The Baltic Prize Collectors Set

This year there’ll be a second title and therefore another Kydd Series Collectors Set, The Baltic Prize. These signed, numbered and embossed First Edition Sets are strictly limited in number to 500 only. I’m happy to write a short dedication on request. The Subscription list is filling rapidly so if you’re interested don’t delay to avoid disappointment. Payment is via the links here

Baltic Prize HB

Here’s what two of my editors said of the manuscript of The Baltic Prize:

‘Another brilliant yarn, set against a series of terrific northern backdrops, full of suspense. Many congratulations – I’m sure that hosts of readers will be as enthralled by this one as I was.

‘Many thanks for another superb Kydd outing. As usual you have mixed fascinating historical detail with stirring action and characterisation.’

And here’s a taster…

1808. Parted from his new bride, Captain Sir Thomas Kydd is called away to join the Northern Expedition to Sweden, now Britain’s only ally in the Baltic. Following the sudden declaration of war by Russia and with the consequent threat of the czar’s great fleet in St Petersburg, the expedition must defend Britain’s dearly-won freedom in the those waters.

However Kydd finds his popular fame as a frigate captain is a poisoned chalice; in the face of jealousy and envy from his fellow captains, the distrust of the commander-in-chief and the betrayal of friendship by a former brother-in-arms now made his subordinate, can he redeem his reputation?

In an entirely hostile sea Tyger ranges from the frozen north to the deadly confines of the Danish Sound – and plays a pivotal role in the situation ensuing after the czar’s sudden attack on Finland. This climaxes in the first clash of fleets between Great Britain and Russia in history. To the victor will be the prize of the Baltic itself!

The Baltic Prize will be published in hardback, ebook and audio download November 2 in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton. It will also be available in the States in ebook and audiodownload at that time, with the hardback coming out there on January 2.

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!

Research7 Bill Cowan

Off Polperro with Bill Cowan

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.

Researching the Kydd Novels #6

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: Asia and Australia

research6 replica brig

With the replica sloop Norfolk

Location research for my Kydd tales has included Asia and Australia. For quite some years I lived Down Under and then spent over a decade in the Far East, serving in the Royal Australian Navy there so I guess I know these areas well and while there took numerous photographs. Who knew, however, that these would be invaluable later when I took up a career as an author?

When we lived in Hong Kong Kathy and I often visited the then Portuguese colony of Macau and I called on my impressions of this city when I wrote about Kydd’s experiences there in Artemis.

After I’d begun the Kydd Series I was able to add to my store of photographs on various visits to Australia. Touching base with family in Tasmania, for example, I took in the Bass and Flinders Centre and was most impressed with the replica of the sloop Norfolk on display.

My book Command sees Kydd sail south from New South Wales to Van Diemen’s Land to look into reports that the French were interested in establishing a colony there. The Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first European to land on these shores in 1642. He named the island Anthoonij van Diemenslandt, in honour of Anthony van Diemen, the Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, who had sent Tasman on his voyage of discovery. Van Diemen’s Land was not known to be an island until Matthew Flinders and George Bass circumnavigated it in Norfolk in 1798-99. The name of the island and colony was officially changed to Tasmania on 1 January 1856.

And I would be remiss not to mention my Australian researcher (and nephew!) Joseph Hextall who provided me with excellent follow-up material on the early days of Sydney Cove when I was back in Britain writing Command.

Researching the Kydd Novels #5

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: North America and Canada

research5

With George Jepson at USS Constitution

Location research for my Kydd tales has taken me to North America and Canada. In the States I was delighted to renew my acquaintance with George Jepson, editor of Quarterdeck magazine; we met up in Boston to pay homage to USS Constitution, one of the original six heavy frigates of the United States Navy (Kydd in Quarterdeck finds himself aboard Constellation in the heady days of the birth of the navy).

In Halifax I was able to get a real feel for the frontier town that it was in Kydd’s day at the many museums the city boasts. The splendid Maritime Museum of the Atlantic was well worth the time I spent there! I also visited with great interest the York Redoubt, a 200-year-old fortification on a high bluff overlooking the entrance to Halifax Harbour, the wilderness area of Chebucto Peninsula and MacNabbs Island.

And what are the odds of coming across a signal book actually belonging to a lieutenant on the North American station at exactly the same time as I need Kydd to learn his craft as a signal lieutenant there? Retired Paymaster Commander William Evershed generously extended a loan of the precious family relic for me to study.

