In June, Al-Jazeera interviewed me about the first Barbary War. My second novel, Syren’s Song, references one particular action by the U.S. Navy during that conflict.
Looking for podcasts during your morning workout? Here are a few I recommend:
BBC’s History Extra http://www.historyextra.com/podcasts
Midrats (Now 6 years running, it’s balanced, informative and is like C-SPAN for naval issues ): https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/midrats/id910023979?mt=2
WarontheRocks’ Bombshell (for national security and international issues – it’s fresh, fun and smart): https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/bombshell/id1195698408?mt=2
Revolutions is lengthy – it’s in-depth history and really enjoyable to listen to. You’ll be hooked on this one, especially the 50 episodes of the French Revolution. https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/revolutions/id703889772?mt=2
Here are nine things to put you in the know when you read – or if you’ve read – Syren’s Song:
- Makarov. Tao Hu makes his second appearance in Syren’s Song. We learn more about him and his company which includes a private security subsidiary headed by a Russian – Makarov. We’ll see him in the next book. I was a history major so I like to use names from history, especially those I’m familiar with. Connor Stark, for example, is a descendant of American Revolution Major General John Stark who was the topic of my senior thesis. Similarly the character of Makarov is intended to be related to Russian Admiral Stepan Makarov, just one of the ways the current Makarov is a reflection of Connor Stark.
- M/V Katya P. This large freighter is a focus of the first published Connor Stark novel, The Aden Effect. Terrorists try to use the ship to destroy an oil platform. In Syren’s Song, Katya P. makes only one very brief appearance as one of a number of ships being dismantled at The Breakers.
- Vanni. The character of the malevolent Marxist and Tamil Tiger leader is based on several historical figures including Ho Chi Minh. There is one scene in Syren’s song reflecting on how Vanni’s forces recruited local populations or dealt with those who didn’t join him. The story was inspired by Ho Chi Minh’s force in the summer of 1945. Several years ago, I interviewed the two then-surviving members of the OSS Team that went into Indochina to train Ho and Giap as guerilla forces against the Japanese.
- Bill Blake We never actually meet the character of Diplomatic Security Special Agent Bill Blake as he’s killed before the first chapter of Syren’s Song. The working title of Syren’s Song was Tyger Tyger from the first line of William Blake’s poem, The Tyger. I used the name of Bill Blake as an homage to his work despite the title change.
- India and PMSCs. I’ve written a lot of non-fiction about private maritime security companies as well as the subject of novels. In one scene in Syren’s Song, Connor Stark has his private security ship in India and his Indian naval officer friend (who is introduced in The Aden Effect) mentions that the country permits his work because Stark’s company abides by their laws. In reality, India has had a history with this issue.
- The Flag of St. Andrew. Stark’s company, Highland Maritime Defense, is based in Ullapool, Scotland. His ships, like Syren in the latest book, fly the flag of St. Andrew. In actuality a UK-based ship would fly the UK flag. The use of the flag of St. Andrew was a prediction that Scotland would vote for independence in the near future since I wrote it during the first independence referendum in 2014. Based on the Brexit results and subsequent polls, that may not be too far off.
- Zheng R&D. The name of the firm headed by Tao Hu is an homage to the 15th century Chinese explorer, Admiral Zheng He.
- Somers. One of Syren’s small boats is call the Somers, a tribute to Lieutenant Richard Somers, lost aboard Intrepid during the First Barbary War. Nearly eleven years ago I had the opportunity to speak at Somer’s Point, New Jersey, during a tour for my first non-fiction book which included Somers as part of Captain Charles Stewart’s biography.
- USS Cole/USS Samuel B. Roberts. Early in Syren’s Song talk, Commander Jaime Johnson reflects on her time as a Naval Academy midshipmen and listening to a talk on leadership and damage control. The timing doesn’t work out for this storyline, but in 2014 CDR Kirk Lippold and CAPT Paul Rinn of the USS Cole and USS Samuel B. Roberts respectively accepted my invitation to speak to the midshipmen about damage control and leadership during a crisis. Their talk is posted here. Syren’s Song is Jaime Johnson’s second appearance in a Connor Stark novel. I got great feedback about the character and she will definitely appear in the next book. If you want to read more about this character’s background, here’s a short story I wrote for War on the Rocks.
If you liked Syren’s Song, please leave a review on Amazon! And if you didn’t like it, please leave a review as well as I appreciate critiques.
Read the latest review of SYREN’S SONG at the Naval Historical Foundation.
Author’s note: There should be a minor correction in the review. Although I did work for two U.S. Senators, Jim Webb was not one of them as is suggested in the review.
Thanks to three talented musicians – Greg Mutersbaugh, Michael Trapp, and Paul Kurzeil – the companion music to SYREN’S SONG is now available through iTunes. All three musicians are graduates of the Berklee College of Music. These are original compositions to accompany the book. I hope you enjoy.
The Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) is running an Alternate History Week. Here’s my contribution to kick it off: What if Commodore Charles Stewart had become President of the United States?
Stewart was the subject of my first non-fiction book, “A Call to the Sea.” This alternate history essay uses information from his life to discuss what might have been had he chosen at that dinner in 1844 to accept the party’s nomination instead of balking.
The Aden Effect is now available as an audiobook from Audible.com and narrated by actor Andy Paris.