Welcome to my turn on the Beautiful Star and other stories by Andrew Swanston Blog Tour.
I have yet to read all the stories in Beautiful Star, but I have managed to read a couple of the stories and I have really enjoyed them. Its something different from what I normally read so I was a little hesitant, but I am so glad that I got sent a copy because its brilliant. I will be posting my full review of the book before the end of this month.
I would like to thank Emily and Dome Publishing for including me in this wonderful tour, I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all the other posts in the tour already and I cannot wait to read the last few in the next couple of days. If you would like to read any of the past or future posts for this tour then below is a list of all the bloggers that have participated.
Today I have a short piece written by Andrew Swanston about different footnotes of history.
The Footnotes of History
Among the joys of being an historical novelist are the people one meets and talks to in the course of research and the odd, often fascinating, things one learns. Here are a few, randomly chosen, examples of the latter.
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a naval officer who had risen from the ranks was known as a ‘tarpaulin’. The highly respected but ultimately unfortunate Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell was one such.
To Scottish fishermen the word ‘salmon’ was never used on board ship because the sound of its own name frightened the fish away. It was called ‘the red fish’. Similarly, pigs were unlucky beasts and were known as ‘curly tails’. To see a minister on the day of sailing presaged death. Superstitious lot, fishermen.
In the sixteenth century inquests were commonly held in inns. They were rowdy affairs and could only take place if the body was available for display and inspection by the jury. Some inquests must have been fearfully noxious affairs.
In 1568 a football match took place at Chesterton between the scholars and the apprentices of Cambridge. It ended when the apprentices armed themselves with cudgels and chased the scholars into the river.
The reputation of medieval Malmesbury as a centre of learning was such that priests wanting to study there made the long and dangerous journey from Rome.
The giant French lieutenant who forced his way into the farm at Hougoumont during the Battle of Waterloo was appropriately named ‘Le Gros’ and known as ‘L’enforceur’ – ‘The Smasher’. He did not survive.
On the eve of battle Prince Rupert was known to disguise himself as an apple seller and to go amongst the enemy with his dog, ‘Boy’. Whether he ever gathered any useful intelligence is not known.
As for the experts, all unfailingly generous and helpful, I have received invaluable advice from, inter alia, the world’s leading expert on Fedon’s Rebellion (Grenada 1796), the Curator of firearms at the Royal Armouries, an historian with special knowledge of the early modern justice system, the Deputy Clerk of the Stationers’ Company, the head librarian of the Goldsmiths’ Company, the Adjutant of Wellington Barracks and an expert on sixteenth century coinage. And many others, none of whom I would have been lucky enough to come across had I not been in search of information. I think of it as a perk of the job.
Before you get to the experts, however, you have to find a story, or at least the makings of one. I am often asked where the ideas come from. Difficult question but footnotes (excellent things, footnotes), churches, museums and old newspaper cuttings are fruitful sources. Nor should the writer’s nose be turned up at the web. Google can be an excellent means of finding information worthy of further research and of searching out experts and literature on a subject.
A final word. A writer’s life is mostly solitary. I find that research, however, especially research involving travel, is best shared. My assistant researcher (wife) agrees.
Andrew read a little law and a lot of sport at Cambridge University, and held various positions in the book trade, including being a director of Waterstone & Co, and Chairman of Methven’s plc, before turning to writing.
Inspired by a lifelong interest in early modern history, his Thomas Hill novels are set during the English Civil Wars, and the early period of the Restoration.
Andrew’s novel, Incendium, was published in February 2017 and is the first of two thrillers featuring Dr. Christopher Radcliff, an intelligencer for the Earl of Leicester, and is set in 1572 at the time of the massacre of the Huguenots in France.
The Dome Press will publish Beautiful Star, a collection of short stories documenting a journey through time, bringing a new perspective to the defence of Corfe Castle, the battle of Waterloo, the siege of Toulon and, in the title story, the devastating dangers of the life of the sea in 1875.
Beautiful Star – 11th January 2018
History is brought alive by the people it affects, rather
than those who created it. In Beautiful Star, we meet Eilmer, a monk in 1010 with Icarus-like dreams; Charles I, hiding in 1651, and befriended by a small boy; the trial of Jane Wenham, witch of Walkern, seen through the eyes of her granddaughter.
This is a moving and affecting journey through time, bringing a new
perspective to the defence of Corfe Castle, the battle of Waterloo, the siege of Toulon and, in the title story, the devastating dangers of the life of the sea in 1875.