Your Questions

Q

Over the last 3 years or so you have become my favorite author. I have now read all your books except the one off novels. I am currently reading the Last Kingdom and am struck by a certain linked theme to the 3 Arthur books. In the Arthur books you featured the conflict between the Britons and invading germanic peoples, Last Kingdom is set during the conflicts between the 'English' and the Danes. Both periods of history are so key to the nature of present day Britain. In a similar fashion the Roman invasion of Britain and the Norman conquest are important. Any chance of novels set at these periods?
William Allen

A

I've given it some thought - but no plans for either at the moment.


Q

Dear Bernard, I must say that you are my favorite author, and I do read quite a bit. My favorites are the Arthur books and I've read them several times; of course I love Sharpe and Thomas of Hookton also. I can understand ending the Grail Quest but I would like to ask if you have given thought to a "prequel" to the Grail Quest. I could see you doing amazing things with the Cathars, Montsegur, the early Vexille family, and the Dark Lords. I find the Albinginsian Crusade to be endlessly intriquing (much to the chagrin of my Catholic wife!!!). I understand you will be busy for years on the new project and am anxiously awaiting book number two in October (Maybe January in the States), but hope that perhaps the Dark Lords can lure you into telling their story. Best regards and continued health and success. Mark Chapman

A

Sounds good! I'll think on it!


Q

Hi Bernard! Why do the redcoats have to "aim low" when the enemy approaches? Did the green jackets have to do so as well? Is it the way that the musket ball flies?

It seems ironic to me that a revolutionary society like France during the early 19th century would hold so conservatively to the column formation when fighting England. You describe a variant column/line manuever that they tried in one of your books. Did they ever win a battle against England by using the column? Did they just use the column because of their conscript army?
Thanks. Your books have added hundreds of hours of happiness to my life. James

A

Raw troops seemed to fire high - probably because they aimed straight enough, but the musket's kick jerked the barrel up enough to affect the trajectory - so they were constantly being reminded to aim low. Riflemen? Probably not, because they went through intensive aiming and firing training, so by the time they deployed they probably knew their business. But you didn't really 'aim' a musket. You pointed it and let fly, because it's so inaccurate - the deadliness of a musket was volley fire, but not if the balls flew over the enemy's head.

They used the column because of their conscript army. It took an immense amount of time to train troops to the complicated manouevers needed to go from column to line, line to columns, either to square and so on, and Napoleon liked to get his levies into battle fast, and it was much easier to train them to attack in column rather than in line - especially as holding the dressing of a line during manouevers is extraordinarily difficult. And remember that the column had been immesnely successful for Napoleon when facing Austrian, Prussian and Russian armies. It had a huge psychological advantage - the men in the column felt they were part of an overwhelming mass, and their enemies saw it as an unstoppable juggernaut. Napoleon chided his generals for using the column against British troops - he said they should have softened up the British with massed artillery (which rather ignored Wellington's preferred tactic of sheltering his men from cannon fire by positioning them on a reverse slope). At Waterloo the French columns were supposed to deploy into line at the last moment - thus they could advance fast in a column and then, when the firefight began, deploy outwards, but British musket fire was simply too much and the deployment never took place. I can't think of an occasion when a French column beat a British line - though they certainly came close at Talavera and during the counter-attack at Salamanca


Q

Did your or more to point, 'our' Wellington regard Sharpe as his man/champion or did he only look on him as a last resort man, a man for the 'suicide' missions. From reading the books it's obvious that there's respect, but was 'our' Wellington secretly pleased he proved all the snobs wrong? Also, regarding the snobs, did you make a conscious effort to show that there should be more respect for a man who's worked his way to the top, rather than bought his way. As Sharpe was always looked down on as 2nd class even though he was a more capable officer than most!! Lastly do you believe the real Sir Henry was capable of the foul deeds he committed in Sharpe's Eagle and Regiment? - I hope answering that doesn't offend any descendents etc. Tke good care sir and if you're taking one, enjoy your summer break. Lee

A

Sir Henry is based on officers who did those foul deeds! So yes. As to Wellington and Sharpe, I suspect they quite liked each other, but neither would ever dream of demonstrating that. Wellington probably rather resents being beholden to Sharpe, which will make him tart, but Sharpe has an obvious respect for Wellington, mainly because he recognises the man's sheer quality.


