Burning Geekery

This is the geek stuff about Burning Wolfhound novel including "how the novel began"

My mother drew this version of the Wolfhound for me, she doesn't like drawing boats.


When I was young in Thetford in Norfolk, UK we lived the cold war. The skies were busy with aircraft, Buccaneers out of RAF Honington, F111 out of Lakenheath and Mildenhall, Jaguars out of Coltishall. There were Avro Vulcans flying over our school. You often were unable to hear or speak for several minutes as aircraft went over. We were right in the middle of it all. Not to mention Thetford Forest being a MOD training area. Often I would try to fall asleep with the flash and bang of big guns and in the daytime there would be much army traffic on the road. We were in a warzone most of the time. I tried to convey this in the novel.

I never saw an English Electric Lighting flying over, but we did see them at the Mildenhall Airshow, which was huge and entailed traffic jams right down the A11 almost to Thetford. In those days, before the bypass, the town would end up snarled up too. Traffic one way from the airshow and the other way from a race meeting at Snetterton Race Track!


A lot of research went into the novel. While in Ecuador I could not do the research, so I kept a lot notes on things to follow up on a re-edit.

For the world cruise, I had to work out how long it would take the Wolfhound to get anywhere. I used the app by Garmin “Basecamp”. This is a GPS package. Basically I measured the distances between locations. I made the assumption that the Wolfhound could achieve 40 knots. This means it would have been flat out to make it in the timeline of the novel. However, most films run at 100 miles an hour, so it didn’t seem like stretching the point too far. Again, for land based activity I used the same idea. Like the time it would take an Enfield to get from Goa to Darjeeling. However, with 1968 roads I expect it would actually have taken a lot longer.

Setting the novel in 1968 was an issue. I was born in 1970, so a lot of facts were new to me. One major gaffe was that in the first draft of the novel they run along the Suez canal with no issues. It was only later I discovered that the Suez was closed in 1968. I thought the re-write made for a more interesting story.

I was often googling for old pictures and information on the locations in the novel, and how they would have been different in 1968. Like Heathrow Airport for example. I knew the roof garden was in existence then, as I visited them in 1973.

More facts:

The Lamborghini Miura was only just in production in 1968.

Concorde and the Jumbo Jet were in testing in 1968.

The largest of the Ark Royals was the current one at the time.

Hendrix was in the charts.

The freaks in Anjuna.

And many more facts!

I also had to learn a lot about seafaring.

The scene where Bernhart jumps down the side of the ship and the scene where he goes into the burning bunker were both drawn from experience. I completed the health and safety at sea course. This was when I was trying to get to work on the Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior or Sea Shepard. I spent £1000 on this course in the name of trying to be a volunteer at sea. The Greenpeace website said I needed this before I could apply. We did fire fighting, like Bernhart, going into a burning room with fire apparatus. And I also jumped from a great height wearing a lifejacket in order to clamber into a life raft. Unfortunely I never got my volunteering positions at sea but the experience was useful.

I’m hoping to own my own boat one day, so this experience was useful in many ways.

I am a huge fan on Where Eagles Dare by Alistar MacLean. There are many quotes in the novel referencing the film. Also, Major Smith is called Major Bernard Smith when being “double agent”, though he is John Smith as the English version of himself.

I also used to adore Blakes 7, the BBC sci-fi series from the late 70's. It was like "pirates in space". I used this in Burning Wolfhound as my inspiration point, referring to naughty pirates in my thoughts of how to construct the novel.

Places in the novel (timeline):

Blakeney - UK
Sheringham - UK
Weybourne - UK
Rotterdam - Holland (not to mention the Euromast)
Oldenzaal - Netherlands
Alexandria - Egypt
Suez Canal
Anjuna, Goa - India
Poona - India 
Varanasi - India
Darjeeling - India

Transport and notable appearances in the novel (timeline)

Wolfhound - converted ex British Navy gun boat
Seavixen - luxury yacht
English Electric Lightning
Blackburn Buccaneer

Norton motorbike (make unspecified)
Powerboat (make unspecified) - the gang's get away boat
Humber Imperial
HMS Arc Royal
Rolls Royce Silver Ghost
Citroen 2CV mk1
Lamborghini Miura
(make unspecified)
Motorbike (make unspecified)
Troop Transport (make unspecified)
Consolidated Catalina
Royal Enfield India Bullet 350cc 

More random facts

Charlie was named after my old Citroen 2CV

I used to ride Royal Enfields when I was in India

A further interest that helped was the gun boat in Norwich - HMS Vale

Further links to the places in the book:

The watch-house in Blakeney

The lifeboat house Blakeney

Blakeney quay

How Burning Wolfhound the novel began

I was in Puetro Lopez, Ecuador for 2 weeks working at the hostel owned by Raul, the man who has the rainforest project I volunteered at for 3 months.

It worked out that a German girl, another volunteer, and I were expected to run the hostel alone. Her and I fell out straight away. The way the hostel is laid out is that the main buildings are at the back and there is a cafe at the front, overlooking the sea.

So I hid in the cafe, away from her. I would sit there reading action novels from the bookcase and drinking coffee (made from the coffee we harvested at the rainforest project).

While I sat there I would look out over the sea. For a bit there was an Ecuador Navy ship out there... suspiciously like a certain Wolfhound (the ship in the novel). I had daydreams about living on it.

Therefore, the mix of that ship, the action novels and my desire to escape were the genesis of the novel!

Subsequently the novel was written during my saving the planet time. I did a lot of work on it back in the Ecuador jungle (where I was on my own for three weeks, and sooo bored) then in darkest India and Indonesia.

The Blakeney sections were written due to feeling homesick!

This is the cafe I sat in:

This is the view (with ship):

This is the house in the jungle, where I started writing the novel:


Posted in Burning Geekery.

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