For the past seven years, I’ve been writing novel entitled War of Loyalties. It’s a Dickensian novel with a spy flavor, and today I’m glad to be invited to Defending the Legacy to talk about some of the historical details in its pages. But before I start, let me set the context with the novel description:
April, 1917. A ring of German spies threatens the security of England’s Secret Service. Newly-recruited agent Ben Dorroll must uncover false British agents who are traitors to their country. However, Ben’s secrecy may be the very thing that puts their mission in jeopardy. Unwilling to trust fellow agent Jaeryn Graham with the clues hidden in his family’s broken past, he wants to resign and go back to his medical practice. But success means one last chance at winning the respect of the father he’s never met. And when he learns that his family identity holds the key to capturing the spy ring, Ben has no choice but to unite with Jaeryn Graham so that the truth can be discovered.
In the aftermath of the Irish Rebellion, Jaeryn Graham's British colleagues look warily on his Irish background. Always up for a challenge, he thinks his new mission to investigate the true loyalties of his fellow spies should be an opportunity to prove his prowess. But the agents he has to work with are determined to prove he himself is a traitor. Unless he can win the loyalties of his newest assistant, Ben Dorroll, his secret ambitions and his perfect success record will be destroyed.
War of Loyalties started out rather precariously as historical novels go. I was sixteen at the time, with a thirst for story-writing and characters who were begging to be written about. Aside from choosing early 1900s for the time period, and England for the setting, it didn’t have much in the scholarly way going for it. With the rather tenuous idea that it had to be somewhere along the coast, but not in Dover, I pulled out a map. Folkestone? Ramsgate? It was a coin toss between the two towns. How Folkestone won out, I can’t recall anymore. But it was what I like to call an act of Providence, the first of many in the writing of this book. Folkestone is rich with WW1 history, and I can’t imagine a better setting for the adventure to take place.
Because it took place in WW1, one of the aspects I had to deal with is the history on the micro-level: the clothes characters would have worn, the vehicles, the buildings that existed at the time, whether they used pencils or pens, and all those things we tend to take for granted. I wanted to talk to you today about some cool details that I discovered along the way.
1. Enlistment Law
Doctors of the Great War, by Ian Whitehead, was an invaluable resource for checking out some of the situations in War of Loyalties. Since both of my main characters are young and of draftable age, there has to be a pretty good reason why they’re not on the battlefield.
Jaeryn Graham is born and raised Irish, an agent for six missions with the British Secret Service, and a doctor able to use his medical services for the nation. According to Wikipedia’s “Conscription in the United Kingdom”, Irishmen were not able to be conscripted. Though to be fair, many, many Irishmen voluntarily enlisted in the War, according to Whitehead. Since Jaeryn’s in Secret Service and Irish, he’s pretty much taken care of, but for an added measure of patriotism, his supervisor gives him two medical practices to maintain instead of one. Jaeryn’s supervisor makes reference to some of these facts in the first scene of the book:
“Excellent. With two medical practices, you should have ample sufficient access to the people you'll need to know. Besides, it would look strange if you only had one, with your colleagues rushing off to the front. As it is, you might get some persecution, being a fit man and not enlisting.”
Jaeryn made no effort to disguise his indifference. “There's not much anyone can do about it. No English bureaucrat can force an Irishman to enlist. It's the law.”
|A Gotha IV bomber of the type that raided Folkestone|