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24 thoughts on Slave to Fortune:
Your book, in truth, I found in a charity shop – it’s where I find most of my books. Your book I read at the time that, coincidentally, I was booking to visit the Isle of Wight for no reason other than to put my toes in the sea. I am now going to the I.O.W. to visit Mottistone – where this amazing tale begins. The coincidence of finding “this amazing tale” and my mini-holiday, with no focus, intrigues me. I shall ignore my toes in the sea and try to find Thomas Cheke instead; so much more rewarding. Thank you for the tale, and the prospect of adventure – and at the age of 79 that’s a very welcome prospect. Let go the for’ard lines…
I have just purchased the book Slave To Fortune (am about to start reading it) and have spent time searching the website. I am a descendent of Jan Jansen through the Emans family line and am involved in genealogy. I was so surprised to see a picture of Jan Jansen on the website!! Is this is a genuine picture of him or a depiction of a pirate of his times. Can you please comment as to whether this is actually a picture of him and if so, where the picture was found or is being held?
Thanks for that clarification Walt. I’ll amend the website to take account of this. (I was struggling to recall which webpage this was mentioned on, but now I’ve found it.) Best wishes, DJ Munro.
The land on which Baltimore was built wasnot confiscated from the Catholic O’Driscoll clan it was bought from Sir Fineen O’Driscoll
Thanks Janet. We had a great time – you live in a beautiful corner of the US. Hope you enjoy the website (and the book!)
Congrats on your grand prize win. I’m sorry I didn’t meet you earlier at the Chanticleer Conference, but from the pictures, you and your daughter had a great time visiting our beautiful Pacific NW.
Now that I found your blog, I want to learn more about the history behind Slave to Fortune.
Thanks very much for your comment and your kind words about the novel; I’m glad you enjoyed it. You raise some good questions, which are exactly to the point.
The general answer is that those areas that are presented as facts in the Endnote are verifiable facts. Those that are presented as conjecture, and are generally caveated, are unlikely to be factual.
To take one example, you asked about whether the Dillington tomb actually exists, as this is presented as fact. It does exist and the following links to a website containing the photo you asked about: http://www.britainexpress.com/counties/wight/churches/mottistone.htm
More generally, I am interested in the way that facts can be distorted and woven together to become, in essence, fiction. As you note, this has become a major contemporary issue with unfathomable consequences. In what and in whom can we believe in our social-media driven ‘post-truth’ society that has given rise to ‘fake news’ and (oxymoronic) ‘alternative facts’? I think it is right that we should be made to think carefully about such matters.
Tom’s memoir is not the first to feature in a novel. Other examples include David Balfour’s memoir as ‘set forth’ by Robert Louis Stevenson in Kidnapped. There is a page on this website highlighting the links between the two novels. Similar to my novel, Kidnapped features various factual events from Scottish history.
Much more recently, His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet – a Booker Prize finalist last year – includes not only the account (memoir) of Roderick Macrae but also the Editor’s Preface by Burnet, which is written in a similar vein to my Endnote (though with much more acclaim!) In Macrae’s book there is a similar blurring of fact and fiction and the reader is left, as in my book, to draw their own conclusions as to the veracity of the account.
I suspect you have reached your own conclusion about the veracity of Tom’s memoir (with a little inside knowledge of the industrial heritage of Cowes).
Thanks again for your kind words and questions.
All the best,
But is there any memoir by Thomas Cheke? If there is why are we not given its provenance? If not, how many of the alleged facts in the end note are indeed facts? I’m concerned that a novel (a very good novel!) aimed at young adults plays deviously with facts, in our world of false news and post-truth politics. Pity there’s no photo here of the Dillington tomb! Is there a Dillington tomb?
Strange too that the fate of Messrs Ratsey and Lapthorn rates no mention on the end note! That company is (or was when i lived on the Isle of Wight) one of world’s foremost sail makers, based at Cowes.
All in all I have no idea what I have just finished reading. Pure fiction based on a fine knowledge of the general historic context, or a mish-mash of half-truths under false colours.
A ver good read, anyway!
Hi Rodney – thanks very much for your kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed my book. From a historical (naval) research perspective, I think it’s fair to say that while there’s a framework of historical facts in the novel (e.g. numerous real people and actual events) and I took pains to inform the various plot settings through historical research about early 17th century life, there is also a good dose of historical fiction too. Thanks again and best wishes, DJ Munro.
