Your Questions

Q

I am a keen reader of the Sharpe novels, and all things to do with the Napoleonic Wars. As I am a resident of Hampshire, I am interested in the history of the Hampshire Regiment, and their role around the time of the Peninsular war, and beyond. I know that they did not have a major role in the Peninsular war. In fact, if my knowledge is correct, they only took part in one major battle, that which took place at Barossa. What interests me more is the new Sharpe film set in India, as I know that the South Hampshire's were in India during the 3rd Maharatta War. Do you think that they will get a mention in the film as it would be great to see Sharpe fighting alongside them, and is there scope for Sharpe to have further adventures in India after Sharpe's Challenge? Kind Regards Russell Dutton

A

I've just finished a chapter where the Hampshires make an appearance. How's that for coincidence? And I'm about to start the battle of Barossa, so doubtless they'll show up again. They don't get a mention in 'Sharpe's Challenge', which I saw three days ago, but that's not my fault - the film-makers don't really feature any British regiments (no extras available in India). I'll try to make up the lack in the new book.


Q

Sir, Thank you for your Sharpe novels.They have stirred an interest into the peninsular wars. A company "Military heritage" in the US are advertising that you have purchased one of their Baker rifle replicas, Is this true ? & are you satisfied with it? as I am considering buying one. Dave

A

It's true! It's a non-functional replica, but very good, and decorative. I'd love to have the real thing, but none ever seem to appear on the market, so my replica hangs high on the study wall - opposite Sharpe's sword.


Q

I noticed a while back that you may forget that Sharpe was in England and write about him at San Sebastian. Perhaps instead you could write a stand alone novel about it. The South Essex wouldn't have been there much because they were undermanned (and the light company leaderless) so you could write a dramatic book just using the actual protagonists. your avid fan (not in a scary way) Ben

A

I could, but wouldn't it be better if Sharpe was there? I dunno - it isn't a decision I have to take yet. Maybe I'll write it just before I die so I don't have to answer the letters complaining that Sharpe couldn't be in two places at once (why not? he's a hero)


Q

Can I ask how many books you wrote before your first big publication Sharpe's Eagle, and what gave you the inspiration in the beginning? Michael Campbell

A

Sharpe's Eagle was the first. I think it took four or five books before I could be fairly certain that I wouldn't have to go back and find a proper job - the first to make the best seller list was (I think) Sharpe's Sword. Before that it was all a wing and a prayer, and in many ways it still is! inspiration? Simply a love of history, I think (and the need to earn a living when denied a Green Card by the US government).


Q

Dear Bernard, I am currently reading the first of the Arthur books and am really enjoying it. I am now at the point where Arthur is talking with Aelle at 'the Stones' and has just betrayed his fellow Britons in Ratae. I thoroughly enjoy reading your works, but I must ask you; why are there some place names and character names that are not mentioned in the lists in the front of the book? For example you mention a place called Henis Wydryn, but there is no explanation as to where this place is. Is it a made up place or did/does it really exist. Also how do you determine which places and characters are added to the list in the fornt of your books? I am very much looking forward to reading the next 2 books and then the 3rd book in the saxon series. Best wishes, Ed May, California.

A

It's Ynys Wydryn, isn't it? Henis sounds like a mistake to me, or a misprint . . on the whole we left out places and people that made very minor appearances, but I'm sure Ynys Wydryn is there.


Q

Dear Mr. Cornwell, I have been reading your books since I was thirteen. Of course, since I am now 16, that isnt too long. I have only read Redcoat, The Grail series, the Warlord Chronicles, and the Last Kingdom, although I am picking up a copy of The Pale Horseman and some Sharpe books soon enough. What I want to ask you is, how far in advance do you plan out your stories? I know that some of them you can't really plan because history dictates what must happen, but others (mainly the Warlord and Saxon books) allow you to have much more freedom. Also, if you wouldnt mind, could you tell me what book you are proudest of? Thanks in advance, Zach Love

A

More or less just before I write them, and then the real work happens while you write them, so most of the plotting is simultaneous with the composition. When I begin a book I have a vague idea what it will be about - with the new Sharpe I knew I wanted it to end at Barossa, but that isn't a plot. So research threw up some interesting things (mainly that the British Ambassador in Cadiz had been deserted by his wife) and then you start to tinker with those ideas, and a story emerges. I wish I could plot them out meticulously before I start writing, but I can't, and so am stuck with letting the ideas emerge with the story.

Hard to say...I've always reckoned the Arthur trilogy are my favourite books - maybe because they were such a pleasure to write. But I find Uhtred is almost as much fun and I take huge pleasure from Sharpe...


Q

Dear Mr. Cornwell, It often seems the case that the greatest military leaders are men you would least suspect of great leadership skills during peacetime. In all your research and writing, have you formed any opinions on what qualities a great military leader must have?
Stephen Hall

A

I think it's probably true that in peacetime a lot of men get promoted because of their administrative skills and, of course, their ability to brown-nose the politicians and more senior officers. Then, in war, the guys you really need come through. The obvious example is McClellan, the Union leader in the American civil war, who was a superb administrator and a hopeless general, while Grant was more or less the opposite. Then, just to refute that, you have Lee, who did well in peace and war. Wellington was a good enough politician to thrive outside of war, so he's another exception, but I think the general rule holds. Probably the greatest skill of a general is not being afraid to make a decision. I think it was Frederick the Great who said that the greatest sin was not making the wrong decision, but making no decision, and there have probably been hundreds of occasions when the decision itself was not important, but making the choice was and then providing the leadership to make that choice work. Napoleon always said that you threw men into battle and then you discovered what would happen, so it seems to me that a successful general has to have various qualities; a command of the logistics is very important (men can't fight if you don't get them to the battlefield with food, weapons and ammunition), and he must have the ability to make a decision on inadequate and confusing information, and then have the character to impose his vision of events on the enemy.


Q

Mr Cornwell, first of all I am a fan.I have all the books in the Sharpe's series, read and enjoyed Stonehenge, Harlequin and more to come I hope. My question might be a bit off topic but I am 95% sure that I saw you at the opening of the new War musem in Ottawa Canada last year, Was I dreaming or...was it you that ran up and down that big building for 3 hours (you were wearing a red coat or shirt. At the time I was re-reading Sharpe's Tiger). Mario Belisle

A

Nope, not me! Don't have any red shirts or coats - so it must have been my doppelganger.


Q

I liked the excerpt you included on Lords of the North and I noticed Father Beocca remains a character in the novel. I expect he may be a fixture throughout all the books. My favorite priest were Willibald and Pyrlig and I'd like to know if either of them will make an appearance in the next book Also, I just finished a biography of Alfred which mentioned that he had five children. Along with Aethelflaed and Edward, there was a daughter who marries Baldwin of Flanders and thus was an ancester of the Norman kings. So in a sense, Alfred's line didn't die out. Will any of this be brought out in future books or will Uhtred's story be complicated enough? Ann Madonna

A

Willibald returns in Lords of the North, though he has a fairly brief role to play. Beocca's there, of course. Pyrlig isn't, not because I'm abandoning him, but because I plan to use him in later books and there wasn't any real reason for him to be involved with events in Northumbria. Another couple to keep an eye on are Father Erkenwald and Asser, both of whom will return to plague Uhtred.


Q

A few years ago you were due to make a trip to Truro in Cornwall for an evening talk and book signing. Unfortunately you had to cancel. Have you any plans to return to Cornwall in the future ?? Shaun Hosking

A

It's not on the schedule at the moment - but anything is possible. Check the Diary page on occasion as all appearances will be listed there.


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