One of the hardest things as an author is deciding what to leave out.
Sometimes you find yourself with a piece of research which, although interesting, does not really add to the point you are making, or disrupts the natural flow of the narrative. While footnotes are a useful means of appending additional facts to the text, sometimes you just have to decide to sacrifice a piece of work for the greater good.
When writing my book Incomparable, I had a very tight narrative focus:Marengo to Waterloo. Although Napoleon's 9th Light Infantry Regiment had a history going back to 1758, when structuring my chapter plan, I wanted to get the reader into the thick of the action as quickly as possible; hence the book starts in 1799, with Napoleon's return from Egypt. And although I tell the essential 'back story' in the early chapters, a great deal of detail was omitted. In my opinion the book is all the better for these cuts.
I finished writing Incomparable at the end of September 2011. While editing and production commenced, I went back to my early period source material and began compiling it. There was too much for a magazine article, so I looked at the eBook format as a solution.
The pre-Napoleonic era has always interested me. The development of the 9th Light Infantry in the 1780s is an interesting story in itself, detailing how the original battalion was formed under the name of the Chasseurs of Cévennes. I knew the 9th's origins went back beyond the Cévennes years to the Seven Years War, to a volunteer light corps called the Volunteers of Clermont, but I did not realise Clermont's links with the beast of Gévaudan story, popularised by the 2001 movie Brotherhood of the Wolf. This proved an unexpected bonus and some enjoyable, albeit grizzly, research on a spate of wolf killings in the 1760s.
The political impact of the French Revolution on the Royal Army is also an interesting subject which could only be touched on in the main book. The 9th were twice embroiled in attempted coups, by Generals Lafayette and Dumouriez respectively. Almost the entire pre-war officer corps fled France, either for personal safety, or to join a counter-revolutionary army which wanted to restore power to king. In the War of the French Revolution the 9th also served with distinction under the charismatic, but ill-fated General Marceau. There had been no place to discuss these early trials, tribulations and eventual successes in the main book.
Writing the eBook also allowed me to elaborate on the careers of the men described in the main book. One of the most interesting characters is Mathieu Labassée, the commander of the 9th at Marengo. He began his career is a corsair (French privateer) serving on frigates in the English Channel chasing merchantmen. We also meet some new characters, such as the Belgian 'Hallet' who first thought of raising the regiment in 1758 and the Baron du Blaisel who sold captaincies for his personal gain. There are also interesting characters in Major de Villionne, the man who trained the battalion in the 1780s; Lieutenant Colonel Saint-Sauveur, a convicted bar room brawler and Segond de Sederon, a veteran of the American Revolution and recipient of Order of the Cincinnati.
The eBook can be read before or after the main book. It is formed of an introduction and four chapter-length essays. All at a bargain price too!
Incomparable: A Collection of Essays will be available to download from August 20th for £2.99, before the main event Incomparable: Napoleon's 9th Light Infantry Regiment, released on September 20th.
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