Wednesday, 13 February 2013

George Chittenden - Author contribution

When I recently read "The Boy Who Led Them" by George Chittenden I was struck by how real and alive the story was so I emailed the author to ask for some background. I asked him:

The book FEELS like it contains a lot of historical fact about smuggling. Is it researched or just your expected way things were done (I believe you teach history?)

Is the tale entirely fictional or does it contain either historical or legendary references?

When I received the reply I was so struck by it I asked if I could share the contents and he kindly agreed.

The town I'm from, Deal, was notorious for smuggling. So much so that the prime minister William Pitt the younger sent soldiers to the town where they proceeded to burn every sea-worthy vessel in an attempt to destroy the industry that was costing them a fortune in lost revenue. This tactic was only ever employed in Deal. Unfortunately if you weren't a smuggler you were a fisherman so this technique destroyed the towns livelihood. It was this event that initially inspired me to write the novel.

The old part of town which is now named Middle Street is littered with underground tunnels leading from basement to basement and into the cellars of pubs, of which Deal famously had one for every day of the year. The smuggling gangs used these tunnels to ferry cargoes and even local churches were used to store contraband. With regards to actual smuggling techniques I carried out lots and lots of research to guarantee they're accurate. The maritime museum exists and as a child, like Stan, I spent many summer days fascinated by the unusual artefacts such as spout lanterns and brandy tubs. I'm now a member of the museum and I support them via donations and community events.

Teaching history to the younger generation has taught me that it's essential to make it entertaining and engaging. As a result I decided to weave a fictional plot around the towns heritage. As a result the characters are fictional. However all of the locations exist and are as accurate as possible.

One of my aims with the book was to bring the museum to the public's attention and it's working slowly.

He was also kind enough to send me a link to the museum and I was a little surprised that it looks exactly as I imagine it from the description in the book. A visit would hardly break the bank so next time I'm in the area I will be looking in. It sounds fascinating and I wonder if I'll meet Reg?

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