A Little Light Reading… Not

I will admit that I have quite odd tastes in reading, especially for a woman; I tend toward history, nautical, and obscure or long-forgotten books.  In writing my current manuscript, which is Asunder, the third book in the Northing Trilogy, I’ve read more than a fair share of military history books, specifically covering the 18th century of the Royal Navy.  Once, on a research trip to London, I searched out a bookstore that specializes in military and transport books, even reputed to have remainders; I don’t think they’d seen a woman in the shop in years (who’d entered intentionally) by the looks I got; one of the men even said, “The beauty shop’s two doors down, love.”  When I asked if they had the out-of-print autobiography by William Spavens, a unique lower deck view of the 18th century navy, they froze as if they hadn’t heard me correctly.  The question must have been laced with catnip, because after that I had the entire shop of men eating out of my hand, and I spent nearly two hours in there being helped to the finest pick of naval history books (including the autobiography I was after!).  Sadly, the last time I was there the shop was gone, but I’ve since found the largest used book shop in London, Skoob, which is highly dangerous for a bibliophile with a private library…!

A few of the books I’ve read in the course of research for Asunder are fairly gory, like Medicine Under Sail (I’d bet my bottom dollar that the screen writers for “Master and Commander“, with Russell Crowe, read that book as they wrote the script) and “Poxed & Scurvied” – the story of sickness and health at sea, while others have been like reading a thriller, such as “The Seven Years War” by Rupert Furneaux  or “A Sailor of King George” by Captain Frederick Hoffman.

I devour history books like other people devour pulp fiction; but especially during the first draft of the book, I had to continually keep in mind that I was writing historical fiction, not a history book; the details that I included had to serve the plot and character development, and not visa versa.  Only a fraction of what I learned has gone into the book; but those rich details give salt to the waves, creaks to the ship, and whip to the rope (I’ve also spent hours aboard the Cutty Sark “filling in the blanks” of a docked ship, so to speak, but that’s another story).  I could have peppered the dialogue with so much naval slang you wouldn’t have been able to swing a cat (naval slang, by the way), but if readers were to get ripped out of the story trying to figure things out, then I would have missed the mark.

So, the next time you sit down for a little light reading, you might want to consider one of the books linked above; then again, if you don’t want gory dreams, rather go with “The Price of Freedom“, or “Redemption“, or “The Cardinal, Part One or Part Two“…  and enjoy!

third-rate-ship-of-the-line-diagram

One of my library posters

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8 Comments

Filed under Articles, History, Military History, Musings, Nuts & Bolts, Research

8 responses to “A Little Light Reading… Not

  1. connie r white

    Loved this post. I also read “Medicine Under Sail” – very interesting. It’s amazing anyone survived back then.

  2. “The beauty shop’s two doors down, love.” Ha! Reminds me of the time I walked into a small branch of my area library system and asked for help locating a tricky source. The librarian did help me, but not before looking me up and down and commenting, “That’s a pretty academic book.” Sounds like that was a fun little place to spend a long while.

    • It was. They are both funny anecdotes, though they highlight the discrepancy in thinking toward women vs. men; I doubt either comment would have been made if we had been men… but then again we have the power to wrap even muscular men around our little finger and make them turn to putty! LOL 😉

  3. I am also a nut on history books, tho I do not write history or historical novels. I read about the Battle of Britain in WW2. I read about the women’s suffrage and black civil rights movements in the US. And so on. That reading fortifies me to face the news in the Age of Trumpery. (The old word “trumpery” has not been used much since the 18-th century; it is due for a comeback.) As I fulminate and donate, I also remember that sometimes the good guys won against long odds.

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