool before a clear film lamination is added. The lamination is either matt or gloss, and is applied over the foil to protect it from damage or scuffing. If we add a spot-gloss varnish, the cover or jacket is put through the press again to have this added, so we have to re-register the position of fine or small type on a laminated sheet post-printing and post-lamination, which can be very challenging.

For the hardback edition, we select an imitation cloth and a foil for stamping from an approved range to create our cases. These are made to our specification for each title. While we’re doing this, the interiors are printed, folded, sewn and then trimmed for the hardback or left untrimmed for the paperback. The hardback case is then added to the case board on the binding line and then moved onto another machine to have the jacket applied. For the paperback edition, the interior sheets and printed, laminated covers are put on the binding line together and then the pages are trimmed flush in one hit.’

And, fittingly, my editor Oliver Johnson has the last word. . .

‘Accuracy is a key factor in briefing Julian’s jackets — historical fiction devotees, and particularly fans of novels set in the Age of Fighting Sail, are sticklers for detail and any error will be swiftly pointed out. When I took over Julian’s books I was excited to learn that Larry Rostant was the cover artist as he was someone whose work I knew well and admired tremendously. We deliberately established the briefing process set out above. I cannot think of any other author where the detail is so fine and the process so streamlined. And, of course, where the end result (Larry’s work) is so widely admired!’

Do you have a favourite Kydd cover? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

A Sea of Gold is published in the UK on November 1 in hardback, ebook and audiobook (read by the inimitable Christian Rodska). It will be simultaneously available in ebook and audio-download in Australia, Canada, the States – and elsewhere around with world – with the hardback available in those countries a month or two later.

Readers outside the UK might like to know that the title can be pre-ordered at the Book Depository and will be shipped out on the UK publication date, with free postage worldwide!

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