Q

hello Mr Comwell, I have read all of your Sharpe books, and reread them several times. I have been wondering, how in Sharpe's Honour the south essex can get a new captain for the light co. if Sharpe isnt a "real" major as you said in Sharpe's Seige. Thank you for taking time to read this and I look forward to reading many more of your books. Chris

A

It's all to do with the rather complicated procedures of promotion. The basic method was by purchase; you literally bought your way up the ladder. If an officer sells his commission to another officer, then a third man can't get the job by merit promotion, because that makes nonsense of the financial transaction. That, to us, seems like nonsense, and so it is, but there you go. You could get brevert promotion (Sharpe does). A brevet promotion did not involve money, and a man could be boosted up a rank, but he still kept his old rank. So Sharpe, as a Captain, can be breveted Major, and though he acts as a major, and is given the wages of a major, and wears a major's uniform, as soon as his major's job ends he reverts to being a captain again. By Waterloo there were lieutenants who served as Lieutenant-Colonels, but went tumbling back down the ranks afterwards because their higher rank was brevet. That's more or less why, and I know it's complicated.


Q

thanks for the arthur and thomas stories!-what about john twelve hawks and the book 'the traveller' including, it is said, a group of characters called the harlequin!?-best richard

A

Afraid I've never heard of it - but I'll look for it, thank you.


Q

Dear Bernard Such great novels! I am steadily working my way through your inventory, though slowly, as I sadly have too little time to read and like to read widely. I would say that the Grail Quest series is my favourite of your books, as it's my favourite period of history, though when I open another Sharpe, I feel at home. Certainly looking forward to the next instalment! One question: As a keen writer myself (only for pleasure - no plans to publish) I am constantly amazed by some of the things the pros so effortlessly achieve. For example, the thing that sticks most in my mind from the Sharpe series is Sergeant Hakeswill's catchphrase, "Says so in the scriptures." I have tried to introduce similar things into my own writing, but have always abandoned them as sounding too contrived. Just wondering if you remember how you thought of that catchphrase. Was it something you spent a long time dreaming up, or did it just spring to mind? Keep up the good work and all the best. Chris. PS. Any plans to tour Australia soon?

A

Honestly don't know. These things just come. Wish I could be more helpful! Sorry - Australia's not in the plans at the moment.


Q

Hi there - yet more questions about Warlord I'm afraid! How do you actually pronounce Nimue? And what do you think happened to her after Camlann? Adam

A

Nim-you-ay. And I've never wondered what happened to her. A nice question, but alas, not one I can answer!


Q

I just finished reading The Last Kingdom and I loved it. This is one of my favorite periods of English history and I've found so little fiction written about it. In particular, I always thought that the most extraordinary person from this time was Elthelflaed, the Lady of the Mercians. I hope that she will be featured in some of your future novels.

I am rereading The Last Kingdom and enjoying it just as much as the first time. One thing I'm wondering about is the depiction of Alfred's wife, Ellswith. You aren't very flattering about her character. Is there really very much known about her? She is the mother and grandmother of some very amazing characters. Isn't it unusual for women to be mentioned at all in this time period?
Thank you for such an enjoyable read. Ann Madonna

A

She's there, in The Last Kingdom! Very young, of course, just a baby, and in the next book, The Pale Horseman, she appears again, but still only a child. I think you can guarantee that if she's present in those early books then I intend to use her in later ones - indeed, I've long known that she's the heroine of the whole series!

We know next to nothing about her - and I've probably been unfair to her. We do know she came from northern Mercia and that her father was an ealdorman. It was fairly usual for high-born women to be mentioned, because they had status, so we have the names of many noble and royal wives. We know a lot about Aelswith's daughter, Ethelflaed, because she became the Lady of Mercia and led armies against the Danes. We know a fair bit about some prominent abbesses. But it was still a man's world, and how.


Q

This question may be an obvious one but the Patrick Lassan of Cooperhead is made out to be a relation to Sharpe yet he seems to have gone through conflict and I was wondering what conflict that was? Jack Upton

A

Probably the Crimean War!


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