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 The Shadow of Tyburn Tree 
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DW decided to change track from writing stories relating to the Second World War as there were “.....scores of plots I could have used, but now I daren’t or I’ll find myself in the Tower for having infringed the Official secrets Act”
Air Commodore Kenneth Collier told him, “All you have to do is to create a hero who lived in Napoleonic times. Then you can use any exciting episodes you learned about in the war and nobody will be able to lay a finger on you”

The Launching of Roger Brook was the first of twelve novels and told of RB’s latter schooldays through to 1787.

The Shadow of Tyburn Tree continues the storyline from 31st March 1788. George III was still the King of England.
William Pitt - the younger is now 28 years of age and has held the post of Prime Minister for four and a half years.
RB has been spending time with the beautiful Lady Georgina Etheredge (Previously Georgina Thursby) and her husband Humphrey at her stately mansion 'Stillwaters' near Ripley in Surrey. Georgina freely admits that the main reason she married the ‘older man’ was because she had her heart set on ‘Stillwaters’; and now that Humphrey has started to pry into her affairs and become a heavy drinker she is pleased that she does not have to spend too much time with him. Fortunately for her RB fulfils the other duties that a husband would expect to carry out. This however does not stop her wishing to try and sample some of the other fruit in the basket; and a Count Vorontzoff is currently the next item due to be sampled much to RB’s ‘chagrin’

A social event has been organised and numerous dignitaries are due to attend including Lord Edward Fitz-Deverel (Droopy Ned) now the Right hand man to the Prime Minister – William Pitt, Charles Fox–The leader of the opposition, the Russian Ambassador-Count Sergius Vorontzoff who plays a central part in this storyline, the Duke of Bridgewater and George Selwyn – a very interesting character that DW introduces to the scene primarily due to his connection with ‘The Hell fire Club’ of which he regularly writes. (Arrow paperback pages 43 – 46) See also - http://omni.sytes.net/selwyn.htm
Despite Georgina’s thoughts regarding Vorontzoff she decides that RB is really the only man for her and is forced to fend off the Russians advances with RB’s help. Vorontzoff is furious and ensures that her husband is informed of Georgina’s activities. Humphrey travels 25 miles to return to Stillwaters, he then bursts into her bedroom and starts to whip her for her behaviour. She throws a perfume bottle at him which dazes him and RB is forced to assist in stopping his continued attack by throwing a punch which lands just below his heart. Humphrey collapses and dies.
As nobody other than Roger & Georgina were in the room they decide to blame Humphreys death on a heart attack.
Her father suspects that there is more to what happened than was told and she recalls her father once telling her,
"Man made laws are but a rough guide to conduct, for the general protection of society. They should be disregarded when they are no longer in keeping with one's sense of right. Do what you will, provided that you can square it with your own conscience. But even if you fail in that you must endeavour to regain your own integrity by finding the courage to face the consequence of your act without whimpering about your lot to others, and involving them in your troubles."

The scene changes to the Prime Ministers home in Kent. He asks RB to go to Russia to gather as much information as possible on the current political state there as he would like to make an ally of this great power.
RB travels via Copenhagen and Stockholm rather than go directly to Russia so that it appears to be more of a general visit rather than a direct approach. By doing this he manages to get a general feel of the politics from the Scandinavian countries. In fact there are so many info dumps that you start to lose the will to live but if you persevere beyond them the story gathers pace particularly when he meets up with the Baroness Natalia Andreovna Stroganof at a Bal Masque; had he been able to forsee the future he would have fled the ballroom there and then.
They become lovers but when RB becomes interested in another lady, Natalia organises a gang of thugs to attack him one evening as he is leaving her home. He would probably have been killed if a passing coach and horses not stopped to intervene. The owner of the Coach just happened to be Count Haga which was the name King Gustavus of Sweden used when travelling incognito.

RB had been in bed recovering for 5 weeks when the King explained that with regard to Natalia, 'Twould not be the first time that having quarrelled with one of her gallants she has had him whipped beneath her window"


The King then accuses him of being a spy (which he was!!) but RB explains roughly what he was doing and the King agreed that Sweden had similar political aspirations to that of England. He then asked RB to spy for him as well as England!!
The King in the meantime had organised Natalias' expulsion from Sweden. The King and RB decide to arrange Rogers inclusion on the same ship as Natalia (without her knowledge) with a view to using her to get to the Russian leader Czarina Katerina Alexeyevna ; also known as Catherine II or Catherine the Great.

RB manages to hide himself in her room whilst she is having breakfast with the Captain. When she returns RB gets his own back on her by giving her a few slaps. During the subsequent struggle she manages to lose her bathrobe and so is running around totally naked. She grabs a knife; RB overpowers her picks up a sturdy parasol and sets about "belabouring her bottom in no half hearted manner".
She then realises that he has found the way to her heart. All that was needed was the violence of a Russian lover. "No Russian woman really believes that her husband loves them unless they beat them occasionally". (I think I'm going to emigrate!!!!!)

