Antoine Vanner found himself flattered when nautical novelist Joan Druett described him as the “The Tom Clancy of historic naval fiction”.
He says: “I find the late Victorian era, roughly 1870 to 1900, fascinating because for my baby-boomer generation it’s ‘the day before yesterday’. It’s history that you can almost touch. Our grandparents grew up in that period and you heard a lot from them about it. So much in that time was so similar to what we still have today that you feel you could live easily in it, and then you hit some aspects – especially those associated with social conventions and attitudes – that make it seem wholly alien. It was a time of change on every front – intellectual, scientific, medical, social, political and technological – and yet people seem to have accommodated to these rapid changes very well.”
“A revolution occurred in naval technology,” Vanner says. “The Royal Navy that went to war with Russia in 1854 was virtually unchanged from that of Nelson’s time, but within five decades the World War 1 navy of Dreadnoughts, battle-cruisers, submarines, wireless, the first aircraft carriers was in place and Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty. And individual officers didn’t just live through these changes – they conceived and managed them. Nicholas Dawlish, hero of my Dawlish Chronicles series, is just such an officer and he’ll use the cutting-edge technology of his time to advance his career.”
Vanner’s books – initially Britannia’s Wolf and Britannia’s Reach – play out against a background of growing international tension. There was little open confrontation between the great powers – Britain, France and Russia, with Germany, Japan and the United States catching up – but their rivalries were often played out by proxies, just as the Communist and Western blocks did during the Cold War. And the challenges Dawlish encounters are in such ill-defined and un-admitted jostling for power.
To learn more about Nicholas Dawlish and his world, and to contact Antoine Vanner with your comments and queries, checkout The Dawlish Chronicles.