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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, 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!



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!

History will say that Hernan Cortes conquered Mexico.

Yet he couldn’t have done it without a woman named … Malinali.

Aztec, Cortes, MalincheHernan Cortes  was probably one of the greatest of the conquistadores – which is in itself a back-handed compliment, like being the best of the Nazis or Suicide Bomber of the Year.

He was a man of ruthless genius, a Christian crusader possessed of unparalleled greed, even for those times – but his achievements were breath-taking.

He conquered what is now Mexico with an army of less than 500 Spaniards, not all of them soldiers and not all of them loyal, while ostensibly on a simple scouting mission from Cuba.

He did not defeat the Aztecs with Spanish force of arms – they were a nation of a million people – but with an astonishing bluff. 

http://colinfalconer.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/el-promo-or-how-to-sell-your-book-in-latin-america-and-have-a-blonde-in-a-black-bikini-pin-you-to-a-psychiatrists-couch-on-national-television-2/Through astonishing good fortune, steely determination, and the help of a Mexican slave girl he achieved the impossible.

The story of the invasion is one of the great epics of history, a triumph of human endurance and determination.

It was also an unmitigated disaster for the indigenous population and resulted in unimaginable misery for hundreds of thousands of people.

The story of Hernan Cortes and Mexico is also the story of a woman named Malinali.

Guillermo Marín

source: Wolfgang Sauber

Her exact origins are unclear –she was thought to have been a Mayan princess by some – but her place in Mexican history is unparalleled.

Without her, Cortes would have got no further than a Yucatan beach.

Her name was corrupted by history to Malinche; and five hundred years later her name is still reviled. Even today the word malinchista is shouted across the floor of the Mexican parliament as a deadly insult – it means a traitor to the Mexican people.

Yet was she the monster that history make her out to be? 

Aztec, Malinche, CortesThere is only one person who ever knew the truth and that was Malinali Tenepal herself – La Malinche. She was Cortes’ concubine, but that was not why she is important.

She was also his translator, the only one who ever knew what was being said by both sides, the only one who spoke both Spanish and nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.

Her motives, what she said, how she said it; these things will always be a matter of debate – it is what makes hers such a gripping and intriguing story.

What is certain is that in almost every contemporary drawing and painting of Cortes’ entrada, she is at his side, whispering in his ear.

Aztec, Malinche, Cortes

And every night she shared the conquistadore’s bed.

Did she love him? No one can say.

Did he use her for his own purposes and then cast her aside? Of course he did.

He was only ever interested in gold and glory. 

Aztec, Malinche, CortesFittingly perhaps, Cortes’ life after the conquest was one of frustration and humiliation. History has not been kind .

These days his ancient bones molder in a walled-up in a casket by the altar in the Church of Jesus Navareno close to the place where he first met the Aztec emperor Motecuhzoma.

Aztec, Malinche, Colin Falconer

And Malinali?

No one knows what became of her. It is believed she died an old woman in Spain. Cortes showed his gratitude by marrying her off to someone else.

Her story, and that of the conquistadores, remains one of the most intriguing and tragic sagas in history.

His work takes the reader through a never-ending labyrinth of twists and turns. Get this book. It is a magnificent piece of work!’
– History and Women

History tells us that Cortes conquered the millions of the Aztec nation with an army of just 500 men – but what about the woman at his side?

Malinali was his translator, the only one who could speak to the Spanish and the Aztecs, the only one who really knew what was being negotiated, promised or whispered.

She was also Cortes’ lover.

Did she love him? And if she did, did she betray her own nation, condemn millions to death, for the man she loved?


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!



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!


ANASTASIA, ROMANOVS, CZAR, RUSSIAN REVOLUTIONThey made a movie about her with Ingrid Bergman in the starring role.

Disney had a huge box office success with a full length animated feature.

She embodied the legend of the lost princess. We all so wanted to believe that she somehow survived.

What really happened?

Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia was born in 1901, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last sovereign of Imperial Russia.

She was the youngest of four sisters, Olga, Tatiana and Maria; she had a younger brother, Alexei.

She was not raised as a Disney princess; she and her sisters slept on hard camp cots without pillows, had cold baths every morning, and were expected to tidy their own rooms.

Anastasia, Romanovs, Russian Revolution


Neither was she Ingrid Bergman despite her blue eyes and strawberry-blonde hair.

She was short, and a little chubby, and more than a little mischievous. Anecdotes tell of her deliberately tripping up servants and climbing trees and then refusing to come down.

She once rolled a rock into a snowball and threw it at her older sister Tatiana, knocking her down. Her distant cousin, Nina Georgievna, called her: “nasty to the point of being evil”.