RB & Natalia eventually arrive in St Petersburg (Which became Leningrad in 1924 and then was reverted back to St Petersburg in 1991). She is duty bound to take up residence in the palace of her grandfather, Count Cyril Razumofsky, RB thought it would be wiser to take up lodgings in the city. He manages to acquire a suitable residence and the services of a14 year old servant girl named Zaria Feodorovna.

RB meets with several dignitaries within the Russian Palaces. He is introduced to the rather large figure of Catherine – Czarina of All the Russia’s.
In fact Rogers activities become quite varied at this point; he offers his services to assist the Russian Army in quelling an army 40,000 Swedish men who have landed in Helsingfors and were advancing on St Petersburg; he also manages to pass on some valuable information to the King of Sweden for which he is awarded the title of ‘Chevalier of the prestigious order of the Sword of Sweden’.
On his return he is arrested for a murder that he didn’t commit; He decides that he really doesn’t like Natalia due to her sadistic and vicious nature and to round it off he becomes Catherine the Greats ‘Favourite’ to whom he can call her ‘Your Majesty’ in public but in private can call her ‘Catherina Alexeyevna’ He is made a ‘Knight of the order of St. Vladimir’ and given the title deeds to an estate, carrying three hundred and fifty serfs in the province of Tula’. The only downside to this is that he has to ‘pleasure’ the ‘very large’ Czarina.
He is reprieved of his duties when Natalia tells of her of their long standing love affair and forthcoming marriage.
The Czarina then tells them that they will marry the next day and then go to live in Siberia.

The wedding does take place but Roger has no intention of going to Siberia! With some assistance he manages to secure accommodation on a vessel sailing for England via Copenhagen. When they arrive in the Danish capital he excuses himself from his 'wife' in order to get a message to Gustavas via one of William Pitts diplomats (Hugh Elliott). Hugh persuades RB to go directly with him to Stockholm with the information, due to its importance. In the meantime Hugh arranges to get a message back to Natalia to inform her of this last minute change of plan.
When RB & Hugh present the information to the King, he is delighted and is keen to pass this information to his troops I Gothenburg. At the kings request RB accompanies him and for his devotion is given an improved award to the one given earlier. He receives the title of 'Officer of the prestigious order of the Sword of Sweden' and the king presents him with his own star mounted in diamonds
.
Roger then arranges to get Natalia back to England only to find that Georgina has now been accused of Killing her husband. RB is certain that it must be count Vorontzoff's doing and so he goes to Woronzow house in St Johns Wood to sort this out.
He creeps around the house and manages to climb through a window to see through a curtain. Vorontzoff is talking to Natalia who is about to betray RB and England by handing over secrets to the Russian ambassador. Then all hell breaks loose.

I thought this was a good follow up to the excellent 'The launching of Roger Brook'. It was only let down by the excessive info dumps but other than that I enjoyed it. Next stop, 'The Rising Storm'





Snippets

• According to DW, 'Stillwaters' was designed by William Kent in the 1730's. I tried to locate a Palladian styled house near Ripley, Surrey but without success.

• I tried to establish where Siberia is actually situated ;
It makes up about 77% of Russia's territory - 13.1 million square kilometres), but only 25% of Russia's population (36 million people).
It extends roughly from Ekaterinburg northwards to the sea and southwards to the borders of Mongolia and China).

• Did you know that Churchill used to build walls for recreational purposes just as DW did at Grove House, Lymington? The bit about Churchill was actually mentioned in the programme 'The old Guys' starring Jane Asher, Roger Lloyd Pack & Clive Swift recently.

The Duchess of Devonshire campaigned for the Whigs—particularly for a distant cousin, Charles James Fox—at a time when the King (George III) and his Ministers had more direct influence over the House of Commons, principally through their power of patronage. During the 1784 general election, the Duchess was rumored to have traded kisses for votes in favour of Fox and was satirised by Thomas Rowlandson in his print "The Devonshire, or Most Approved Method of Securing Votes". Charles Fox was a distant cousin of The Duchess of Devonshire who was beautiful, fashionable and enjoyed life to the full. Her real name was Georgiana Cavendish. She sounds like the ideal candidate for DW to base his 'Georgina' on. It's just a shot in the dark but you never know. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgiana_Cavendish,_Duchess_of_Devonshire The Duchess (2008), played by Keira Knightley. The film, directed by Saul Dibb, is based on the biography - Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman. (I must get a copy)

• Count Mikhail Vorontzoff, a Russian statesman, born in 1710, died in Moscow in 1767. He was descended from Gabriel Vorontzoff, who fell in 1678 at the siege of Tchigrin, Little Russia. He became a lover of the empress Elizabeth, who arranged a marriage for him with her cousin, a niece of Catharine I., and in 1744 she made him vice chancellor and minister of foreign affairs. The emperor Charles VII. made him and two of his brothers counts of the German empire. He negotiated important treaties, and finally became chancellor, but lost his influence under Catharine II.


