Mark Lardas holds a degree in Naval Architecture and Marine engineering, but spent his early career at the Johnson Space Center doing Space Shuttle structural analysis, and space navigation. An amateur historian and long-time ship modeller, Mark is currently working in League City, Texas. He has written extensively about modelling as well as naval, maritime and military history. Mark is the author of a number of Osprey books, including New Vanguard 161 Ships of the American Revolutionary Navy and Raid 12 Roughshod Through Dixie - Griersons Raid 1863.
Mark has also written three books due to come out next year, a Duel title on the Alabama vs Kearsage, a Command title on George Washington and another Raid, this time covering the Philadelphia in Tripoli.
When I emailed Mark to ask him what his favourite Osprey book was, he promptly replied:
"Being asked to pick my favorite Osprey book is like asking a privateer to pick a prize in a large and unguarded convoy. It is a target-rich environment. So very many choices. Should I go back to the Men-At-Arms I read in college, or even the various Elites I remember when I was in my salad days as an engineer? (You do not want to know how many years ago that was - or rather I do not want you to know.
I need to mention the work of Angus Konstam. His name as author of a book, back in the 1990s was a guarantee that I would be reading something that was both informative and entertaining. He also wrote about the era that most interested me - the Great Age of Sail. In fact, it was one of his books - British Napoleonic Ship-of-the-Line - illustrated by Tony Bryan, which first piqued my interest in writing for Osprey.
It was not that I felt that I could do a better job than Angus Konstam, but I thought it might be interesting to try. That book led me to submit a proposal for what became my first Osprey book - American Heavy Frigates, New Vanguard 79. And Tony Bryan did the artwork! Just wow.
One difference between the two books is while Konstam examined all British Ships-of-the-Line, I focused my book on just the 24-pound American frigates. Which approach is “better?” My suggestion is buy both books and reach your own conclusion. (I will admit that part of my thinking was that I could later write a New Vanguard on medium and light frigates, which I eventually did.)
Since then, I have written eight additional books for Osprey, most of which have covered either sailing navy topics or the American Civil War. (The eighth is a Raid on Decatur\'s burning of the Philadelphia, due out next year. I also have several others in preparation.) None of those would have appeared without Konstam spurring me to try to write.
So did Angus Konstam write my favorite Osprey? An author\'s books are like his (or her) children. I am sure Konstam will understand if I favor one of my children and name one of my own works - African American Soldier in The Civil War (USCT 1862-66). It was an unusual work for me - a Civil War book on a topic far from the sea and a Warrior rather than my (then) typical New Vanguards). Yet that added to the fascination of the work. Having Peter Dennis as the artist was the cherry on top of the sundae.
It was a subject that was much neglected, yet with a wealth of primary information available. (That is the sweet spot for any Osprey author.) It proved a fascinating story - and one that I could tell in the voices of the participants. I discovered hundreds of narrative accounts written by members of the United States Colored Troops both officers and common soldiers, most published prior to 1914 and long forgotten. It gave the book an immediacy and intimacy that was wonderful. Additionally, it was a great story - well worth telling. It proved one of the first successful interracial partnerships in the United States and one of the most successful such partnerships in history.
Such books write themselves - and leave an author proud of the result. I am grateful that Osprey gave me the opportunity."