I’ll start snippeting the next RCN novel from David Drake today. It’ll be posted both here and in Authors. The book is scheduled for publication in March 2008.
WHEN THE TIDE RISES – snippet 1:
WHEN THE TIDE RISES
by David Drake
To John Lambshead, my guide to many of the places I've used in this and other recent books;
And the man who changed the way I look at nematodes.
Dan Breen continues as my first reader, catching instances where the subject and verb don't agree, infelicities of phrasing, and not infrequently size issues. He's enough bigger than me (and than most people) that he'll do till a real giant comes around.
Dorothy Day and Karen Zimmerman archived my texts, a safety measure that takes a considerable weight off my mind. In fact, none of the computers I blew up this time were my primary work computer… but they could've been. Unless simultaneous asteroids hit Seattle and Indianapolis, I'd still have been able to proceed without losing a beat. (I'm not daring anybody when I say that. Really, I'm not.)
Dorothy also provided continuity help on dates and character names. This is invaluable.
Whereas Evan Ladouceur handled naval continuity, which is also invaluable. I have a team of remarkable experts.
Which of course includes Karen, my webmaster and the person who researches things for me in an eyeblink. She was not the model for Adele Mundy, but she's a real human example of how truly remarkable a trained research librarian is.
I mentioned blowing up computers, pretty much as usual. My son Jonathan twice rebuilt my desktop unit and kept me operational. I honestly don't know what it is about me and computers; I'm really a very gentle person who wants only the best for his machines.
One oddity that occurred with this book is that I was asked to use the names of various people in the text. (The technical term is Tuckerizing, named for the fan and author Wilson Tucker who popularized the practice in the 1930s.) Having a long list of real names is handy for a writer, especially for a writer like me who likes to name characters rather than referring to them by epithets alone (the tall cop; the doctor; etc).
I should emphasize that I used only the names, not the characters of the persons themselves. In many cases, that's a Good Thing.
My wife Jo bore up nobly, fed me amazingly well, and tramped around warships, castles, tanks (quite a number of tanks) and various other places while I researched the novel.
I owe a great deal to all of the above people and to many more as well. There are times I find life pretty difficult. Without my network of friends and family, it'd be–for me–literally impossible. Thank you all.
The genesis of my RCN novels was Patrick O’Brian’s wonderful Aubrey/Maturin series, set during and after the Napoleonic Wars. It therefore won’t surprise many of you to find a number of plot points common to O’Brian’s last novels and When the Tide Rises. This is a case of convergent evolution, however, rather than direct borrowing on my part: we’re both working from Lord Cochrane’s memoirs of service under the revolutionary governments of Chili (sic) and Brazil.
Jack Aubrey and Daniel Leary are supporting independence movements as agents of their governments. In reality, the British government threatened Cochrane with prosecution if he accepted the Chilean offer, and the British warships which Cochrane encountered during his operations against the Spanish empire baulked him at every possible opportunity.
Mr O’Brian isn’t around to ask, but I suspect we diverge from Cochrane’s reality for the same reason. If you’re writing a series, you create an enormous problem for yourself if your hero is seen as a traitor by his government. Cochrane himself returned to favor, but it took more than thirty years for that to happen.
Lord Cochrane was skilled, intelligent, and personally brave. Having said that, his memoirs often make uncomfortable reading. It’s not that he was too stupid to see the political ramifications of his actions; rather, he looked on such considerations as unworthy of a superior being like himself. The political disasters which follow military victories throughout Cochrane's career, with the Royal Navy and then with foreign governments, seem to the reader as inevitable as night following day.
Cochrane frequently says about the people with whom he dealt, “He swore to do something, but he didn’t carry through on his promises.” After a while, I became exasperated with this nonsense. Cochrane was an extremely intelligent and experienced man who must have expected the bad result. As with a woman who's married three abusive drunks in a row, there's more involved than bad luck or even bad judgment.
But what that means is that Cochrane was unwilling to work within the system when his undoubted brilliance made it possible for him to have done so. It is equally true that the systems he was involved with were deeply flawed–the Royal Navy in the early 19th century, and the South American revolutionary governments.
