Friday, 9 January 2009

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas my True Love gave to me ... Twelve Drummers Drumming.

I was first intrigued and inspired by Bernard Cornwell when I participated in a workshop at the London Book Fair in 2005, and he was on the panel. I'm not sure whether it was his wit, impressive career writing style or his association with Sean Bean, the actor who plays his protaganist Sharpe, in the televised series of his adventure stories, which appealed to me most, but certainly he knows how to write about battles. And 'Twelve drummers drumming', made me think of him.

His most recent book, Agincourt, has just been published in the UK and due for release by Harper on January 20th 2009, in the US.

Agincourt (Azincourt in French) is one of the most famous battles ever fought; the victory of a small, despised, sick and hungry army over an enemy that massively outnumbered it. Azincourt, the novel coming soon, tells the story of that small army; how it embarked from England confident of victory, but was beaten down and horribly weakened by the stubborn French defence of Harfleur. By the end of that siege common-sense dictated that the army sail for home, but Henry V was stubbornly convinced that God was on his side and insisted on marching from Harfleur to Calais to prove that he could defy the great French army that was gathering to crush him. He believed he could evade that army, but the march, like the siege, went disastrously wrong and the English were trapped and so forced to fight against an enemy that outnumbered them six to one. Azincourt is the tale of Nicholas Hook, an archer, who begins the novel by joining the garrison of Soissons, a city whose patron saints were Crispin and Crispinian. What happened at Soissons shocked all Christendom, but in the following year, on the feast day of Crispin and Crispinian, Hook finds himself in that small army trapped at Azincourt. The novel is the story of the archers who helped win a battle that has entered legend, but in truth is a tale, as Sir John Keegan says, 'of slaughter-yard behaviour and outright atrocity'.

About the Author
Bernard Cornwell was born in London in 1944 - a 'war baby' - whose father was a Canadian airman and mother in Britain's Women's Auxiliary Air Force. He was adopted by a family in Essex who belonged to a religious sect called the Peculiar People (and they were), but escaped to London University and, after a stint as a teacher, he joined BBC Television where he worked for the next 10 years. He began as a researcher on the Nationwide programme and ended as Head of Current Affairs Television for the BBC in Northern Ireland. It was while working in Belfast that he met Judy, a visiting American, and fell in love. Judy was unable to move to Britain for family reasons so Bernard went to the States where he was refused a Green Card. He decided to earn a living by writing, a job that did not need a permit from the US government - and for some years he had been wanting to write the adventures of a British soldier in the Napoleonic wars - and so the Sharpe series was born. Bernard and Judy married in 1980, are still married, still live in the States and he is still writing Sharpe.

A more impressive bibliography of a contemporary writer, may be hard to find.
Bernard Cornwell publishes the Sharpe series and the Arthur Series regularly, and other books intermittently.

Sharpe series:

the first was published in 1981, Sharpe's Gold, but in fact it is number nine in teh Sharpe series. There are 21 Sharpe stories, the last of which was published in 2007, plus two short stories, featuring Sharpe.

Arthur series:
The Winter King 1995
Enemy of God 1996
Excalibur 1997

The Thrillers Wildtrack 1988
The Thrillers Sea Lord 1989
The Thrillers Crackdown 1990
The Thrillers Stormchild 1991
The Thrillers Scoundrel 1992

Other books
include The Starbuck Chronicles, The Saxon Stories, The Grail Quest, Stonehenge and other one off books.


Mike French said...

Brilliant - An inspired series of articles over the 12 days - can't really believe you pulled it off!

the Amateur Book Blogger said...

Thanks Mike - the guest writers were all great to work with too. Christmas is over, now it's back to the gym and bread and water...