You know sometimes in the life of an author – particularly in something like military history, you have to accept certain inevitable consequences of what you write, particularly if, like me, you like to do something a little different.
Now this is not new, every writer who tries to say something new will invariably rock the proverbial boat, and what we thought would make people sit up and say “Wow, this is great!” actually is vastly more likely to rouse cries of “Liar! Charlatan!” and “Heretic!” from the purists. Even luckless old Hamilton-Williams with his Waterloo book – who was proven, so I am told, to have faked his evidence, came in for castigation from the Siborne purists long before they had even read his book! Okay in that instance, as the story goes, they were right, but it is perhaps the mindset that we must tackle. And it isn’t just the purists.
My good friend and fellow military history author Angus Konstam has 75 books to his name and still gets his Amazon accounts trolled by fellow authors, jealous of ‘their subject’ the way they see it, and I myself am no stranger. When I announced that I had discovered – as nobody else has – the secret code in Napoleon’s memoirs which gives up his final secret, I had my credibility torn to bits by a few…except the book isn’t even out yet and nobody has read it! Oh yes, when it comes to rewriting history, it seems that you can upset a great many people.
My latest three-part post on Operation “Rosario” – the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands has therefore, perhaps unsurprisingly, rattled quite a few cages. The only surprise, I must say, is how far and wide this has gone around the world, and the reception it has received which has been immense, including from many veterans who fought on April 2nd 1982 – and from both sides of the conflict too, who are humbling in their praise of the accuracy and faithfulness of the recounting of their tale. But there is another element which does not quite agree, and in this, I must say, I am happy. When people are kicking up a fuss, you’re normally onto something, and when you make enemies, you’re sure to be onto a winner.
As I say, it’s nothing new. I am very open about myself, as an author should be if they are to be credible, and in my time I have picked up a number of trolls, a crazy man who wanted to sleep with me and then murder me (you couldn’t make it up!) and even the odd stalker -even of late, amongst a horde of other enemies either jealous of what you have done or else desperate to cling on to some belief-system regardless of facts or evidence which might be presented. I suppose this is the real art of the historian; to take in all the evidence, however slim, and test it to see how it fits against the rest. It’s a jigsaw puzzle of sorts. My good friend Paul Collard, author of the outstanding ‘Jack Lark’ series of books says I shouldn’t complain. He gets nothing as exciting as stalkers, trolls and murderers, but then I suppose he writes fiction. I mean, nobody is going to stand there and discredit fiction as…well, as ‘a work of fiction’ now are they?
So as soon as my first of the three-part history of this amazing, tiny and fascinating piece of history came out and the internet started buzzing, things began to get interesting pretty quickly. The post has gone viral in over a hundred countries (WordPress can tell and show you where it has been and how many people have read it) the response has been out of all proportion to two and a half days’ work (okay the research has been a lot longer) and the proverbial bullets have started to zing around my head. Within a minute of the first part’s posting, some Argentine elements were calling it a work of propaganda, a web of lies, an unproven fantasy (it takes longer than a minute to read!) and by the time Part 2 came out it started getting personal. These are the ‘paid trolls’ employed by someone somewhere in any extremist organisation and followed by impish-hangers-on the worst kind who doesn’t need payment: The fanatics.
On top of clogging up your systems (anyone remember the ‘Tribbles’ from Star-Trek?) with banal messages and notifications, people were starting to get personal. Apparently David Cameron comes to my house weekly with a brown envelope of cash and pays me for my next ‘assignment’, my family get looked into, I get accused of not even being a real person, Wikipedia gets trawled (I’m told I have been banned from there. I never even had an account!) and my personal credibility and integrity gets attacked. I get called a racist. This is interesting. It it hurtful but insightful. I was onto something and people were trying to hide it at all costs.
By the time Part 3 hit the web, with soldiers and Falkland Islanders praising it for its accuracy and integrity, I was getting very interested to see the developments, and I was not to be disappointed. My partner was attacked, I was attacked and – as I am so open about myself for reasons of integrity – my life put on show. I am resilient to this. In fact, I am oddly happy. For every bad comment, the encouragement from the veterans has increased, with every attack the support has grown. This is now being called “The book that has Argentina rattled” – and it isn’t even a book. Yet.
Of course, this isn’t a book or a post about attacking anyone. There are many who do write things with an ‘axe to grind’ but I have never been one of them. I like to unearth the truth about things and present clear logical evidence to encourage us to question those beliefs we hold. I do this firstly to myself. Where there is a question or a glaringly obvious hole in a story, then typically you will find me there if it comes across my desk and sticks in my mind. This just happened to be one of those things. My readers know that anyway.
And so, I am forced to ask, what are certain elements in Argentina so worried about? A proof that their government has lied about what happened on that day, certainly. Yet the veterans of both sides are hailing this as a great and well-researched piece of history. Those veterans from Argentina were, of course, treated very badly by their government upon their return from the Falklands war and the government would like very much to forget them and this whole embarrassing incident if it could.It is not lost on them that their sacrifice and their losses on that day are not acknowledged, and the British veterans are happy that their small part in this has been recognised. Their valiant stand, and some very silly Argentine mistakes, led to a fiasco and a serious military defeat.
I cannot help but think that still there is something more. Daily, more and more veterans are adding to this, sending me their stories and giving me enough new information and fresh evidence with which to add significantly to this story, to which in no small part, they have already contributed so strongly. Someone somewhere is worried, and for what, I don’t yet know. I have enemies, it seems, in standing up for the veterans on both sides of this action, and I am encouraged more than cowed by them.
As you can imagine, this will already be read by those people. I am warned that ‘something big is coming’ and I hope so. Because of those people, I am encouraged. This will hit print, far and wide by the most commercial means. That means profits are down but the story goes far. Very far. And it is a story which not only needs to be told, but which will change a lot of things as we see them. So come bullies, come trolls, come stalkers and even what I would consider as that dirtiest of words ‘traitors’ – because once you have stood up for something, you do not sit down. Bullies do not win and cannot win, in short this is what the epic story of the Falklands War is all about, and it seems that those same bullies or their progenies are still out there.
Everybody, my Dad always said, is good at something. Everybody has a weapon which only they can wield, and this is mine. There is a secret which is closely guarded, which has got a lot of the wrong people upset and I am interested to see both what and why. This is what I set out to do with history, and it is happening, not just in spite of but because of those people who now bring it down upon themselves. I am not changing the truth, just making it as it is and as it should be, because there is only one truth and we don’t have it yet.
So it is time to stand up, to be counted, to not be silenced by those scared and cowardly bullies, whatever the cost. It is time to take the fight back. It is time to make history.