Well not entirely. During World War I she and her sister visited wounded soldiers at a private hospital in the grounds of the Alexander Palace at Tsarskoye Selo, near Saint Petersburg. Too young to become Red Cross nurses like their mother and elder sisters, played checkers and billiards with the soldiers.

In February 1917, she and her family were placed under house arrest in the Alexander Palace. Her father abdicated the throne soon afterwards. But after the Bolsheviks seized power, they were moved to Yekaterinburg.

She and her sisters sewed jewels into their dresses to hide them from their captors. Locked away in ‘The House of Special Purpose’ Anastasia and her sisters performed plays for her parents.

One of the guards said of her: “She was a very charming devil! She was mischievous and … lively, and was fond of performing comic mimes with the dogs, as though they were performing in a circus.”

She would also stick her tongue out at Yakob Yurovsky, the captain of the guards, behind his back.

The House of Special Purpose

The House of Special Purpose

But the conditions of their captivity, took its toll. On July 14, 1918, local priests conducted a private church service for the family. They said that the girls had become despondent and desperate.

“Something has happened to them in there.”

What did happen to them? That we shall never know. There were rumours that the girls and even their mother were assaulted.

Were they?

By now Russia had descended into civil war. By the time anti-Bolshevik forces captured Yekaterinberg the Romanovs had disappeared.

What happened to them?

Anastasia, Romanovs, Russian revolutionIt was assumed they had been murdered, but how and when was never really certain until the “Yurovsky Note” was found in 1989. The document was Yurovsky’s report to his Bolshevik masters of what had taken place.

On the night of 17 July the family were woken and told they were being moved, because of the fighting. They and their small circle of servants were herded into a basement and a few minutes later Yurovsky came in and told them they were to be shot.

They immediately started firing.


Thick smoke from the ancient revolvers filled the room. And the girls would not die – unknown to their executioners, the jewels hidden in their corsets acted as bullet proof vests. The executioners resorted to bayoneting and clubbing their terrified victims to death.

The bodies were then thrown on trucks. On the way to the proposed burial site the trucks got bogged. The bodies were hastily buried, then reburied again the following night.

With so much bungling, it is clear why stories started to circulate that someone may have survived.

Anna Anderson

Anna Anderson

The Bolsheviks tried to keep the executions secret but stories soon got out but these were complicated by other rumors of trains and houses being searched for an “Anastasia Romanov”, and eight witnesses even reported seeing an injured girl who answered Anastasia’ description at Cheka headquarters in Perm.

Anastasia’s supposed survival became one of the most celebrated mysteries of the last century. At least ten women claimed to be her. Her best known Anastasia impostor, Anna Anderson, appeared in 1922.

She said that she had feigned death among the bodies of her family and servants, and was able to make her escape with the help of a compassionate guard who noticed she was still breathing.

Her legal battle for recognition which was begun in 1938 became the longest running case ever heard by the German courts, where it was officially filed. Her claim was rejected in 1970.

She died in 1984 but it was not until ten years later DNA testing proved that she was an impostor.

The Romanovs’ burial site remained secret until the communists fell from power. It was finally excavated in the woods outside Yekaterinburg in 1991. Incredibly it held just nine of the expected eleven remains.

After DNA testing, it was found that Alexei and Anastasia’s bodies were missing.

anastasia, romanovs, russian revolutionFinally, on August 23, 2007, a Russian archaeologist announced the discovery of two burned, partial skeletons at another site nearby. Further DNA testing confirmed they belonged to the Tsarevich Alexei and one of his sisters.

Like the solving of all mysteries, it was of itself bittersweet.

The lost princess had finally been found, but not in the way that we had all hoped. Yet Anastasia is yet to be united with her family.

Last October she and her brother were supposed to be buried in the Romanov tomb in Peter and Paul Cathedral in Saint Petersburg but the ceremony was blocked by the Russian Orthodox church.

And so our lost princess will have to wait a while longer before she finally comes home.


anastasia, romanovs, russian revolution, historical romance, historical fiction, romance, adventure

‘Falconer weaves a pacy story of obsession, love, greed and corruption … Really well done.’ – Sydney Morning Herald

When Michael Sheridan jumped into the Whangpoa River to save a Russian refugee, his life changes forever. The girl bears an uncanny resemblance to Princess Anastasia, who is rumored to have survived the brutal massacre of the Royal family by Bolshevik revolutionaries two years before.

She is suffering from traumatic amnesia and remembers nothing of her life before Shanghai. So who is she?

