What can you tell us about Richard Cutler's new adventures in For Love of Country, without spoiling the plot for readers?
For Love of Country is set in the years 1786 to 1789. It is a time when the United States has an ever expanding merchant fleet but no navy to protect its fleet or trade routes. As such, the Barbary States of North Africa prey on American shipping by seizing ships and cargo, and by holding American sailors hostage until ransoms and tributes are paid. One such prisoner is a Cutler family member and Richard Cutler sails to Algiers to try to rescue him and his shipmates. Quickly finding himself in a viper’s den of intrigue and deceit involving many nations, Richard’s schooner fights a vicious battle against two heavily armed Arab xebecs. Victorious at sea, Richard travels to France, his mission to report to John Paul Jones, President Washington’s choice for U.S. emissary to the Barbary States. As the French Revolution erupts, Richard flees Paris in a desperate attempt to save a former lover and her two young daughters from the guillotine.
The book was originally due to be published in Spring 2009 but is now coming out in October. Can you tell us what happened?
Yes I can, and I apologize to so many for the confusion over the publication of this book. In late January of 2009, just six weeks before For Love of Country was to be released, my then publisher, Cumberland House, went out of business. I was as surprised as anyone by this decision, but because Cumberland had posted the original cover of the novel on Amazon months before publication (as most publishers would), the impression in the marketplace was that the book was available. In fact, it was not available then, nor has it been available at any time since then. Fortunately, I have an excellent agent who immediately set about searching for a new publisher. We had several expressions of interest before gratefully settling on the Naval Institute Press. I couldn’t be happier with that decision.
Can you describe your writing path to naval fiction?
I have always been interested in the navy and dreamed as a lad of attending the naval academy. (Alas, a serious high school football injury earned me a 4-F classification.) I have also been a reading addict since my early days, a gift I inherited from my parents and grandparents. So it seemed natural to combine those interests in reading sea stories of all descriptions, including nautical fiction. In the 1970s I joined the Boston firm of Little, Brown & Company, the publisher of C.S. Forester. What a launching pad!
How important is history to your stories?
Nothing is more important. Although I majored in American history in college and I have read many books of historical works since graduation, I invested three years of research before starting chapter 1 of A Matter of Honor. There is more history in these novels than in other works of nautical fiction I have read – in fact, in most works of historical fiction I have read. And this history has been vetted by highly regarded naval historians. Simply put, I believe I have a commitment to my readers to present the history as accurately as possible in every scene of every chapter I write.
How do you undertake your research?
Basically, by reading and taking notes and maintaining files. In doing research for A Matter of Honor, for example, I read perhaps a hundred books, many of them original source material such as the log of Bonhomme Richard, not to mention countless articles on the Internet. Research does not end when I start writing a novel, however. It continues right up to the point of reviewing the final page proofs. I pledged the same dedication to For Love of Country, as I will to every book in the series.
What intrigues you about the period in which Cutler lived?
First, of course, there is the Revolutionary War, a period that has long fascinated me, and in which I concentrated in college. How a ragtag band of farmers, shopkeepers and silversmiths could take on the world's mightiest military on land and sea, and carve out a new country in the process, is truly a saga for the ages.
On a societal level, this period is one in which the notions of loyalty, duty and honor were taken quite seriously. Men duelled and died over a perceived affront to one's honor. While I certainly am not advocating duelling as a means of settling disputes, I salute an era in which a handshake meant something, and a promise, even by a politician, was expected to be fulfilled.
What’s next in the Cutler Family Chronicles series?
At this point, four more novels are planned in the Cutler Family Chronicles. Book III, entitled The Power and the Glory, is set primarily in the West Indies during the Quasi-War with France. That novel is completed and with my agent. Book IV, A Call to Arms, on which I am currently working, is set primarily in the Mediterranean during the war with Tripoli. Book V has as its backdrop the War of 1812, and Book VI, the war against Algiers in 1815. All novels will feature the same supporting cast of characters as is found in Book I, and all novels will emphasize the strong interpersonal relationships that define the Cutler family in both America and England.
For more information on this series, please visit my website: www.bill-hammond.com
Is there anything else you would like to share with readers?
Only that I hope readers will enjoy all the novels in the series and that they will continue to email me with any comments they may have. I sincerely appreciate the many expressions of support I have received to date. They mean everything to me.
For Love of Country will be published in October 2010 by Naval Institute Press and is available for pre-order worldwide.