Sunday, June 06, 2010

And back to some questions

attribution glassandmirror
In the continuing, I-will-answer-stuff mode, let me pull up a few more questions and, like, answer them.

These questions are about the Spymaster fictive universe.

The next lot of questions will be about Forbidden Rose, but I want to wait a while until some folks have read it.

17) Do you have a formal background in history?

I'll confess.  I never took a course in history after the obligatory American History class in Ninth Grade.  Not one course.

But I love history.  I read history textbooks for fun.  I have a whole shelf of memoirs and diaries.  They're stacked up there like potato chips, just waiting for me to grab a few.  

18)  How much of the Spymaster story is historical fact?


The actual historical background is as correct as I can make it.

The story is wholly fiction, and I got huge big chunks constructed out of whole cloth --the British Intelligence Service and the Albion Plans.

The British Service.

There was no historical spy organization called the British Intelligence Service in the early Nineteenth Century.  Was there an organized civilian intelligence organization at all?

The British Military had intelligence arms.  There's plenty of information on this.  When I refer to 'Military Intelligence' I'm on fairly solid ground.

And the civilian side?  There are just profusions of period references to English spies operating in England and France, obviously not part of the military. 

We know the British government would have had in front of them the unfortunate outfoxing they received at the hands of George Washington's organization.  They'd have the example of the other European powers -- France, Russia, the Hapsburg Empire, etc. -- with their highly organized and structure secret police.  The idea of an organized secret service was not the rocket science of the period.  If nowhere else, the British would have learned the value of spy organizations from Walsingham, two centuries before.

So when we ask ourselves whether the British would have created a civilian intelligence service . . . taking a line from Mythbusters, I'd call this plausible. 

Why do we not have copious evidence of this? 

The British public -- from the lowliest street sweeper to the nobility --  was utterly opposed to the existence of any sort of 'secret police'.

The whole idea was repugnant and associated with the worst excesses of European tyranny.  Regency London didn't even have an ordinary metropolitan police force, something that had been a commonplace in Paris for two generations, because the British saw this as an infringement on personal freedom.  A secret service, it was thought, was the first step to stripping Englishment of their ancient liberties.

To which I say, "Good for you, you stubborn Englishmen."

Anyway.  A civilian intelligence force was not a popular notion.  Any such service would have kept itself well hidden from the public.  When the Napoleonic War ended, I could easily see all records being destroyed.

The farther off from England the nearer is to France
The Albion Plans
(from Spymaster's Lady)

We know Napoleon built a flotilla of boats at Boulogne for the invasion of England.  We know he turned back from this scheme at the last minute. The fleet never sailed.

Nobody knows why.

Was a grand, detailed plan of the invasion drawn up, with supply routes and battle maps, cost estimates, dates and objectives?

I honestly don't see why there couldn't have been.

19)  Where did you learn about spies?

We know a good bit about British government spies in this time period.  

Elizabeth Sparrow's exhaustive Secret Service: British Agents in France, 1792 - 1815.
Maffeo's Most Secret and Confidential: Intelligence in the Age of Nelson. 
Michael Durey, William Wickham, Master Spy: The Secret War Against the French Revolution.
Michael Durey, The British Secret Service and the escape of Sir Sidney from Paris 1798, History, July 1999, n° 275.
Richard Deacon's History of the British Secret Service.
Elizabeth Sparrow, The Alien Office, 1792-1806, The Historical Journal, vol. 33, no. 2 (1990) 
Richard Gover's Britain at Bay, Defense against Bonaparte 1803 - 1814. 
Alexander Rose's Washington's Spies: Story of America's First Spy Ring.
David Hollins,  The Hidden Hand: Espionage and Napoleon, Osprey Military Journal Issue 2.2, Osprey Publishing (December 30, 2002).
Robert Johnson, Spying for the Empire: The Great Game in Central and South Asia, 1757 to 1947.
Tom Pocock, The Terror Before Trafalgar: Nelson, Napoleon and the Secret War.
Clive Emsley, The Home Office and Its Sources of Information and Investigation, 1791 to 1801, Eng. Hist. Rev., xciv (1979).
Christopher John Gibbs, Friends and Enemies: The Underground War Between Great Britain and France, 1793-1802Here Here.
Marianne Elliott, Partners in Revolution; The United Irishmen and France.
Bernard Porter, Plots and Paranoia: A History of Political Espionage in Britain 1790-1988.

Oh ... and this is not so much germane, but an interesting speculation here about Benjamin Franklin.

Interested in the forerunners of my Meeks Street gang?

Stephen Budiansky. Her Majesty's Spymaster: Elizabeth I, Sir Francis Waksingham, and the Birth of Modern Espionage.