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

research4

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

Researching the Kydd Novels #3

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 time at sea absorbing the universals all mariners take to their hearts and ingesting material from countless maritime books, both fiction and non-fiction, that I’ve been drawn to from an early age.

Readers Rock!

research3 Paulo Meireles

Paolo Meireles

As well as the professional experts I mentioned in my last blog I owe a debt of gratitude to a number of my readers, who have generously contributed their time and local knowledge, and many of whom have become friends over the years. They are scattered across the globe, male and female, young and old. Although I’ve not met them all of course, through social media such as Twitter, Facebook and my BigJules blog I’ve developed a circle of informal contacts I feel I can call upon in my work. Here’s a random three who’ve proved that readers really do rock!

Sarah Callejo Living in Madrid, Sarah was most helpful with suggestions for Spanish names, phrases and eccentricities that I put to good use in Betrayal.

Robert Squarebriggs Visiting Canada on location research for Quarterdeck, I met up with reader Bob Squarebriggs in the aptly named Lord Nelson hotel in Halifax. Bob enthusiastically imparted his knowledge of the country’s boreal wilderness and remarkable maritime heritage.

Paulo Meireles A native of Portugal, Paulo enlightened me with details of his homeland’s culture that gave a truly authentic flavour to the storyline in Persephone.

Researching the Kydd Novels #2

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 time at sea absorbing the universals all mariners take to their hearts and ingesting material from countless maritime books, both fiction and non-fiction, that I’ve been drawn to from an early age.

Experts to go!

NPG D11239,Thomas Pitt, 2nd Baron Camelford,by; after Unknown engraver; C. Bond

Camelford

I’m deeply indebted to the many experts who’ve contributed their time and knowledge over the course of the Kydd Series. Having one whose calling is centrally that which bears on a particular turning point of the developing tale gives a priceless authenticity to the narrative and usuallly spurs me on to deeper work, to the benefit of the emerging plot. There’ve been countless kind souls who’ve steered me true and of course I couldn’t possibly name them all, but to get an idea of the range and quality of these, here’s a random three:

Dr David Green at the USDA Forest Service provided details of the specific gravity of swamp oaks that enabled me to send Kydd on his night-time sabotage mission against the French frigate in Quarterdeck.

Dr Dennis Wheeler of the University of Sutherland shared his analysis of the meteorological conditions during October 1805, providing insights for Victory.

Dr Reg Murphy of the Antigua Dockyard told me the story of a deadly confrontation on the quayside in Kydd’s day. A rusting old anchor marks the spot where a British peer and acting commander – Thomas Pitt, the 2nd Baron Camelford – shot dead another officer in a pistol duel. This incident went on to become the basis for my fatal meeting between Farrell and Powell in Seaflower.

I work very hard to ensure the veracity of my books, and much of this I owe to the many leading authorities across a broad spectrum of specialities whom I’ve consulted over the years who have freely shared their knowledge. And of course my own professional experiences in the British and Australian navies, both on the lower deck as a naval shipwright and on the quarterdeck as an officer, are of immense value in achieving an insight into the motives, fears and satisfactions of life at sea.

Researching the Kydd Novels #1

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 time at sea absorbing the universals all mariners take to their hearts and ingesting material from countless maritime books, both fiction and non-fiction, that I’ve been drawn to from an early age.

Head Down, Nose in the Books!

research1

Guardians of my library!

I’ve collected a vast number of books relating to the Great Age of Fighting Sail, in particular the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars with France (1793-1815) which I’ve always felt is as well the Climax of Sail before man’s relationship of wooing and respect for the nature of the seas was overtaken by the brute force ways of steam. These are all catalogued and cross-indexed like a library so that I can find relevant titles and fact/page citations quickly in my bookshelves, which now amount to some five-hundred feet of books which spill over from my study into almost every room in the house.

Before I start a new Kydd title I note down the important historical events that have caught my eye in the time period that it will cover, normally some small months, and Kathy and I develop the broad theme on a large whiteboard. My next step is to identify books and journal articles that are relevant to the story line. Then it’s down to an intensive period of immersion reading. This usually starts with broad works such as James, ‘Naval History of Great Britain‘ followed by very focused study specific to the time and location that I’ll be writing about, often triggered by some throw-away historical fact or comment.

