Category: romance & adventure (page 1 of 2)

FROM AUNTY IVY TO AN OPIUM DEN IN FANG

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

My primary school teacher’s name was Mrs Boyne.

classics illustrated, Colin FalconerShe once told my mother at a parent interview: “Your son is a complete dreamer. He’ll never amount to anything in this life.”

I still think that was a pretty harsh judgment on a seven-year-old.

I was, and am, a dreamer. She got that bit right.

It was about second or third grade that I first read Jules Verne’s Michael Strogoff. To get my hands on it, I had to endure a slobbery wet kiss from my Aunty Ivy, but I considered it well worth it.

By the end of that first afternoon, I was hooked on classic literature. Continue reading

SPACE TRAVEL IN THE 17TH CENTURY

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

Imagine you’re on a flight from Amsterdam to Jakarta.

East India, Jakarta, Batavia, shipwreck Dutch, If you took that same journey in 1628, instead of taking less than a day the journey would take eight months.

That’s how long it currently takes for an unmanned space ship to travel to Mars.

But if you were on of the 4,000 intrepid souls who undertook the trip on a Dutch East India ship every year, it would in fact be very much like traveling to a distant manned space station.

After a seemingly endless and extremely hazardous journey you would arrive at your company’s outpost – in Batavia, now Jakarta – to be greeted by a sour and hard-bitten community of singular individuals, in an alien and hostile environment.

That is if you arrive. First, you have to survive the journey, which is so tedious and so uncomfortable that you will wish cryogenics had been invented. Imagine over three hundred people living and sleeping for eight months in a space not much larger than an interstate bus and you have some idea.

As part of my research I went on board a replica of one of those seventeenth century spaceships, the retourschip Batavia.

I couldn’t even stand up straight below decks. And then there are the bathroom arrangements; the best you can say about them is that they were … novel.

The bathroom was a platform extending from the hull below the stern, the toilet paper a long piece of rope with a frayed end.

You pulled it up to use it; you dropped it back down into the ocean to activate the self-cleaning mode.

East India, Jakarta, Batavia, shipwreck Dutch, During that eight months between Amsterdam and the Spice Islands you would travel through a dangerous and uncharted world.

It would be actually more hazardous than going to Mars today: our navigational systems today far exceed Dutch capabilities in 1628.

For example, skippers back then could calculate latitude with the aid of an astrolabe but had no reliable way to calculate longitude – distance east or west – and relied on experience and dead reckoning.

Often, the skipper’s dead reckoning was out by some considerable distance; it was how one East India Company ship came to be shipwrecked on the Houtman Abrolhos, off the western coast of Australia, over 1400 nautical miles to the south of its intended destination.

Now I’ve visited the Houtman Abrolhos. It’s a great place if you’re a sea eagle or a reclusive seal.

But if you had come from the bustling port of Amsterdam in the seventeenth century and then found yourself abandoned there, it must have seemed like being stranded on – well, the moon.

And rescue?

East India, Jakarta, Batavia, shipwreck Dutch,

the Houtman Abrolhos

As unlikely as Matt Damon getting off the space station in The Martian.

But they did survive, somehow.

What was left of them.

You have to hand it to our ancestors, they were a tough bunch.

They had to be, because as they say – in space, no one can hear you scream.

 

 

East India, Batavia, shipwreck, historical romance, historical fiction, adventure, romance

A fine lady and a beautiful one, traveling alone on an eight month voyage to the other side of the world, on a tiny and overcrowded ship at a time when most navigation was done by “dead reckoning” – guesswork. What could go wrong?

colin falconer, kitty o'kane, historical romance

historical fiction, colin falconer. authors

COLIN FALCONER 

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and the chance to win copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

WERE THE VIKINGS REALLY HAIRY AND HORNY?

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

The Vikings: who were they, what were they?

VIKINGS, ICELAND, GREENLAND, SWEDEN,

SOURCE: helgi-halldorsson

No one seems sure any more.

They have arced from slavering thugs brandishing axes and erections to the revisionist view of them as Renaissance men with short tempers and an interest in gardening and travel.

Or there’s the TV series.

So what do we really know?

Well, let’s start with the obvious things: the horned helmets.

No, they never wore them.

They were first worn as props for the performance of Wagner’s Ring Cycle at the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876.

