Books write themselves

I’m now three weeksLibrary into writing my seventh novel. It will be called A Different Coast and it was planned to be the sequel to Her Parents’ Daughter – a Cold War inspired murder mystery set in Yarmouth – on the north west coast of the Isle of Wight. The first days were spent, unusually for me, planning out the plot from beginning to end. The Excel spreadsheet with the relevant time frame was set up so, that I don’t have the same character in two places at the same time – or indeed somewhere after they are dead – and the characters were decided upon. I reminded myself of the characteristics of ones from Her Parents’ Daughter and set out the main traits of the new ones.
I started writing the words just over a week ago (again monitoring words/pages/chapters on Excel – I love spreadsheets). Now approaching 16,000 words – and on Chapter 6 of a planned 30 – the bloody thing has got a mind of its own.
In between Her Parents’ Daughter and now I finished A Set of Lies, a book that had been in the planning and writing for 15 years which chronicled the investigations by Skye Lacey and Fergal Sheppard into what really happened to Napoleon Bonaparte after he had given himself up to the English in 1815.
Well into Chapter Three of A Different Coast Skye and Fergal appeared. I did not expect them and I had no idea they were going to make an appearance. It was not in my original ‘word sketch’. It just happened. Bu then, it is entirely logical; action in Her Parents’ Daughter began and ended in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, in 2015, much of the action in A Set of Lies was in West Wight between 2014 and 2015. It is entirely logical that the protagonists would have met and would become involved with each other.
Every conversation I begin to write now leads me in the direction the characters want, I feel that sometimes I have no say in it.
But it does make the writing exciting – I hope the reading will be as much fun.

Napoleon Joins the Saints

JamestownOn 15th October 1815 a crowd of curious St Helena islanders (saints) stood patiently on the quayside to welcome the famous captive to their island. The Northumberland had finally anchored off Jamestown after its long voyage from Plymouth. But the ‘Emperor’ did not set foot on dry land for a further two days as members of his entourage inspected Longwood, the house designated to be their home after a brief sojourn at the house of one Mr Henry Porteous in Jamestown.
It was only on the morning of the 17th that he was due to set foot, after over three months on board ships, on dry land. The wharf and landing stages were crowded as every inhabitant on the whole island, black and white, were eager to get set eyes on the illustrious prisoner-of-war. It was decided that, to avoid embarrassment, the prisoner would wait until nightfall by which time, it was hoped, the majority of the curious would have abandoned their wait. But even after dark  soldiers with fixed bayonets were required to force a way through the throng from the landing steps to Mr Porteous’s house.
On the 18th Napoleon inspected Longwood and many alterations and improvements were to be undertaken before he could take up residence.
Disliking the confines of Jamestown and the unceasing attention of the crowds, he transferred on the 19th October to the house of the Balcombe family where he stayed for two months after which time he finally took up residence in Longwood.
Or did he?
Of those on St Helena who had known Napoleon all would have laid down their lives for their Emperor and happily kept up the fiction of the true identity of the captive.
There were some who were in the pay of the English Secret Services and knew that the Emperor was safely in Dublin with Wellington’s spy-master, Bernard Lacey.
Most of those who came into contact with the captive, however, had never known the emperor and such was the training of the impersonator that no one guessed.
In A Set of Lies there is an alternate view of history and who the man really was who spent those two months happily living in the confines of the Balcombe’s small homestead.

 

October

October - James TissotOctober is a busy month for hatches, matches and despatches in A Set of Lies.
In October 1816 Sir Bernard Lacey (spymaster to the Duke of Wellington) married Constance Shaw, a marriage witnessed by his neighbour, the man now known as Claude Olivierre.
On 2 October 1882, Sir Bernard’s younger grandson, Sir Augustus Lacey, was murdered by cut throats in the back streets of London leaving his wife of little more than six weeks and his unborn son. Almost exactly 35 years later, 31 October 1917, that son (Sir Bertie) died after being hit by a car during an air raid in London.
On 21 October 1890 Sir Bernard’s youngest great grandson, Henry Lacey, was born. He lived a long life and played a critical role in preserving an important locket.
The last baronet of the Lacey line, Sir Arthur Lacey, Sir Bernard’s only great great grandson, was born 14 October 1935.
Confused? You won’t be when you read A Set of Lies.
As the history of the Lacey family unfolds the secret of the man they knew as Claude Olivierre is exposed.