Taking my latest, Persephone, as an example, here are just three reference books (of the some dozens I worked with) that I found useful:

Georgette Heyer’s Regency World by Jennifer Kloester

Although keyed to Heyer’s novels, it’s a very readable guide to Regency England – how the people worked and played, what they wore, what they ate and drank – and more…

Admiralty Sailing Directions to the Pentland Firth
The Admiralty ‘Pilots’ are among my compulsory ‘go-to’ books, written in a dry factual style by professional mariners, full of fascinating maritime details relating to the chart coverage of the area accrued quite literally over the centuries that often find their way into my Kydd adventures.

The English Dane by Sarah Bakewell.
What a fascinating character! Jorgen Jorgenson ran away to sea at fourteen. He would go on to many adventures, including captaining a warship for Napoleon before joining a British trading voyage to Iceland, where he staged a coup and ruled the country for two months.

And of course the internet is a great boon to writers, with so many old texts, primary sources which are now available digitised and downloadable. It’s all up to you – go for it!

BookPick: Summer Selection

This selection covers a broad range of topics including the real story behind the loss of HMS Gloucester during World War II, the influence of the Royal Navy on the West Coast of America 1812-1914 – and leadership at sea in the Merchant Marine. Whether it’s an addition to your library or just a good holiday read, I hope there’s something for everyone in this eclectic mix.

— ♥ —

Golden Stripes by Captain by V S Parani

bookpick1paraniAlthough merchant ships carry 90% of the world’s trade, the mariners who sail these mega-million dollar vessels often have little guidance on leadership. Parani weaves together his rich maritime and management experience, cutting-edge insights and case studies in this book to offer a practical leadership action plan which can be applied at sea, or indeed in many other workplaces. A succinct and compact guide that will be compulsory reading for mariners worldwide.

Beyond the Harbour Lights by Chris Mills

bookpick2millsAnother book with real-life stories of the Merchant Marine. Based on contemporary newspaper articles, mainly from the 1920s and 1930s, it weaves in background information from other sources such as marine courts of inquiry and ships’ logs, and the author has compiled – with a few imaginative added details – a very readable little tome of voyages full of drama and unexpected incidents.

Britannia’s Navy by Barry Gough

bookpick3goughThe influence of the Royal Navy on the development of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest was remarkably extensive. Yet its impact has been largely ignored by historians, who instead focus on the influence of explorers, fur traders, settlers and railway builders. In this revised and expanded edition of his classic 1972 work, naval historian Gough examines the contest for the west coast of North America between 1812 and 1914, shedding new light on geopolitical forces past and present.

HMS Gloucester by Ken Otter

bookpick4otterOn 22 May 1941, the cruiser HMS Gloucester was sunk by aircraft of the Luftwaffe. Of her crew of 810 men, only 83 lived. Clinging to rafts and flotsam, the survivors hung on for almost 24 hours before finally being rescued by German boats searching for their own men who had been victims of a previous British attack. The fact that Allied destroyers were in the proximity but were recalled from the rescue mission poses a serious question that needs answering. The resulting tragic story of one of the Royal Navy’s greatest disasters during the Second World War makes compelling reading.

A Social History of British Naval Officers 1775-1815 by Evan Wilson

bookpick5wilsonThe first serious study of commissioned officers’ lives and careers was Michael Lewis, ‘A Social History of the Navy 1793-1815‘, a book which I used in my research for the Kydd tales. This title further explores the world of British naval officers at the height of the Royal Navy’s power in the age of sail. It describes the full spectrum of officers, from commissioned officers of differing origins to the unheralded but those essential members of every ship’s company, the warrant officers. As with other books from Boydell Press it has extensive appendices and a comprehensive bibliography. A valuable contribution to maritime scholarship.

The Social History of English Seamen 1650-1815 by Cheryl A Fury

bookpick7furyOver the past few decades, social historians have begun to examine the less well-known seafarers who were on dangerous voyages of commerce, exploration, privateering and piracy, as well as the usual naval campaigns. This book, together with its companion volume, The Social History of English Seamen 1485-1649, highlights important contemporary research that is throwing such a compelling light on the field. Subjects covered include trade, piracy, wives, widows and the wider maritime community, health and medicine at sea, religion and shipboard culture – a truly illuminating and satisfying work on the experience of Jack Tar over the centuries.

