Most of you will be familiar with these stories, from the T.V. series that leapt Shaun Bean to stardom in the UK, and ultimately led to him becoming noticed by Hollywood. The Lord of the Rings, or Game of Thrones will now be what most will associate him with, but for me he’ll always be Richard Sharpe. After the pilot series of Sharpe’s Rifles (two episodes back in 1993) I was intrigued by the story, and when I found an old battered copy of one of his novels in my grandmother’s bookshelf (My grandfather, before his death, had a great interest in Waterloo) I was led into a fantastic ride through the Napoleonic wars, as Sharpe led his rag-tag company of riflemen through the peninsular of Spain. It proved a long held theory of mine, that the historical novel will always be superior to the film or TV series as the writer has so much more scope to explain the historical details so important in this genre. Before long I was an expert on the Baker rifle, how to load one, the difference between that and a smooth-bore musket, and it wasn’t long before I started to think I had a good understanding of French and British battle tactics. My heart swelled with pride as the series was concluded at Britain’s triumph at Waterloo and felt I learnt a good deal about the Napoleonic wars. That is the beauty of historical novels – you learn as you read, and skilfully done, you never even realise you’re being taught.
The TV series did achieve one thing for me however – Richard Sharpe, in my mind’s eye, was always Sean Bean.
I will return to Bernard Cornwell’s writings a lot in the future, as he has written several brilliant series of books, however if you can’t wait his own blog can be found here. Alternatively you can purchase Sharpe’s rifles from Amazon here.