What comes through powerfully in every English memoir I've read involving Latin America at that time is that almost none of the players (Bolivar may have been a exception) had a concept of a nation that was greater than the individual's own clan/family/tribe ruling as many of its neighbors as possible. Consistently when a region revolted from the colonial power (Spain or Portugal), the districts revolted from the capital and then the wealthy magnates revolted from the district government (which was generally run by one of the several powerful families in that district). The magnates than spent their time in burning out rival magnates.
If you've been following Latin American politics for the past fifty years or so (I suspect the problems go much farther back, but I personally don't), you might reasonably come to the conclusion that nothing much has changed. For even more vivid modern examples of clan-based politics, consider Iraq and Afghanistan.
The business of When the Tide Rises is taken largely from real events in Chile, Peru, and Brazil. The major naval action, however, is based on the 1811 Battle of Lissa. (The 1866 Battle of Lissa is fascinating, but in fiction you couldn't make one side as incompetent as the historical losing side was. As one example, the gun crews of the defeated flagship forgot to load shells and therefore fought the battle firing blank charges.)
I write to entertain readers, not to advance a personal or political philosophy (I don't have a political philosophy); nonetheless, my fiction is almost always based on historical models. When you read When the Tide Rises, you might occasionally think about today's news and remember that it'll be tomorrow's history.
Heaven knows, I thought about the news while I was writing.
When the sands are all dry, he is gay as a lark,
And will talk in contemptuous tones of the Shark:
But, when the tide rises and sharks are around,
His voice has a timid and tremulous sound.
Alice's Recitation (from Alice in Wonderland)
CHAPTER 1: Xenos on Cinnabar
Commander Daniel Leary sipped whiskey from a glass with the Quenzer monogram as he surveyed his fellow guests; he held his lips in a neutral smile. He didn't know any of those present except for Miranda Dorst, his 'plus one', but Sarah Sterret, the brunette wearing a diamond tiara, looked vaguely familiar.
Vaguely familiar. Mistress Sterret wasn't bad looking, but she hadn't seen thirty in a while. Her husband Nathan Sterret, a senior captain who was part of the complement of Navy House, needn't fear that the dashing Commander Leary would stray into his pastures.
Besides, Daniel was with Miranda now.
"Thank you, my good man," Miranda said as she took the faintly fizzy drink she'd ordered from an offered tray. She smiled, every inch the gracious lady.
Daniel swelled with pride. She fitted perfectly into this gathering; fitted better than a country boy like him, truth to tell, for all that the Dorsts, mother and daughter, had made the simple black dress she was wearing. They and Miranda's late brother Timothy had lived in straitened circumstances ever since the early death of Captain Dorst, but class will tell.
The hostess gave a tiny nod; the footman in the doorway tapped the silver bell in his left hand.
"Please join me in the dining room," said Dame Cathleen Quenzer, a tall woman of sixty-odd who made her bulk look imposing rather than soft. "You'll find cards at your places."
Her politeness went no deeper than the words. Daniel had heard warrant-officer trainers at the Academy shout, "Hop it, you miserable worms!" and sound less certain that they'd be obeyed.
"We're all here, then?" said the extremely handsome young man. He seemed to be with Senator Forbes, the chair of the Finance Committee. She was a small woman but birdlike only if you were thinking of hawks. Daniel doubted the relationship was grandmother and grandson, though the age difference made that possible. "It doesn't seem very many. Eight?"
Andrew Cummins glanced back over his shoulder as he entered the dining room. "Cathleen follows the old maxim that guests at a dinner party should number more than the Graces and fewer than the Muses, dear boy," he said.
Smirking he added, "That's three and nine, if you were wondering. I don't suppose you have much experience of the Muses, though your grace is beyond question."
Cummins too was a senator, though not nearly as powerful as Forbes. His fame came from being the most successful criminal advocate in Xenos–and thereby on the hundred and more stars owing allegiance to the Republic of Cinnabar.
Cinnabar citizens didn't like to think of themselves as ruling an empire, but Daniel had studied enough history at the Naval Academy to know that was the reality. The fact didn't concern him, of course. He was an officer of the Republic of Cinnabar Navy, and he'd carry out any orders his superiors in the RCN gave him. If he'd been interested in philosophy, he'd be in another line of work.