River Ouse Bargeman by David Lewis

bookpick6lewisThe Ouse reaches into the heart of Yorkshire from the Humber Estuary. Until the 1980s, loaded barges made the challenging journey from Hull to Selby, bearing bulk cargoes for the mills of the town. The bargees had to be tough and resourceful and Laurie Dews of Selby is no exception. He worked the Ouse from 1937 to 1987, and is now the only man remaining with first-hand experience of life on the Yorkshire Ouse as a bargeman. Author David Lewis, in conjunction with Dews, presents this lost way of life in a fascinating tribute which is warmly and touchingly presented.


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
Enjoy!

Plaudits for Persephone

Since the publication of Persephone in the UK on May 18 I’ve been giving talks and doing signings at various locales. It’s always a special pleasure to meet readers, old and new. And who could have predicted that on one book signing I’d meet a delightful young lady called Persephone! I’ve been chuffed with the response to this book.

Here’s what Booksville had to say:

I’ll be darned if Julian Stockwin hasn’t done it again – bested persephone-coverhimself with his latest release in the Kydd Series, Persephone. There’s a little something for every reader in this volume: sea chase, age-of-sail battle, Napoleonic intrigue, imperial palace pomp, and romance. All nicely packaged in well-written historical fiction in around 400 pages.

Persephone is the name of Captain Sir Thomas Kydd’s once spurned love interest of the past, and Kydd encounters her again while on station in Portugal trying to rescue the British from Lisbon and escort Portuguese royalty from the clutches of Napoleon and his Spanish allies. A spark of interest re-ignites between them, but they are forced apart by circumstances, only to be reintroduced once again on British soil.

Kydd, the toast of England for his heroics in battle, has plenty of time to pursue her, but she appears to be out of reach. Meanwhile Kydd, inconsolable at his loss, returning to the sea and service of king and country, is sent to the site of his most recent conquest, Copenhagen, and then to follow a strange group of merchant ships protected by French sloops and a frigate, perhaps destined to invade the shores of Scotland or Ireland. They face uncertainty, and dangers abound in pursuit, only to be surprised time and again – including the final, biggest surprise of his life.

persephone with persephone

Persephone with PERSEPHONE

There is the romance of the sea and the romance between a couple, and Stockwin blends both seamlessly in this great tale of adventure. He deftly describes the relationship between Kydd and Persephone, their still stirring love interest yet the still unresolved conflicts from the past, setting up a hunt and seek chase that lasts through the book, almost as in a thriller. Packed in and around this theme flows the adventures of a naval hero doing his duty at sea and doing his duty on land, being paraded before the people as the hero of the hour and yet feeling the tug of life on board one his majesty’s finest fighting frigates. There are battles aplenty, both at sea and on land, both military and political. And keep in mind, while many characters are fictional, others are based in history.

Stockwin’s prose flows easily on the page, fluid with the magic of truth. You are transformed to the settings, knowing he has been there and seen that or gleaned parts from historical records. Dialogue is real, descriptions are vivid. The pacing is exciting. And having served in the Royal Navy, you know his battle narratives ring true. Many of Stockwin’s characters recur from novel to novel, and one of my favourites is Stirk, who has been with Kydd from the beginning. One of those most stirring and realistic bits of dialogue is his near the end of the novel.

I think you will find it entertaining reading!

And just three recent reader comments :-

‘Just finished Persephone, you build us up, drop us down with a thump and then raise us up again. A very enjoyable experience!’

‘I can understand Mr Stockwin finding difficulty in writing this emotionally charged book. He has managed it beautifully. And he’s a man to boot, like me!! A lot of people think that only women can do this well. Well it’s obviously not true. May I send a message to Julian’s wife – There are not very many men in this world who can write so sensitively about love between a man and woman. Her husband obviously can. I have to say I was much moved.’

‘Once again a masterpiece from the pen of Julian Stockwin. To be able to write fiction mixed with historical fact is brilliant. From start to finish an excellent read and gave me some sleepless nights. A tale that was both spell bound yet moving and kept me on the edge of my seat. Many twists and turns led you through the countryside of Portugal to the fashionable world of upper class London. A final twist at the end made the book for me. Thank you Julian another great effort and I believe one of your best yet. Can’t wait till November for my next Kydd fix.’


Persephone is available now in the UK as hardback, ebook and audio download and in U.S. as ebook and audio download. The hardback will be available in the States and the rest of the world in early September.

The Book Depository offers a discount on Persephone plus FREE SHIPPING worldwide

The next title in the Kydd Series is The Baltic Prize, out November 2. As usual I will be offering a Collectors Set of this book

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