And moving into the 1830s for those who want to cast a decade or so past the era of my stories,

Stephen Wade, Spires in the Empire: Victorian Military Intelligence.
C.A. Bayly, Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India 1780 to 1870.

20) Did it take a tremendous amount of research?

I probably should say something modest like -- 'Oh, well.  This is something I just threw together from what I had in the refrigerator.'

But actually, I work like a dog doing the research.

It never ends.  

The JUSTINE story will be the
Actual example of a dog similar to what I work like
fifth book set in the same general time period  and I'm still up to my gills in Historical Stuff I Don't Know Anything About.


  1. Anonymous11:00 PM

    I will now try to track down those books (I have read a lot of books about WWII era spying, so I'll be interested to see how it compares.)
    Speaking of spying, if you ever come to DC you should really check out the International Spy museum. Pricey, but well worth it--it covers the whole history of spying.

    And, in the middle of rereading TFR. Enjoying it even more the second time. After I read it hte first time I had to go reread SL and think about Doyle and Maggie. Now I'm realizing I also need to reread MLAS.
    Its wonderful to watch Adrian model himself on Doyle and find something to aspire to....

  2. Will Justine be coming out around this time next year? *hopeful face*

  3. Oh, and why did they redo the cover for SL but not MLAS?

  4. Anonymous9:51 PM

    Oh my. In rereading...I just noticed something. Is Justine's madam Annique's mother?

  5. Anonymous10:09 AM

    Okay,I'm feeling dense. Is Paxton Sebastian? I reread SL and he's identified as RH Thomas Paxton. I had been thinking he was Sebastian while reading FR. Now, I'm not certain. I loaned out my MLS so I can't check. I do so love these little hints in your books, but I'm not clever enough to get this one.

  6. Hi DLS --

    I have not been to the International Spy Museum. I keep promising myself I will get to it.

    I also want to read George Washington Spymaster to check up on my Eighteenth Century spy technique.
    I haven't done anything very technical with my people, really, and I should.

  7. Hi Verona St. James --

    If all goes well and I actually get on the ball and finish writing this manuscript, I will be turning it in December first, 2010. This means any book isn't likely to get on the shelves sooner than fall 2011.

    Could be longer.

    Now, the reason I got a new cover for SPYMASTER'S LADY is that they brought out a new edition. The original printing was what they call mass market -- just an ordinary paperback book.

    A trade edition is a larger book. It's the size of a hardcover, but it's soft cover. You know the kind I mean. Deanna Raybourn's books come out in trade, and Patrick O'Brian's. I'm reading The Bookseller's Daughter by Pam Rosenthal, and it is in trade edition.

    So I got the new cover because they printed up a new-size version of the book, which was very nice of Berkley and I hope they are rewarded by making pots of money.
    Now, I think this trade edition is just hot stuff. It feels good in the hand; the cover is lovely; and the print is large enough to read.

  8. Hi DLS --

    Yes indeed. That is Annique's mum. It is thus less surprising than it might be that she knows Doyle is coming.

    But I'm hoping the book is entirely standalone and one doesn't need to know that factoid to follow everything.

  9. Hi Anon --

    You are not dense in the least. Paxton is Paxton. He's an entirely different person altogether from Sebastian.

    You have not overlooked any clues. All is well.

  10. Anonymous10:31 PM

    It completely stands on its own--it took me two readings to recognize it. I assume that is also part of why Doyle is not to be killed. And I assume that is partly why Madame makes a pet out of Justine--she misses Annique.

    If I recall correctly, Paxton is the one who Galba asks to leave the table because he doesn't want to burden him with confidential information since he's about to start a mission, in SL.
    I've been wondering if he might get a book--mostly because I'm wondering who else might get a book, and the only ones who seem to be in this fictive world and about the right ages are Severine and Paxton.
    So...any chance either of them will get a book after Justine?

    I just cannot wait for Adrian and Justine. I really want to know how these two, always too adult and sophisticated for their own good, find their way to love.

    But your books are worth waiting for.

  11. Hi DLS --

    Yes indeed. Madame would not want Doyle killed. But I think her reasons don't have to be made clear in Forbidden Rose. They can remain kinda obscure like.

    I suppose Pax could get his own book. He's an interesting fellow.

  12. What order are the books to be read in?

  13. Hi Goosie --

    I have done a blog post on this, being discursive and talking about it for a good long time.

    I will tell you right now, I come to no conclusion.

  14. Sorry! I didn't know. I looked in the books section and didn't find an answer. I didn't think to check blogposts. Thanks for answering though! I'm definitely going to give them a read.

  15. Hi Goosie --

    I hadn't put up the blog posting when you asked your question. *g*

    In fact, having been asked by you I zipped ahead and finished it up and posted it, which was all to the good.

  16. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.