Remind me why I do this job?

Ah, yes, that would be the research.  That is to say research for my historical novels.

I know there are those who read perhaps two or three books and then feel themselves qualified to launch into the writing of a work.

And I applaud them.  Or envy them.  Probably both.

I don’t share this methodology, however.

My research for May 1812 led me to…well…read something like one hundred books…as well as the newspapers and journals of the period, simply because I couldn’t get my hands on or perhaps my mind around what really happened when Prime Minister Perceval was assassinated.

I wanted the facts, you see.  And they weren’t easily come by. 

(Perhaps I have some terrier blood somewhere in my ancestry?)

Anyway.  Here we are now about to approach book 3, otherwise known as the Contractually Obligated Novel, or The Con.


And in my authorial wisdom and wish to explore something that hasn’t yet been touched on fictionally, in English, as far as I can tell, I’m heading into the Italy of the Risorgimento.  That is to say, Italy under French rule, circa 1812-13.

From thence, I thought I’d get interesting, and head off to Vienna, where exciting things were happening, diplomatically, musically, etc.

Hence lots of room for more spying.  (I do like writing spies.  Have I mentioned that?)

And people have this barking idea that between the Retreat from Moscow in 1812 and Waterloo in 1815, there was nothing but a lot of British success on the Peninsula, but nothing else going on to take down Napoleon.  Which is just so wrong!  Or put another way, the very opposite of the truth.

The only problem is…well, it’s the Perceval problem all over again.

There’s nothing.

Nothing beyond a few vague mentions that there was an Italy during this period (thank you, folks, I had worked that out).  And Napoleon imprisoned the pope for a while, emptied the Venetian treasury and stole the Horses of St. Mark’s to sit atop the Arc du Carrousel in Paris–a little like stars on an oversize Christmas tree.

Then, yes, there was still an Austrian Empire at this time, and a chappie who thought himself quite wonderful but was a triple-crossing so-and-so by the name of Metternich was holding sway in Vienna.

Ask me if there are any worthwhile biographies of this chappie in English, why don’t you?  (Don’t want to hear my scatalogical response, is that it?)

(And no, I don’t wish to read a biography of the fellow in German–my German isn’t that good, for one thing, and I’m not convinced I wish it to be that good either.  At least, not for that reason.)

However, I must say that for Christmas, I was kindly given a book–the cover of which proclaims it to be, Metternich, the Glorious:  The Biography of a Very Important Man. 

And inside was this note:  “Owing to a re-evaluation of History, it transpires that Metternich is not in fact quite as important as he thought he was.  We apologise for any damage this many cause to his Germanic self-esteem and present herewith a history of Italy.”

So, yes, I have received one history of modern Italy.  From a family member with a sense of humour.  The which may answer a question or two.  But more than likely, it will set me on a quest to discover what really happened.

Still.  At least I shall afford my family and friends the amusment of watching me dig and dig and dig…and somewhere in the rubble piles of all my research, I trust the new novel will begin to emerge.

And now, I do believe it’s time to sabotage the swear box in my book room.  Ahem.

13 comments on “Remind me why I do this job?

  1. cavalrytales says:

    I sympathise, really I do. In all my cavalry reading, the only reference I found to shipborne horse transport of the time is this.
    ‘My bay horse (Bob), as he was in the slings, twice kicked himself out and was near to being lost. He stood on the deck of the vessel for some time, while they were putting a fresh pair of slings on him, and nearly killed the second mate of the vessel by knocking him overboard.’
    William Thomkinson, ‘Diary of a Cavalry Officer in the Peninsular and Waterloo Campaigns’. That’s it – one measly mention in God knows how many books. No details, on stalling, feeding, exercise…
    Sorry, I digress – I expect you’ve seen this
    Have fun!

    • M M Bennetts says:

      That’s all right, then. Ha ha ha. Did you ask anybody down at Portsmouth at the Naval Yard there, about it? Or at the Maritime Museum at Greenwich. Colin White, as well as being the expert on Nelson, knows all sorts of useful things.

      I shall be looking up that biog of Metternich. The man drives me bonkers–though I’m not the only one. Dominic Lieven talks a lot about him as does Adam Zamoyski and not complimentarily either. But, like you, it’s all the background details–how they warmed their houses in Austria–open fireplaces? Stoves? And what were the streets of Vienna made of–so often the answers to questions like that turn out not to be what one expects. So I have a slog of work ahead of me, I reckon. Still…

  2. Piotr says:

    You know, reading about your writing journey makes me feel ten times better with mine….

  3. Piotr says:

    Can I have a hard copy of your stories instead? 🙂

  4. Piotr says:

    Got a stuffed monkey, and a question from my parents “So, when you going… tomorrow?” followed by “why are you still here?” hehe

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