Blown off CourseAstrodene's Historic Naval fiction is pleased to have obtained an Interview with David Donachie who's new book Blown Off Course is now available in Hardcover in the UK and will be released in the US on 15 February 2011.

What can you tell us about Pearce's new adventures in Blown Off Course without spoiling the plot for readers?

For those who don’t know the series, John Pearce, the reluctant naval officer, is on a mission to secure the freedom of his friends, those with whom he was illegally press-ganged in the Pelican Tavern.

Back from the Mediterranean he has gone to the Admiralty to seek protections for the Pelicans, believing them to be safe on a ship Portsmouth. But unbeknownst to him, a malignant fate has intervened and cast them ashore without any safeguard from the law or the Press Gang, leaving them only one option, to get back to the part of London known as the Liberties of the Savoy, where they are secure from arrest.

Still in pursuit of the man who pressed them all, Captain Ralph Barclay, Pearce discovers he lacks the funds to get him into a court on a charge of perjury, while the written evidence that proves his perjury is, Pearce believes, lost.

Still in pursuit of the man who pressed them all, Captain Ralph Barclay, Pearce discovers he lacks the funds to get him into a court on a charge of perjury, while the written evidence that proves his perjury is, Pearce believes, lost.

But a fortuitous meeting with a businessman presents an interesting financial opportunity for him. There is a risk involved and it is not entirely legal, but if John Pearce is anything, he is enterprising, and the task he has undertaken requires all the ingenuity he can muster.

>At the same time as he is seeking to bring down Ralph Barclay, the captain’s young wife, Emily, enters a plea that Pearce should drop the case. Yet in meeting him she finds not the ogre she expects, but a man so different from her cruel husband, leading to confused feelings...

Serving with the army and Horatio Nelson in Corsica, Midshipman Toby Burns is frightened (when is he not?). He is sure everyone is trying to get him killed because he knows too much.

Ralph Barclay’s must tackle the issue of his wife Emily who wants nothing more to do with him. Can he solve this issue? Can he get a new ship and at the same time can he keep the peculations of the slimy Cornelius Gherson in check?

The Pearce series takes place within a relatively short time period when compared with other naval fiction series. Has this caused any particular problems or provided any surprises when writing it?

When I sold the first John Pearce, I was asked how many novels the series might run to and answered, in an off-hand way, “around twelve” and where are we?

I have set five books in the first year of a 22-year conflict (with a short pause). I leave your readers to make the calculation.

The surprise is in the amount of story I can tell in such a short time span but I am, and this was the intention from the beginning, following various characters, besides John Pearce: Ralph and Emily Barclay, Midshipman Toby Burns (a coward so adept at appearing heroic), the slimy Cornelius Gherson and various members of the Pelicans to provide a more comprehensive picture of the time in which they lived.

Added to that, the narrative is continuous, in reality just one big book split into parts: each story tends to pick up at or very near to the point where the last one finished. I have a whole series of lives laid out inside my head – full of ups and downs and the surprise is how much fun it affords.

What drew you to write your first novel?

I sat down to write a radio play set in Wormwood Scrubs Prison – the idea of novel writing never entered my head, but I penned the word Wormwood, and then carried on to say, “It has to be admitted that Wormwood is a strange name for a naval officer, given ships are made of wood and their greatest enemy is worm.”

Thirty days later I had a 400-page novel, that subsequently bought by a publisher, but, having acquired an agent, and been told he could get me a three-book deal, we sent it to every other publisher in London. No one wanted it and, after it had been flogged round the houses, neither did the original editor. That novel, a sea story by the way, remains unpublished after 18 years.

But I had learned I could write. I wrote two other novels, one set backstage in the theatre where I have worked for years, full of technical know-how and, in fact, a murder of a person I would have happily seen off in real life. No one bought it! The other novel, The Devil’s Own Luck was set aboard an 18th Century Man o’ War and the rest is history.

How far into the future have you planned the adventures of Pearce and the Pelicans?

There is so much to write about I cannot see it ending – it goes on until 1815 - and I think, at one book a year, I may expire before the story.

What intrigues you about the period in which Pearce lived?

There never has been such a war, where a youngster could begin as a 13-year-old midshipman and end it as a senior captain, perhaps even an admiral. The Royal Navy fought battles worldwide over five oceans in which individuals had to act independently of authority and live with the consequences of their errors, as well as the plaudits that might come with success. It terms of stories there is an abundance not a dearth.

Where did your interest in the sea originate?

Reading others: Marrayat, Forrester, O’Brian etc.

How do you undertake your research?

Often after the story is written, with the caveat that the setting is one in which the facts are known – the siege of Toulon for instance. I am grafting a fictional character on to actual historical events, which are not difficult to discover. For technical information it is books, the internet and in some cases supposition based on lack of alternatives.

Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?

People often say to me, that they have an idea for a book. My reply is I have about three ideas a day and that includes my novels as Tom Connery and Jack Ludlow. I wish I had time to write them all, and it is my sincere hope that those of your readers who enjoy my work, wish so too. The only certainty is I love doing it and have no plans to stop.


Blown Off Course is published by Allison & Busby.



© 2008-2024 David Hayes (Astrodene)