8th February 2022
So after all the problems, tank-traps, foul-ups, and computer glitches along the way, my book ‘HMS ARCHER’ is finally available in paper-back and kindle format. I have even managed to obtain some ‘author copies’, from Amazon who managed to get them to me in only 46 days! Apparently, the first parcel was damaged in transit, so the big A decided to take them back and cancel the order – without telling me.
However all is now well, and my nineteenth-century maritime hero is sailing through the 430 pages, swashing and buckling along the way. And I mustn’t complain, because the printing is good, the presentation is attractive, and the story engaging.
It took me a lot longer than I expected to complete this, my eighth book, and that was partly due to the grisly impositions of the super-bug Covid 19, but also because I wanted to research the background, location and situation of my story. I couldn’t just make it up as I went along because my fictional characters and events had to inter-relate with real historical characters and real events.
I started with the advantage of years of experience at sea in warships, merchant vessels and my own sailing yachts. I also spent time in and around all the locations I was describing, and I was careful to get the timescale right. But then I had to make choices; I read books on the War of 1812 written by American, Canadian, and British writers, some of which were written long ago and some only recently. What they all had in common was that they described the event and battles from different perspectives and reached different conclusions as to what happened, so I had to sift through and reach a decision as to the most likely course of events, and fit my story into that scenario, as well as leaving an opportunity for John Lawson to sail again,
On looking back at all this, I realised that there were remarkable examples of serendipity, as well as unique occurrences, and unique people. I still cannot get my head around the Indian leader Tecumseh, a man who was regarded as a savage but who could speak English and quote Shakespeare, as well as travel throughout America swiftly on foot and by horse. He was a great leader of his people and a valuable ally to the British forces. I am willing to bet that many readers will have believed that he was a fictional character, He was not.
Who, I wonder, has given any thought to the fact that, for three years England had to fight, simultaneously, two separate wars with three thousand miles of ocean in between? Does anyone remember that the British Prime Minister was assassinated in the middle of these wars? And that the Royal Navy, had to fight for years on several fronts, facing bigger and faster American ships, while keeping Wellington’s army supplied in Portugal and Spain, convoying essential supplies across the Atlantic, up from the Caribbean and half-way around the world from India, all with a limited supply of trained manpower, and many old, patched and rebuilt ships.
In modern America, the 1812 War is regarded as a great victory, but the reality is that the principal American aim, the capture of Canada, was not achieved, the country was effectively bankrupted and almost every American warship was captured or destroyed, leaving the last American flagship moored on the North Thames Embankment, now as HMS President, eventually to be used as the headquarters of the Royal Naval Reserve. By the end of 1814, the Royal Navy dominated the Atlantic Ocean, with over 1600 sailing warships.
I could go on but it would be better to read the book and see where it takes you. The kindle version will soon be available from Amazon, to be offered free for a few days! – or you could enjoy the full, weighty, printed version.
Anthony Holt MBE