They were much a part of Viking wardrobe as Mel Gibson’s kilt was to thirteenth century Scots.

VIKINGS, ICELAND, GREENLAND, SWEDEN,

The Vikings only used horns for drinking beer and blowing into as a means of communication: ‘I’m pissed and now I’m coming home.’

Not only did the Vikings not wear horned helmets, they weren’t called Vikings.

‘Viking’ is not a noun, it’s a verb.

Scandinavian men traditionally took time out of their summers to go “vikingr.” The itinerary for such expeditions varied, but the main aim was to turn a profit, either from trade, working as a mercenary, or raiding monasteries and unprotected town for loot and slaves.

Raid or trade, it was all the same to them.

Going vikingr was a summer job. Most of these men, who lived in rural chiefdoms in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, were villagers first, pillagers second and on their return they would resume their agricultural routine.

So were these Norsemen really that violent?

VIKINGS, ICELAND, GREENLAND, SWEDEN, Oh, you bet they were.

There were no sensitive new age Norsemen.

These men were not just warriors, they were very good ones. The Varangian guard of the Byzantine emperors in the 11th century was made up entirely of Swedish warriors.

But this was a violent age and although they were brutal, they weren’t especially … well, severe.

If history has recorded them as barbarians, it is perhaps because the men writing that history – the Christian monks of Britain – were the Norsemen’s prime targets.

The Christian monasteries of the time were unguarded treasure houses of loot and the Norsemen must have enjoyed taking it. Increasingly subject to Christian persecution and forced baptisms in their own lands, the sight of an unarmed monk must have really got the juices flowing.

Payday and payback all at once.

Vikings, Norway, Sweden, Iceland

SOURCE: viciarg

These men not only knew how to use a sword, they knew how to make one.

They were skilled weapon-smiths and made highly prized pattern-welded swords. They were also brilliant navigators, they sailed along rivers into the far reaches of Russia, as far as the Caspian sea, and may have reached as far east as Baghdad.

In fact, the largest body of written sources on the Vikings in the 9th and 10th Century is in Arabic.

And forget Columbus.

The Norsemen already knew about America. They reached Labrador and Newfoundland in the eleventh century and even set up colonies there – after they had already colonised Iceland and Greenland.

They may have been vicious, but these ‘barbarians’ also pampered themselves like a male model in a Bulgari commercial.

Vikings, Norway, Sweden, Iceland

SOURCE: tone

Archaeological finds have included tweezers, combs, nail cleaners, ear cleaners and toothpicks.

An anonymous Anglo-Saxon letter has a man admonishing his brother for giving in to the ‘Danish fashion with a shaved neck and blinded eyes’. Blinded eyes probably meant a long fringe.

So these savages had plucked eyebrows and reverse mullets.

No surprise the monks of Lindisfarne were running scared.

And despite the drinking, raping and general bad behaviour, it wasn’t all frat week.

The 300-year era of their martial and navigational primacy Vikings, Norway, Sweden, Icelandeventually becomes a story of immigration and assimilation.

The Norsemen started bringing women with them on their travels, instead of taking them away. Conquest became colonisation.

The Normans, who took the throne of England in 1066 were descended from Norsemen who won feudal control over Northern France. Even before that, there had been two Danish kings of England.

Once they settled down, they then gave the west its first long-running action dramas; the Icelandic sagas were the probable forerunners of … well, “The Vikings.”

So there you have it.

They were, as we first thought, violent bastards. But more Don Corleone at the opera than Tony Soprano in a singlet.

Which was why, if you saw them sailing into your bay with their supper-savers and perfectly manicured nails, there only ever was one choice.

Run.

263

COLIN FALCONER

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and the chance to win copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

WAS THERE REALLY A JACK AND ROSE ON THE TITANIC?

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and to get free review copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO ON THE TOP RIGHT!

And did they have gorgeous sweaty sex in the backseat of a 1912 Renault?

The answers to these questions are: yes, yes and probably not.

titanic, jack and rose, renault, jack dawson, James Cameron, the writer and director of ‘Titanic’ actually based Kate Winslet’s character, Rose du Witt Bukater, on American artist Beatrice Wood.

