Antoine Vanner found himself flattered when nautical novelist Joan Druett described him as the "The Tom Clancy of historic naval fiction".
Vanner's "Dawlish Chronicles" series of naval adventures are set in the late Victorian era when technological progress was more rapid than at any previous time in history. The plots play out against a background of growing international tension. There was little open confrontation between the great powers - Britain, France and Russia, with Germany, Japan and the United States catching up - but their rivalries were often fronted by proxies, just as the Communist and Western blocks did during the Cold War.
"I've always been fascinated by this period," Vanner says, "and I saw it as the ideal setting for a series dealing with the Age of Fighting Steam, as an alternative to the large number of novels set in the Age of Fighting Sail."
There are six books in the series so far - the latest being "Britannia's Gamble" of October 2017 - and all are linked to real historic events and personages. The locales vary from Turkey, Paraguay and the United States to Cuba, Korea, Britain and the Sudan. The technology of the time plays a significant role, but even more so is the development of the characters of the ambitious Royal Navy officer Nicholas Dawlish and his wife Florence.
"They're real people for me," says Vanner, "and as you'll see from my website, www.dawlishchronicles.com , the major events of Dawlish's life have been identified, and the novels are steadily filling in the details. Each book can be read either as part of a sequence or as a stand-alone story."
"I find the late Victorian era, roughly 1870 to 1900, fascinating because for my baby-boomer generation," Vanner says."It's 'the day before yesterday'. It's history that you can almost touch. Our grandparents grew up in that period and you heard a lot from them about it. So much in that time was so similar to what we still have today that you feel you could live easily in it, and then you hit some aspects - especially those associated with social conventions and attitudes - that make it seem wholly alien. It was a time of change on every front - intellectual, scientific, medical, social, political and technological - and yet people seem to have accommodated to these rapid changes very well."
"A revolution occurred in naval technology," Vanner says. "The Royal Navy that went to war with Russia in 1854 was virtually unchanged from that of Nelson's time, but within five decades the World War 1 navy of Dreadnoughts, battle-cruisers, submarines, wireless, the first aircraft carriers was in place and Churchill was First Lord of the Admiralty. And individual officers didn't just live through these changes - they conceived and managed them. Nicholas Dawlish, hero of my Dawlish Chronicles series, is just such an officer and he'll use the cutting-edge technology of his time to advance his career."
To learn more about Nicholas Dawlish and his world, and to contact Antoine Vanner with your comments and queries, checkout www.dawlishchronicles.com, which also contains links to Vanner's weekly blog on historical and naval topics.