31st August

san sebastianSan Sebastian nowOn 22nd August 1813 the second siege of the highly fortified port of San Sebastian began. In a week of attacks repulsed by the French garrison 3,770 British and Portuguese and 850 French soldiers were killed or wounded. The final assault, on the 31st August, succeeded. Wellington’s forces had taken the town but it was not an honourable victory.
Fuelled by looted drink a week long rampage of the town began. British officers did nothing to stop the orgy of rape and massacre, nor did they prevent the town being completely destroyed by fire.
On 31st August 1967, 21 year old Carl Witherby (at the beginning of his career as an historian) ended the summer he had spent hitch-hiking around the battlefields of the Peninsular wars on the beach of San Sebastian.
His thoughts were of those who had fought so hard and died so horribly 154 years before. But they were also of Susannah. It was her 21st birthday. He loved her but they could never be together. He had been told she was his sister.
31st August, in various years, is an important date in The Last Dance, in Walking Alone and in Runaways, the three books which make up The Iniquities Trilogy.
Professor Carl Witherby (in 2014) features again in A Set of Lies.


Finding a Title

I’m now concentrating not a little effort on the next book – a sequel to Her Parents’ Daughter – but what to call it?
I had wanted to find a title that had some form of familial relationship in it (as with HPD) but His Father’s Son and His Mother’s Son have been used more than once and His Aunt’s Nephew seems unnecessarily convoluted. Along with the fact that the main character’s name is ‘Peter Smith’ (hardly a sensible title for people to Google) I will have to look elsewhere for the title.
The book is firmly Yarmouth Pierset, once again, in Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight so I have been thinking of making the title relevant to place. The town has many recognisable features – the church, the town hall, the Square, the harbour – but perhaps the most iconic is the pier – allegedly the oldest working wooden pier in Britain.
But the book just can’t be called The Pier – there has to be ‘Something’ on the Pier and that ‘something’ has to have two syllables for balance – but what something? It has to be short (see influence of Twitter above) Should it be a noun or a verb? Roses on the Pier? Lobsters on the Pier? Walking on the Pier? – I did think of Murder on the Pier but that sounded too Agatha Christie – and anyway, the murder takes place elsewhere in the town.
Looking out of my window I can see an oak tree laden with acorns and so Acorns on the Pier it is for the time being. It will not make the final cut (for one thing #AcornsOnThePier would take up too many characters of a tweet – something that must be thought about these days!)
So every time I save that Word document I’ll keep changing the name and wait until the book has been completed to see what it wants to be called.

Non Napoleonic Projects

3 book coversAll the excitement around the publication of A Set of Lies is dying down (though sales continue apace) and there is time to look at other projects, unrelated to Napoleon Bonaparte.
I have to spend some more time re-jigging my first three books (The Last Dance, Walking Alone and Runaways) into one volume. Hopefully this will be done by Christmas…..
And there is also the next new book.
In Her Parents’ Daughter a murder was committed in Yarmouth, Isle of Wight in the last week of August 2014. We know, from the first chapter, that the woman charged with this murder of a policeman was innocent despite her being arrested with the ‘smoking gun’ still in her hands. What we don’t know until the end of the book is who stitched her up and why.
Unfortunately it seems that another murder is about to be committed in this small but busy ferry town on the north west coast of the Isle of Wight. This time it is not a public event and there are no witnesses. Again we will be led to believe that the man suspected of the murder is innocent, and again we will have to read the book (currently under the working title of Acorns on the Pier) to find out
a. whether he did it
b. if he did why would he?
c. if he didn’t who did?
d. is there any link to the murder that took place in 2014? And, most importantly:
e. if there is what, and who, might that connection be?

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.




RevolutionThe British governments of two hundred years ago were not exclusively concerned with foreign wars.
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.

The Northumberland Arrives

Sir George Cockburn - HMS NorthumberlandThe man who everyone but a few believed to be Napoleon Bonaparte had been keeping to his cabin for a few days. Some on board HMS Bellerophon believed that he was distraught (or sulking) at the news that he was to be exiled to St Helena, a response encouraged by those in his entourage who knew that the man they insisted be called L‘Empereur was, in fact, heading for Dublin in the company of Bernard Lacey.
On the 6th August 1815 that most dangerous time for Lacey’s scheme, when the replacement Napoleon was on board a ship where people had seen, and spoken to, the real Emperor, was coming to an end. HMS Northumberland, under the command of Sir George Cockburn, arrived in Plymouth with a crew handpicked for its lack of knowledge of the prisoner who was to be transferred from the Bellerophon on the following day.
It had been a busy few months for Sir George, having, the year before, been heavily involved in the attack on Washington that led to the burning of the building that was painted white to disguise the damage made by the British and which became known as The White House.