Like Rose, Beatrice was the daughter of wealthy socialites and defied her parents to pursue a career as an artist. She lived an extraordinary life, earning accolades as an actress as well as pioneering the Dada art movement (she was called the ‘Mama of Dada’).

She also gained a great reputation as a sculptor and potter and her private affairs – she was reputed to have had a love triangle with artist Henry Duchamp and his friend Henri-Pierre Roché – scandalised America.

Then, when she was 90, she took up writing. Her 1985 autobiography was called ‘I Shock Myself.’

She was 105 when she died – when asked the secret of her longevity she said:

‘I owe it all to chocolate and young men.’

But Beatrice was never on the Titanic.

titanic, jack and rose, renault, jack dawson,

Beatrice Wood photo: Sheryl Reiter

There were two Roses who were and who survived the sinking: one was Rosa Abbott, a third class passenger, who jumped into the water with her two sons. She the only woman and the only passenger to be pulled from the water and survive – the rest were crew.

Sadly, her two sons died in the water.

The other Rose was Miss Rose Amélie Icard, who was a maid to Mrs George Nelson Stone. She and Mrs Stone were rescued by the Carpathia in lifeboat 6.

But what about Jack Dawson?

There was a J Dawson on the Titanic, but the ‘J’ stood for Joseph, not Jack and he was a member of the Titanic crew.

He had grown up in the notorious Monto tenements slums of Dublin and when he was twenty he escaped by joining the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was posted to Netley, one of the largest military hospitals in England – just three miles from Southampton.

It was there that he met a man called John Priest, a coal trimmer on the White Star liner, Majestic.

Through him he met Priest’s sister, Nellie, and the two fell in love.

titanic, jack and rose, renault, jack dawson, After leaving the Army, Dawson joined Priest in the boiler room of the Majestic, before they both signed on for the maiden voyage of the Titanic.

When they hit the iceberg, Dawson had the foresight to put his National Sailors and Firemen’s Union card – his card number was 35638  – into his dungarees before going topside. The card was found on his body the next day.

His friend John Priest survived; but tragically his sister Nellie lost her sweetheart.

Did her heart go on? We will never know.

Dawson was buried in Nova Scotia where he rested in relative obscurity before finding world fame 85 years later after the release of the film.

His grave is number 227 in Fairview Lawn Cemetery, Halifax, Nova Scotia and has since become a shrine to many of the movie’s fans, who leave photographs, cinema stubs and pictures of themselves on the grave.

graves from the Titanic at Fairview Lawn (Photo: Archer10 (Dennis)

those who died on the Titanic are buried here (Photo: Archer10 (Dennis)

Some even leave hotel keys – though I wonder what they’d do if they heard the key turning in the lock at night, as Jack has now been dead a hundred and four years?

Now the question you’ve all been dying to know

Would getting on the door have saved Jack?

the iceberg that sunk the Titanic - but its fame has since melted away

the iceberg that sunk the Titanic – but its fame has since melted away

On the night of the sinking, the sea temperature was around 28° F.

Our bodies lose heat about thirty times faster in water than in the air and when our core temperature falls under 89° F, we start to lose consciousness. Under 86° F and heart failure can occur, which is the most common cause of hypothermia-related deaths.

So Jack could have survived for up to an hour, as he was young and fit and not trying to swim – people who move around in the water lose heat much faster.

However several people died from cold that night even in the lifeboats, so even if Rose had helped him up onto the door – and I still think, after all he’d done for her, she could have had a better go – there were no guarantees.

Now, more importantly – could they have had sex in the back seat of Jackie’s car?

from Titanic (1997) - copyright 20th Century Fox/Paramount - claimed under fair use

from Titanic (1997) – copyright 20th Century Fox/Paramount – claimed under fair use

It is believed there were about thirty cars in the Titanic’s hold, all but five belonging to first class passengers returning from touring holidays in Europe – but only one is actually listed on the manifest.

It belonged to Titanic survivor William Earnest Carter, and it was a 1912 35 HP Renault Coupe de Ville.

Cameron looked for Carter’s original documents for the vehicle so that the car could be recreated almost exactly in the film. But what Cameron didn’t show us is that it was almost certainly packed in a wooden crate so unless Jack had a claw-hammer with him, the answer to the question above is – ‘probably not.’.