 

Crossing the Equator

Crossing The EquatorIt seems a long time since HMS Northumberland and its accompanying squadron left Plymouth heading for Jamestown, St Helena yet it is only six weeks and the man previously known as Ennor Jolliffe is playing his role to perfection.
Treated as l’Empereur by the French contingent and as a respected General by the largely English crew everything he said and did was exactly as would be expected by the man who had recently been Emperor of the French.
His routine on board was fixed. He kept to his cabin throughout each morning, appearing on deck in uniform at two in the afternoon, retiring at four to the after cabin for a game of chess or piquet before repairing to his cabin to prepare for dinner – always served at six. There was little to break the monotony of the long voyage.
On 15th August, Napoleon’s birthday, a special dinner was held.
On 23rd August they took on fresh provisions in Funchal, Madeira but they did not stop at Tenerife (which they passed on 27th August) or the Cape Verde Islands (1st September).
A young woman travelling with his large entourage was encouraged to allow ‘the distinguished passenger’ to pass at least some of his time in female company and in June 1916 a baby was born whose paternity she never divulged.
On 23rd September the squadron crossed the Equator – in that year the Equinox – the event was celebrated in traditional form with offerings made to Neptune though ‘Napoleon’ played no part in the festivities.
They would not reach St Helena until 15th October.
The world was somewhat larger in those days….

Happy 246th birthday Napoleon

LetiziaIn Ajaccio, on the island of Corsica, on 15th August 1769 Maria Letizia Ramolino (here pictured somewhat later), wife of Nobile Carlo Maria di Buonaparte gave birth to a son they named Napoleone.
Despite Napoleone being their fourth child (though only the second to survive) Carlo Maria was still a young man of 23, and Maria Letizia was only 17 having been born on 24th August 1750.
They had married in 1764 when she was 13 (some say 14) and her husband was just 18 (some say 17) and soon after the children came.
The first named Napoleone was born, and died on 17th August 1765. The second, Maria Anna, died at 363 days old in January 1768. The third, a son born only 6 days after his sister died was named Joseph and he survived to become King of Naples and Sicily, and King of Spain and the Indies. The fourth was Napoleone, named after his dead eldest brother, lived to become Emperor of the French. Nine others followed, of whom six survived.
Patience Olivierre in A Set of Lies bore only four children; two sons, both named Charles who died in infancy, and a daughter who died at almost exactly a year old christened Mary Lettice. She also had a daughter who did survive, Josephine.
It is when Fergal, Skye and Carl discover the names of those Olivierre children, reflecting as they did names from the Bonaparte family, that they really begin to believe that they could prove that Patience’s husband Claude was not who he was made out to be.

 

 

Revolutions

RevolutionThe British governments of two hundred years ago were not exclusively concerned with foreign wars.
Although
they had been leaders of the allies against France for nearly twenty years and had also been fighting for ‘Empire’ in North America and on the Indian Sub-continent these foreign wars were only periodically the main focus of government.
It was not because of the French Revolutionary Wars that Prime Minister Spencer Perceval was assassinated in the lobby of the House of Commons in May 1812. The Revolution that was causing the establishment most fear was the Industrial Revolution.
When Perceval was assassinated it was feared, not unrealistically, that his death marked the beginning of the British Revolution .It was feared that the frequent and dangerous uprisings in the newly industrialising and politically unrepresented cities of the north would become better coordinated and that the Luddite campaigns of murder and destruction would overcome law and order.
Bonapartists in the drawing rooms of fashionable London were funding agitators to make rioters, rebels and revolutionaries out of those who only sought to protect their livelihoods. Those who wished only to protect their families’ incomes were infiltrated by those who looked to overthrow the Mad King, the profligate Prince Regent and the rest of the German Royal Family.
Matters would only get worse when tens of thousands of soldiers, able bodied and horribly wounded, were released from their regiments after the victory at Waterloo.

The only person who could rein in the very real threat of revolution was Napoleon Bonaparte. And he was on his way to St Helena. Wasn’t he?
Bernard Lacey in A Set of Lies had had confidence in the military overthrow of Napoleon and saw insurgency as a far greater danger to British security. It was his task to persuade the man, who from August 1815 was known as ‘Claude Olivierre’, to use his influence to prevent a British Revolution.

 

“Napoleon” transfers to The Northumberland

Bellerophon and Northumberland

Ennor Jolliffe has survived the testing few days since the switch was made. No one on board the Bellerophon who was not in on the game has made any indication of suspecting that the man was not who he should be, although a midshipman was lowered over the side to check that the prisoner was in his cabin when he had not appeared on deck as expected.
On 7th August 1815 “Napoleon” left HMS Bellerophon for HMS Northumberland with twenty-six members of his entourage (including five children and twelve ‘domestics’) whose devotion to the Emperor meant they would suffer exile to St Helena for as long as was necessary so that “Claude Olivierre” may live his life a free man.
When Bernard Lacey, in Dublin, heard of the successful transfer he allowed himself some moments of satisfaction and then got on with the task of gaining the trust of the man who was learning to be “Olivierre”.
History, being “A Set of Lies“, is re-written so that Ennor Jolliffe’s part is not recognised for a further two hundred years.