Unraveling the mystery of Anastasia’s identity and past takes them both from the streets of Shanghai to the decadence of pre-war Berlin, from the London of flappers and Charlestons, behind the grim curtain of Bolshevik Russia and finally to New York just before the Wall Street crash.

It may also cost him his life.

“Falconer weaves a pacy story of obsession, love, greed and corruption … Really well done.” – Sydney Morning Herald

‘Murder, scandal and romance all play their part . . . plausible and engrossing.’ – Woman’s Day

colin falconer, kitty o'kane, historical romance


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!



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, 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!





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!

So who was the enigma behind the Enigma in that movie with Brendan Cumberbatch?

enigma, Brendan Cumberbatch, Turing

photo: Gabbo T

His name was Alan Turing and The Imitation Game portrays the seminal moments in the life of one of Britain’s top code breakers.

Turing led Hut 8, the team who cracked the Nazi naval secret cipher during World War 2, and in doing so, saved hundreds of thousands of Allied lives.

He is also considered the father of modern computer science.

Seven years after the war Britain repaid its debt of gratitude to the man with chemical castration.

But just how accurate is the movie?

The question itself raises a fundamental question about writing history: what is more important, making a good story or creating an accurate historical record?

enigma, Brendan Cumberbatch, Turing

an Enigma coding machine

Because if you understand the fundamental principles of story – you most often can’t have both.

The movie received huge critical acclaim – but its critics focused not on the film itself, but historical inaccuracies.

Writer Graham Moore defended his script this way: “When you use the language of ‘fact checking’ to talk about a film, I think you’re sort of fundamentally misunderstanding how art works. You don’t fact check Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’. That’s not what water lilies look like, that’s what the sensation of experiencing water lilies feels like.’

Director Morten Tyldum went further: “A lot of historical films sometimes feels like people reading a Wikipedia page to you onscreen, like just reciting ‘and then he did that, and then he did that, and then he did this other thing.’

I agree with both these gentlemen.

Are we writing stories or are we writing history?

enigma, Brendan Cumberbatch, Turing

photo: Andrea Raffin

Faction is not a story. People seem to get confused about this.

If The Imitation Game was a novel, and it had an afterword explaining the inaccuracies in the script, I would have given it 5 stars on Amazon. As a movie – well I can always look up the discrepancies on Wikipedia.

Which is what I did.

So if you’ve seen this wonderful film and you’re wondering how much was true, here’s the main points.

Joan Clarke, Turing’s one time fiancée actually looked nothing like Keira Knightley.

But then few women do.

Thousands of people – not just a handful – worked on the Enigma project. But then the decipher project was far too complex to encapsulate in a two hour film and if you think it could be, well more fool you.

enigma, Brendan Cumberbatch, Turing

Bletchley Park: photo Draco2008

The code-breaking machine was not called “Christopher”.

The Hut 8 team were never in a position to decide whether to use broken codes to stop a German raid on a convoy that the brother of one of the code breakers is serving on. Such decisions were made at much higher levels.

Turing was never quite as socially difficult as portrayed in the film. Turing actually had friends, a sense of humour and a good working relationships with his colleagues.

The scenes about how Turing found out about his schoolfriend Christopher’s death are fictitious.

The detective in the film who thinks Turing is a spy is pure fiction.

So is the interrogation in the police station. Yet what would the film be without that scene?

Turing's computer: photo andagasow

Turing’s computer: photo andagasow

Turing actually committed suicide fourteen months after his chemical castration ended.

The inquest into his death ruled he had eaten a cyanide-laced apple, re-enacting the poisoned apple scene from Snow White, his favorite fairy tale.

The worst sin in my opinion was the depiction of Commander Denniston as a rigid and hectoring commanding officer, which his grandchildren have disputed utterly and for which there is no evidence.

The espionage subplot involving Turing and John Cairncross is also fictitious.

So there’s the truth about the enigma behind the Enigma.

How many liberties should we take with history?

You can have your say on that point if you’d like to.

For mine, I watched the movie on a warm summer evening at an outdoor cinema in Australia and I think if the writers had kept to the absolute truth I would have fallen asleep in my bean bag after fifteen minutes.

But the story they created out of Turing’s life kept me riveted.

I’ll leave the last word to Turing’s niece, Inagh Payne. After seeing the preview she said: “the film really did honor my uncle.”

It was also a brilliantly executed story.

And surely that was the whole point.

Wasn’t it?

Istanbul, Balkans, spies, historical romance, spy romance, romance, espionage

An unforgettable love story set in a world of spies and a city of breath-taking romance.

colin falconer, kitty o'kane, historical romance


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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