Besides, being ruled by the Cinnabar Senate was better by any standard than being being a citizen of the so-called Alliance of Free Stars and living under the thumb of Guarantor Porra. The Alliance wouldn't stop expanding of its own will, but it could be stopped. The RCN had been doing a very good job of that, and the medals on both breasts of Daniel's Dress Whites proved to anyone who saw him that he'd taken an active part of that process.
"Commander?" said a footman obsequiously. "I'll guide you to your seat, if you will."
"Yes, of course," Daniel said. Another servant was murmuring to Miranda; even Cummins, obviously a regular at these dinners, was being escorted.
Daniel found it interesting that the servants wore not the cream-and-russet livery of the late Senator Quenzer but the orange-and-azure of Dame Cathleen's own family, the D'Almeidas. He wasn't interested in Society in the sense that Dame Cathleen was, but he was the son of Corder Leary, once Speaker of the Senate and even now one of the most powerful members of that body. Families and family alliances had been matters of life and death when Speaker Leary crushed the Three Circles Conspiracy seventeen years ago.
The rectangular table wouldn't have seated more than eight diners comfortably, nor would a larger table have fit the room. There was an assembly hall on the second floor–Daniel had attended a rout at Quenzer House two years before when he was an up-and-coming lieutenant–but at the time he couldn't have imagined he'd be invited to one of the intimate dinners for which Dame Cathleen was famous.
Let alone that he'd be seated to the right of his hostess, with Senator Forbes to his own right. Captain Sterret was at the end of the row. Miranda was across the table from him, sitting beside Cummins.
From the way the attorney smirked as he spoke to Miranda in a low voice, he fancied himself a ladies' man. He must be corseted to fit into his coat and dazzling vest, and that made his red face bulge the more. Miranda laughed lightly and avoided eye contact, sipping from the glass she'd brought to the table while looking toward Captain Sterret.
Sarah Sterret–why did she look familiar?–was opposite Daniel. He couldn't read her expression as she watched him, but it was something more than polite curiosity. Mind, he was used to drawing women's attention when he glittered in full dress, but he wasn't at all sure Sterret's look was positive.
The steward at the sideboard beside the doorway began ladling the soup course into bowls. Senator Forbes had brought servants for herself and her pretty boy, but the remaining guests would be served by the household staff.
Hogg had accompanied Daniel and Miranda to the dinner, but he was in the kitchen now… or possibly in the butler's pantry, looking over the bottled goods with an eye for kick rather than for delicate bouquet. Daniel wouldn't trade Hogg for a hundred ordinary footmen, but bringing him into this dining room would demolish all his hopes of gaining allies in what he was being forced to view as his battle with Navy House.
"You're recently back on Cinnabar, are you not, Commander?" Dame Cathleen said. "From some sort of hush-hush derring-do, I'm sure?"
Daniel set down his whiskey–well, the last sip of his whiskey–and said, "Oh, nothing whatever romantic, Dame Cathleen. It was an advisory mission to the back of beyond, deep into Ganpat's Reach, if that means anything to you. No reason it should, of course."
"No doubt you gathered some more pretty medals, though, haven't you, Commander?" said Sarah Sterret archly. She glanced around her fellow guests with an icy smile. "Commander Leary seems to have a new medal every time you see him."
She leaned forward slightly to look down the table at Miranda. "Medals and other sorts of trophies, that is."
Oh my God, I have met her! Daniel realized. Though he hadn't paid much attention to her at the time, which was at least part of the problem. Was she married then?
That'd been several years ago when he was just back from a triumph on Kostroma that'd made him a nine-days wonder. It'd been at a ball, not here at Quenzer House but in a similar venue. She was with a cute blonde named Bobbi, Bobbi… well, it didn't matter. He and Bobbi hadn't really been on a last-name basis.
Daniel'd known at the time that Mistress Sterret wasn't best pleased by the way he'd ignored her increasingly blatant suggestions, but good heavens! Had she really thought that he'd be interested in a woman her age?
