Angus Konstam hails from the Orkney Islands, and is the author of over 50 books, 30 of which are published by Osprey. This acclaimed and widely published author has written several books on piracy, including The History of Pirates. His most recent work is a full-length piratical biography: Blackbeard: America's Most Notorious Pirate. A former naval officer and museum professional, he worked as the Curator of Weapons at the Tower of London and as the Chief Curator of the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West, Florida. He now works as a full-time author and historian, and lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.
What are you doing at the moment?
Putting my feet up! I\'ve just finished writing Sovereigns of the Seas: The Quest to Build the Ultimate Renaissance Battleship. It\'s a 120,000 word romp through the world of Renaissance ships - from around the time of Henry V (c.1415) until the English Civil War. It\'ll be published by Wiley\'s in the States during the late spring of 2008.
Apart from that I\'m working with Osprey\'s editors to put the finishing touches to The Complete History of Piracy, another 120,000 word book I wrote earlier this year. It\'ll also be out next spring, and does exactly what it says on the cover - gives readers the most detailed account of piracy yet seen in print! While it concentrates on the so-called “Golden Age of Piracy” it also follows the activities of cutthroats from the Ancient Mediterranean to the modern waters of Indonesia.
Finally I\'ve got a few Ospreys to write. A two volume set of New Vanguard titles on The Tudor Warship is already in production (the incomparable Tony Bryan will be doing the artwork), and another two-volume set on British Battleships of the Second World War is slated for early next year. Then there are the two Fortress series titles - The Forts of Arthur\'s Britain and Scapa Flow - I\'m actually working on those at the moment. It\'s going to be a busy winter!
When did you get hooked on history and why?
I blame Miss Thompson, my history teacher when I was in my early teens. That poor lady and Mr. Feraday of Kirkwall Grammar School have a lot to answer for! Then there were my parents, who holidayed in Europe a lot when I was a kid, dragging me with them.
All those German castles and Italian hill-top towns gave me a sense of place as well as purpose - helping me tie in events I read about with places I\'d visited. That\'s particularly important when you come to write about military history. You really need to “walk the battlefield” before you can get a real sense of what happened there.
If you were any warrior from history who would you be?
I\'d much sooner write about them than actually having to be them! Admiral Cunningham. Anyone who plays golf and sips G&T\'s before going out and beating the Italians in 1940 gets my vote…
What is your favourite war film?
That\'s a tough one - I\'d have to say A Bridge Too Far, closely followed by Tora Tora Tora. Of course my favourite film of all time (apart from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie or the Lion in Winter - what can I say - I like catty dialogue!) is probably Apocalypse Now, but I\'d class it less of a war film and more of a journey into the unknown.
Why do you think Military History is important?
Is it? I suppose it is. Military history has long been the unloved child in the historical family. During the last half century it was considered beneath the academic radar - the province of retired colonels and geeks. Fortunately, during the past two decades a new breed of historians - people like Geoffrey Parker, John Lynn and Anthony Bevoir have resurrected it. A quick glance at the shelves in your local bookshop will show you how popular - and mainstream - it now is.
What is your favourite quote from history/historical quote?
"These savages may indeed be a formidable enemy to your raw American militia; but upon the King\'s regular and disciplined troops, sir, it is impossible they should make any impression."
General Braddock to Benjamin Franklin (before his defeat at the hands of the Iroquois)
If you could fly any plane or drive any tank from history, which would it be?
A T-34 - the tank that won the war. Of course, they\'d have to specially widen the hatch to get me in…
Best military cock-up in history?
There are so many to choose from. Probably anything involving Ambrose Burnside is good for a laugh, and his Battle of the Crater (1864) must rank as one of the biggest cock-ups around…
Who is your military hero?
Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson. It\'s the old salt in me. Others in my top ten include (in alphabetic order): General-at-Sea Blake, Caesar, Cornwallis, Fairfax, Lee, Marlborough O\'Connor, Patton and Zukhov. Read into that lot what you will.
If you could pit two armies from history against each other, which two would you pick, and why?
The Allied and Soviet armies of 1945 against the Nazi one of 1939. That way we would have ended the war by Christmas, and saved 100 million lives…
Elephants or horses? Discuss the pros and cons…
Not if they\'re heading towards me!
Favourite Michael Caine quote?
“My name is Michael Caine - not a lot of people know that”.
Of course, in a recent interview he also said of his acting career; “First of all, I choose the great roles, and if none of these come, I choose the mediocre ones, and if they don't come, I choose the ones that pay the rent”. Authors can relate to that… then there\'s “ The best research for playing a drunk is being a British actor for 20 years”.
What is your favourite war comic?
Fox News - its comic the way they don\'t mention the war…
Apart from that I\'d have to say the Victor. When I was a kid my parents got me Look & Learn, which I read then swapped for the Victor!
Spartan or Roman?
Roman. The Spartans were wimps compared to the Romans of the late Republic, who were single-minded in their ability to impose their military will on their enemies - however long it took. Anyone who\'s read Tom Holland\'s superb Rubicon (or even seen Rome, the TV mini-series) will realise just how formidable people like Caesar, Pompey, Crassus, Gaius Marius, Sulla and Octavian actually were. By all accounts their women-folk were even more deadly, and if given the chance would have made mincemeat of the oiled macho posturing of the poor Spartans!
What is your favourite Osprey book?
Anything illustrated by the late Angus McBride. If I had to pick one it would be the Elite title I did with him on Pirates. That and whichever one I\'m writing at the moment!
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