I am an avid reader of historical naval books from the 17th century and chose to download and read “slave to fortune” as light relief from, some times, cumbersome factual journals. I had no idea until the end that it was based on historical facts, making very true the statement that fact is often more incredible than fiction. A slave to fortune is a truly excellent, engrossing and enlightening read.
Hi Connie. What a fascinating family to be descended from. I used a range of books on Barbary corsairs as part of my research for the novel. I’m not sure that they give much more information than you already have (or that may be gleaned from Wikipedia). One useful book was ‘The Stolen Village’ by Des Ekin, which describes the raid on Baltimore, Ireland by Jan (Murat Reis) and what subsequently happened to those involved. pp372-376 cover Jan’s later years and offspring and discuss the theory that Anthony and Abraham’s mother was a Moroccan concubine but then also point to the weaknesses in the theory. So I’m not sure you’ll find a definitive answer, but I wish you luck if you continue your quest. My research interest for the purposes of the novel ended with Jan. I’m aware of the exploits of his son, Anthony, in the USA (perhaps the first Muslim in the USA?) and of his illustrious progeny, but cannot shed any light on Abraham. All the best, DJ Munro.
I am a descendant of Anthony Jansen. May I ask what sources you used for Jan’s biography? I’m particularly interested in Anthony’s mother, because half the sources I have say his mother was a Bedouin, and the other half say he was captured with Jan. I’m also curious about Abraham, who apparently continued sailing for Jan, and I’m very interested in how close the ties remained between Jan and Anthony after Anthony went to New Amsterdam.
Slave to Fortune is a highly entertaining and historically accurate story based on a lost memoir of Thomas Cheke, of the Isle of Wight. Is it true, is it historical fiction? Difficult to verify but intriguing nonetheless.
Thanks Charles. Glad you enjoyed it. The Chekes/Cheeks were clearly an interesting family back in the 16th and 17th centuries and they’ve left a great legacy on the Isle of Wight at Mottistone.
Indeed a rare find: “The True Memoir of Thomas Cheke, Esq. AD 1629.” His ventures were resurrected by D. J. Munro in the part true-part fiction Slave to Fortune. The writing is so very exciting I could not stop reading until done – even while sitting on the beach at Myrtle Beach, SC. It was especially exciting since I consider myself a Family Historian. Genealogy has been one of my favored past-times for over 50 of nearly 75 years of living.
Although we have the same last name, I have yet to find documentation of any relationship between our American and English families. That said, the story is fantastic. It brings to life how it was living on the Souhern coast of England in the 1600’s . It was indeed an environment I never knew existed. It does appear the lineage of Thomas came from the well known family of Sir John Cheke (1514-1557). Perhaps we will one day find documentation and/or DNA to bring the lineages together.
Thanks J.G. Harlond. Glad you found all the information useful and best of luck with your own literary endeavours!
Thank you very much for the clear information on Murat Reis, who makes a brief appearance in the second of my Ludo da Portovenere stories (but will feature in the final part), and for all the other insights and details such as coinage. I particularly like the way you have summed up how religion and finance inform international politics and worm their way through the century… when I saw your clear summary of the pirates & economics I did give a sigh of relief, having spent far more time than I should on background research already.
Absolutely loved this and found it very difficult to put down. Would definitely recommend to anyone who loves history with the added bonus of adventure.
Thanks Doug. You have some illustrious company in your fellow descendants of Murat Rais. If ever someone’s life merited a biopic, it’s his.
Look forward to reading this – Murat Rais is my 10th (and 11th and 12th) great-grandfather!
A thriller from start to finish with many twists and turns along the way.
Managed to keep me gripped which is some feat.
I found this book to be a fascinating insight into the configuration and running of a three mast sailing ship. This is combined with a clever description of old Algiers and its political machinations and old Malta with its international intrigue. His characters have powerful and sympathetic personalities. D.J. Munro has clearly spent much time in researching his subject matter and has woven it together in this intriguing book. It is to be highly recommended.
‘Slave to Fortune’ is an engaging tale, cleverly crafted by weaving together a series of events within historically familiar and exotic places. The young Thomas Cheke proves to be a wholesome character; you will enjoy accompanying him through the adventure. This is an extremely enjoyable and worthwhile read!
I think this book is well written and edited (and you should definitely buy it!!!!) 🙂