Guest Post by Simon Cheshire, author of Epic Tales of Triumph and Adventure, answering some questions about the heroes and villains in his new book.
Q: In “Epic Tales of Triumph and Adventure” you describe the exploits of 66 extraordinary adventurers. What was it about the stories of these people in particular that meant they had to be in the book?
There were lots of names suggested, but the final choices were down to the publishers, who wanted as wide-ranging a list as possible.
Q: You say in the introduction that some of those featured are total villains. Did you have any second thoughts about including the stories of characters who frequently behaved less than chivalrously, such as Anne Bonney, Mary Reed and Sir Frances Drake?
Definitions of ‘hero’ and ‘villain’ can often be subjective – look at contemporary politics! – but with enough historical distance I think we can be reasonably balanced about some of the past’s less ethical characters.
Q: The kind of single-minded determination most of the people in the book demonstrate doesn’t always make someone easy to get along with. From your research, who do think would have been fun to be around? Which of them would make up your dream dinner party, and who would you avoid at all costs?
I’d like to have met some of the more eccentric characters, like Annie Edson Taylor or Henry Brown, and I’m sure the competitors in the round-the-world road races of the early 1900s would have plenty of interesting stories.
Q: You don’t shy away from some of the grimmer and sadder aspects of these tales, how did you decide on where to draw the line for your expected readers?
We shouldn’t sanitise history, because it insults the intelligence of the reader. Having said that, I think we can strike a balance and be honest without dwelling on the grittier details.
Q: About half of those in the book began their adventures in their teens or twenties, and of the other half, only a few were older than forty. Do you think adventuring is best left to the young?
Absolutely not – there was an older lady in the news only the other week who’d sailed around the world!
Q: If any, which of the journeys or escapades do you wish you’d been there to see or take part in?
I am the world’s most risk-averse person. Personally, I wouldn’t want to have been involved in any of them, ever!
Q: Are there any messages or lessons you hope children will take from the tales?
That history is a fascinating place, full of dramatic and interesting stories.
Q: Were there any great tales you had to leave out? Can we hope for a second volume?
There were loads that were left out, including some gripping tales of escape, but I’m afraid the publishers have already said there won’t be a second book.
The views expressed do not necessarily represent those of the FCBG.
Epic Tales of Triumph and Adventure by Simon Cheshire, illustrated by Fatti Burke ISBN: 9781526601124 (Bloomsbury) £12.99