I must tell you that the service is not designed for those that wish to gather beetles and henbane on some far coral strand and that grow snappish and petulant when desired to mind their duty.
No amount of such teasing can dent Stephen’s delight in his diving bell, and during a perilous mission to stop a French bribe reaching the ruler of Mubara in the Red Sea, Jack will be very glad of it. It is a mission which seems to have been betrayed, however. The French have many agents, and having a long score to settle with Stephen Maturin, they will stop at nothing to infiltrate his intelligence network. There are spies not only amongst his friends but in the highest echelons of the naval command itself, and this book marks the beginning of an intricate and deadly battle of wits.
Read more about the life and work of Patrick O'Brian
When discussing past battles (as naval officers are very fond of doing) salt, pieces of bread and even the occasional passing weevil are often used to represent ships, headland and wind direction. Very useful adjuncts, no doubt, but for our readers, we thought perhaps some battle plans might be preferable. We commissioned author and naval historian Brian Lavery (formerly curator of Maritime History at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich) to draw up accurate battle plans of each of Aubrey’s major engagements. With a clear understanding of wearing, tacking, yawing, raking fire and rolling broadsides, let alone his expert knowledge of the ships and waters in which Aubrey campaigned, Lavery has been able to create plans which make manoeuvres plain even to the understanding of mere landsmen.
Brian Lavery has been a fan of Patrick O’Brian since he found Master and Commander in his local library, but over the years his association has become closer. He tells an endearingly self-deprecating anecdote of the time when Patrick O’Brian had written the foreword to his acclaimed history, Nelson’s Navy. A man in the British Library recognised Lavery, only to say: ‘Aren’t you the chap who’s just had a book published with a foreword by Patrick O’Brian?’ Lavery has sailed and travelled extensively in many of the areas best-known to Captain Aubrey – and has even organised tours to sites, including O’Brian’s home in Collioure.
Lavery’s plans begin with a careful reading of the book. Obviously if the battle is fictitious, this is the only source of information, but since most are based on real battles, Lavery normally goes back to printed sources, published not long after the events they describe. Where there are inconsistencies (as was the case with a particularly tricky encounter in Post Captain), Lavery looks up the original letters in the National Archives to clarify specific points. The battle is then broken up into stages with explanatory labels, before the sketches are handed to artist Neil Gower to be drawn up. We are very proud of the results – the spectacular engagement with the Jemmapes is splendidly realised in The Ionian Mission, while the stages of battle at Jedid Bay and Zambra in Treason’s Harbour, are laid out step by thrilling step.