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Into it: Bernard Cornwell

Bernard Cornwell, bestselling author of The Sharpe Series, what are you ...

February 10, 2006



... Reading?

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The Third Reich in Power by R.J. Evans, a history of Germany between 1933 and 1939, i.e. pre-war. It's a quite fascinating book on how the Nazis imposed their will on Germany and the way they approached religion, education, entertainment, the film world, music. They took control of absolutely everything. It's an extraordinarily chilling book on how a society can be hijacked.

I just finished Mao by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday, which I thought was a stunning book. I realized that I knew absolutely [nothing] about Mao beyond the fact that he produced a little red book and was "the great helmsman." I was just left thinking, "What a monster." Not the most cheerful of books, but I've been reading some more cheerful one's as well. About two weeks ago, I finished a wonderful book called The Peregrine by J.A. Baker. It's a British book. It was published in the '60s, and New York Review Books Classics just reissued it. It's about a man who gives away very little about himself. He lives in Essex, somewhere out on the marshes.... He becomes utterly obsessed with peregrine falcons, and he spends his days following them to the point where he begins to identify with them and they accept him. The guy can write! I think it's the only book he ever wrote. I Googled him and came away with absolutely nothing. I liked it so much that I ordered a first edition.

I just finished Michael Connelly's The Lincoln Lawyer. I love a good thriller, because I can't write them!

I like Patrick O'Brian [author of "Master and Commander" and other books in the swashbuckling Aubrey/Maturin series], but my favorite is Flashman [the historical series by George McDonald Fraser]. They're absolutely stunningly wonderful books. Incredibly funny. The new one came out last summer, called Flashman on the March. The great thing about Flashman is that he's the most terrible coward yet he somehow always comes out on top. In the first book, he's under siege in Afghanistan and the Afghans are about to come surging over the wall. The Redcoats are dying and so Flashy decides to surrender and pulls down the flag - at which point the relief column arrives. He's found with the flag and given the Victoria Cross for saving the flag.

I've just written 11 forwards for 11 Horatio Hornblower books, so I had to reread the whole series. They're being reissued in London by Penguin. I grew up on Hornblower.

... Listening to?

I listen to choral music. It's all liturgical, not all, but 90 percent. If I were on [a desert island] the one disc I would have to keep would be Mozart's Requiem. I'm going through a phase of Gabriel Fauré at the moment - quite a long phase!

... Watching?

[My wife and I] tend to do movies on Netflix. Tonight we're about to watch The March of the Penguins. We tend to watch The Sopranos on Netflix, you know, watch it a year later and watch it all at once. It's like the first series of The West Wing where the writing is so good. We do go to the movies, but we haven't been going much lately. We went to see Match Point - loved the last half hour. I think I was expecting slightly more wit. I like Woody Allen films.

Bernard Cornwell has sold 9 million books worldwide. His latest is "The Pale Horseman" (Harper Collins).

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