Besides, even if the car wasn’t in a box – I don’t believe our real Jack would ever have cheated on Nellie.

When fiery and idealistic Kitty O’Kane escapes the crushing poverty of Dublin’s tenements, she’s determined that no one should ever suffer like she did. As she sets out to save the world, she finds herself at the forefront of events that shaped the early twentieth century. While working as a maid, she survives the sinking of the Titanic. As a suffragette in New York’s Greenwich Village, she’s jailed for breaking storefront windows. And traveling war-torn Europe as a journalist, she’s at the Winter Palace when it’s stormed by the Bolsheviks. Ultimately she returns to her homeland to serve as a nurse in the Irish Civil War.

During Kitty’s remarkable journey, she reunites with her childhood sweetheart, Tom Doyle, but Tom doesn’t know everything about her past—a past that continues to haunt her. Will Kitty accept that before she can save everyone else, she needs to find a way to save herself? Or will the sins of her past stop her from pursuing her own happiness?

colin falconer, sleeping with the enemy, fury, jerusalem, freedom

COLIN FALCONER

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and the chance to win copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

 

 

13 THINGS YOU MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT CHE GUEVARA

COLIN FALCONER, FACEBOOK, BEST SELLING AUTHOR, ROMANCE, ADVENTURE, HISTORICAL FICTION

Come and join me at the Falconer Club, for selected excerpts and to get free Exclusive Review Copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE FACEBOOK LOGO AT TOP RIGHT!

We’ve all seen his face so many times, it’s almost as if we knew him personally.

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaThe iconic image of Marxist revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara is one of the world’s most objectified images, found on an endless array of t-shirts, posters, tattoos, and even bikinis.

He is a superhero of the consumer culture he despised and a universal symbol of rebellion.

According to leftist mythology he was a brave, noble soldier who loved freedom and sacrificed his life for the socialist cause and he yet remains a national hero in Cuba, where his face is on the 3 peso coin and school children begin each morning pledging: ‘We will be like Che.’

Universally he is both loved and reviled.

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaWhen I pre-released the cover of my latest novel, NAKED IN HAVANA, with the tagline ‘Sex, Lies and Che Guevara’ someone commented that they wouldn’t buy anything that had Che in it.  Extreme? Decide for yourself.

Here are some things you perhaps didn’t know.

1. HE WAS ALSO KNOWN AS THE BUTCHER OF LA CABAÑA

The La Cabaña Fortress is a popular tourist destination dominating Havana Bay. It was once the final destination for many of Castro’s enemies and it was here that Che ordered the executions of hundreds of Batista loyalists, a job for which he was uniquely suited:

“To send men to the firing squad, judicial proof is unnecessary. 
These procedures are an archaic bourgeois detail. This is a 
revolution! And a revolutionary must become a cold killing machine 
motivated by pure hate.”

In his defense, Batista loyalists weren’t renowned for being warm and fuzzy either.

2. HE WAS NOT A BIG SUPPORTER OF LGBT

Che oversaw the establishment of Cuba’s first gulag at Guanahacabibes. The forced labor camp was used to detain homosexuals and devout Catholics as well as dissidents.

3. IN SOME PARTS OF BOLIVIA HE IS WORSHIPED AS A SAINT

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaOn October 8, 1967, U.S. trained Bolivian rangers captured Che in a ravine near the Bolivian town of La Higuera.

The next day he was summarily executed in a local schoolhouse and his body was moved to nearby Vallegrande and put on show for the press inside a laundry room. That room has now become a pilgrimage site and is featured along the tourist ‘Che Guevara Trail.’

Locals in the town now pray to “Saint Ernesto,” although his sainthood is unofficial. As he was a sworn Marxist don’t expect any move for canonization from the Vatican anytime soon.

4.  A LOCK OF HIS HAIR FETCHED SIX FIGURES AT AUCTION

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaHis body and belongings were treated with little respect by his killers.

His famous pipe was taken by the man who shot him and the CIA agent who interrogated him, Felix Rodriguez, took the tobacco.

His not-very-Marxist Rolex also disappeared.

Another agent, Gustavo Villoldo, snipped a lock of hair and auctioned it 40 years later – for $100,000.