Apparently she had, and here she was across the small table from him. And–he glanced sidelong at Dame Cathleen, who wore an impish smile–his hostess had probably been aware of the fact when she made up the dinner invitations. People often became whimsical when they had considerable power and no proper outlet for it.
Corder Leary had never been whimsical.
"Why no, mistress, I don't believe there'll be any medals," Daniel said easily. The best way he could see to handle the situation was to be polite and a trifle distant; the last thing he needed was to raise the emotional temperature. "Nor is there any call for them. It was just an ordinary advisory mission, the sort of duty that goes to officers who're between ships."
He smiled wider and included the whole table in it.
"As I still am, I'm afraid," he went on. "Though I'm hopeful Navy House will find a way for me to serve the Republic again soon."
Daniel hadn't exactly been a protégé of Admiral Anston, the former Chief of the Navy Board, but Anston had seemed to see in Daniel the sort of cleverness that'd brought him to wealth and the leadership of the RCN.
But Anston had retired abruptly after a heart attack. The new Chief, Admiral Vocaine, viewed as an enemy anyone whom he saw as having been close to his predecessor.
Daniel grinned despite himself. Unfortunately, he wasn't powerful enough to really count as Vocaine's enemy.
The servants set bowls of oxtail soup before the guests with the precision of a drill team. Dame Cathleen was likely as stern as any Land Forces drillmaster. If she didn't herself correct errors with a baton, that was simply because she had senior servants to whip the footmen for her.
"Hmmph!" snorted Captain Sterret, staring fixedly at his soup as he thrust his spoon into it. "A lot of young officers think the Personnel Bureau should make assignments for their convenience, not the RCN's. Why–"
He raised his eyes and swept the table. His jaw twitched as his gaze passed over Daniel, but he didn't linger to glare.
"–you wouldn't believe the demands some of them make. Demands!"
"Ah, but Commander Leary isn't simply another young officer, is he, Captain?" said Cummins. "Why–"
He was speaking to the whole table, but he shifted his eyes from Sterret to Daniel, who'd been looking toward the ormolu-and-crystal light fixture on the opposite wall. It was a remarkably ornate thing which nonetheless seemed to work as well as a simpler unit at providing diffuse illumination.
There was nothing wrong with looking pretty, of course, so long as it didn't affect function. He'd had the name of his yacht, the Princess Cecile, inlaid in gold on her bow. Anybody who thought the Sissie couldn't see off an opponent of anything close to her tonnage hadn't read the log of her service under Daniel Leary.
"–even as we speak there's a documentary showing at all the best playhouses in Xenos: The Conquest of Dunbar's World. That, Commander, that isn't the sort of thing that happens after an ordinary advisory mission."
The spoon in Daniel's hand jumped. Hogg'd burn him a new one if he slopped soup on his Dress Whites.
"What?" he said. "You're joking!"
"Oh, come, Commander!" said Sarah Sterret. "Do you expect us to believe that you weren't aware of the play? It's been quite the sensation all over Cinnabar. All over the dependent worlds, I shouldn't wonder."
Daniel set down his spoon. "I hope you'll believe me, Madame," he said. "Because it's the truth."
He paused. "On my honor as a Leary of Bantry."
"I think it's just terrible the way the playwrights make things up," said Miranda brightly. "And they put real people's names on what's all lies. Andrew, couldn't there be a law to keep them from doing that?"
She turned to the man beside her and simpered, an expression which Daniel wouldn't have believed she was capable of before he saw it. "Couldn't you propose something? I'm sure the Senate would pass it if you proposed it."
Daniel spooned up more oxtail soup; Dame Cathleen's chef was as skilled as one would expect.
Miranda had just defused what could very easily have led to a duel, for all that by RCN regulation both Daniel and Captain Sterret would have to resign their commissions in order to fight one. Uniquely among the girls with whom Daniel'd kept company, she was very clever.
"I scarcely think I have such influence in the Senate, my dear," Cummins said dryly. "I'm sure Senator Forbes would agree with me there. Besides, there doesn't seem to be any harm done. Even if the play's a complete lie, it's a positive lie, isn't it?"