5. YOU MAY STILL BE ABLE TO SHAKE HANDS WITH HIM

The Bolivian army never revealed what happened to Guevara’s body but his hands were amputated and preserved in formaldehyde. They were then sent to Buenos Aires for fingerprint identification so that Castro could never claim they shot the wrong man.

What happened to them? No one is able to point the finger to where they are now.

6. HIS KILLERS WERE CURSED

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaThe order to kill Che came from Bolivian President René Barrientos and was carried out by Captain Gary Prado, from an army division under the command of General Joaquin Zentano.

2 years later Barrientos died in a helicopter crash; Zentano was assassinated in Paris in 1975. In 1991 a gun accident left Prado a paraplegic.

Does that mean they were cursed? It could just be the law of averages. Bolivian presidents and colonels don’t often die in their beds.

Still, I’m glad I wasn’t there.

7. ‘THAT’ PICTURE EARNED THE PHOTOGRAPHER NO ROYALTIES

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaWhen he was captured, Che Guevara reportedly shouted: “Don’t shoot! I am Che Guevara and I am worth more alive than dead!”  

A gazillion t-shirt sales say you were wrong there, Che.

Photographer Alberto Korda took THAT famous photograph at a memorial service for the victims of the La Coubre explosion in Havana on March 5, 1960.

Copies were later acquired by a wealthy Italian businessman, Giangiacomo Fetrinelli. After Che died his image acquired a life of its own.

A lifelong communist, Korda did not claim moral rights until 2000 when Smirnoff used the image in a vodka commercial. He was awarded $50,000, which he donated to the Cuban healthcare system.

8.  CHE’S REAL NAME WAS ERNESTO LYNCH.

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaChe was actually Ernie. His family was half Irish and he was descended from one Paddy Lynch from Galway, on his mother’s side.

He was born in Rosario in Argentina to wealthy parents and never became a Cuban citizen, despite his intense involvement in that country’s destiny.

9. HIS NICKNAME WAS PIG.

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaHe got the nickname (“Chancho”) as a youth because of his poor hygiene.

He may look good on a t-shirt but apparently he didn’t change his own more than once a week.

People stopped calling him Chancho when he acquired powers of summary execution.

10. HE WAS A GEEK

As a youth he played in chess tournaments and liked to recite poetry. His favorite subjects were mathematics and engineering.

11. HE HAD FIVE MINI CHE’S

Hilda_Gadea_y_Che_Guevara_-_Luna_de_miel_-_Yucatán_1955He had a daughter with his first wife, Hilda Gadea, born in Mexico City on February 15, 1956.

He also had four children with his second wife, the revolutionary Aleida March – Aleida, Camilo, Celia, and Ernesto.

12. HE WAS A KEEN ANGLER.

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaHe and Fidel Castro competed with a certain well known writer in what was known as The Hemingway Fishing Contest.

The Angry Young Man and the Sea.

13. HE TRIED TO BLOW UP GRAND CENTRAL STATION

Che Guevara, Cuba, HavanaLast year a right wing author named Humberto Fontova claimed to have uncovered evidence that Guevara was involved in a November 1962 plot to use 1,200 pounds of TNT to blow up Macy’s, Gimbels, Bloomingdale’s, and Grand Central Station the day after Thanksgiving.

As this is the busiest shopping day of the year the resulting carnage may have eclipsed 9/11.

 

Havana, 1958.

Magdalena Fuentes knows that Angel Macheda is the only man for her, even after he takes her virginity and then tells her he is engaged to someone else. She knows they are meant to be.

So why can she not stop thinking about Reyes Garcia? From the moment I saw you, he says, I knew there would be no one else.

From the moment I saw you, she tells him, I knew you were arrogant, conceited and rude. 

Magdalena is a girl who will not let sentiment stand between her and love. But as Fidel Castro’s rebels tighten their grip around the city and she watches her family and her whole life come apart, she learns hard lessons about love and about life.

Against the backdrop of the boleristas and the gangsters, the music and the guns, Magdalena discovers just how dangerous love can be.

colin falconer, kitty o'kane, historical romance

 

 

COLIN FALCONER

Colin Falconer, romance, adventure, bestseller, historical fiction

Come meet me at the Falconer Club, for exclusive excerpts and the chance to win copies of my books. JUST CLICK THE PICTURE ABOVE!

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