Finally, Did you know that only two of the thirteen Roger Brook novels (if you include The Lusty adventures….) didn't start with the the word 'The'. See if you can remember what they were!!!



Newspaper comment’s for ‘The Shadow of Tyburn Tree.


“An inborn knack for telling exciting stories”
THE DAILY TELEGRAPH

“Mr Wheatley combines history and hearsay in the sprightliest way”
Ralph Strauss in THE SUNDAY TIMES


“I look forward with pleasure to the spectacle of Roger Brook turning the Scarlet Pimpernel pale pink”
Howard Spring in THE SUNDAY GRAPHIC
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Steve,

Fascinating review as always - it makes me want to pick up the book and re-read it !

Two questions

1. Can you remember who invented those classic words "info dumps" ? I feel they are now an official part of the language of the DW fraternity !

2. NOT that I would ever volunteer the suggestion to Chorion, but in case I'm ever asked, I'd be interested in your thoughts of how easily and how neatly the info dumps could be removed if anyone was ever to seek to make the books more accessible to a modern audience by removing them from an abridged version, and whether it could be done without impairing the narrative flow and pace of the novel.

Apologies if this question is heresy to anyone, but I would be interested to know your thoughts on this.

As mentioned, I'm NOT proposing to volunteer this thought to Chorion - but they may well have thought of it themselves !

Best as always, and I hope I'm not making anyone choke on their coffee !

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 Re: The Shadow of Tyburn Tree 
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Stevie P :
Did you know that only two of the thirteen Roger Brook novels (if you include The Lusty Adventures….) didn't start with the the word 'The'. See if you can remember what they were!!!


That took me a few minutes, as the Roger Brook series is the one I've read least. But the titles are Evil in a Mask and Desperate Measures.

(I waited a few days, to give other people a chance to guess/recall...)
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top review as per stevie p. i have the duchess having bought it for just the reasons that have made you curious. if you would like to see it i will bring it to the convention for you.i doubt i would watch it again. its on blu ray.
ken
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Charles :
Steve,

Fascinating review as always - it makes me want to pick up the book and re-read it !

Two questions

1. Can you remember who invented those classic words "info dumps" ? I feel they are now an official part of the language of the DW fraternity !

2. NOT that I would ever volunteer the suggestion to Chorion, but in case I'm ever asked, I'd be interested in your thoughts of how easily and how neatly the info dumps could be removed if anyone was ever to seek to make the books more accessible to a modern audience by removing them from an abridged version, and whether it could be done without impairing the narrative flow and pace of the novel.

Apologies if this question is heresy to anyone, but I would be interested to know your thoughts on this.

As mentioned, I'm NOT proposing to volunteer this thought to Chorion - but they may well have thought of it themselves !

Best as always, and I hope I'm not making anyone choke on their coffee !




I always thought the phrase "info dump" was a computer term, dating from the old days when a computer would print out reams of information on perforated paper that folded into a block, and would dump it with a satisfying "thump" on the tray when you had your answer. It's one of those lovely terms whose meaning is obvious when used in a slang sense!

As for removing/editing them in DW reprints, I think it depends on the passage in question. My observations is that DW used "info dumps" for three very specific reasons:

1) When the information is necessary to understand the plot. Example - Much of the suspense of the last third of "They Used Dark Forces" comes from knowing just how near the Russians and Americans are from Berlin, and watching the countdown as Hitler's hopes of victory (and of course the subsequent increase in danger to Gregory) shrink further and further. Without knowing how well/badly the war was going, the interaction between Hitler and Gregory would be isolated and meaningless.

2) For "literary" rather than informative reasons. DW was an expert at pacing a plot by leading his characters into a cliffhanger and then, rather than immediately providing the resolution, breaking off to give a short synopsis about world events at the time, or paralleling the characters' situation with one from history (there is an obvious example from "Strange Conflict", when the characters flight from a horde of demons is interrupted to compare their situation to a certain naval battle in WWII)

3) Extraneous information to add richness. For example, many of the Roger Brook novels contain information not immediately relevant to Brook's situation, but add realism and "thickness" to the background, and add to the entertainment value.

Obviously in the case of 1) and 2), cutting these passages could only weaken the novels. In the third case there is perhaps an argument for shortening or cutting them. However, is it really necessary?

Presumably Charles speculation is based upon the belief that the modern market for DW novels has a shorter attention span than his readership base in the forties and fifties. I'm not sure that this is the case. Of all the readers of George MacDonald Fraser's "Flashman" series, for example, I've never met one turned off from the books by the historical narrative interwoven into the stories. "The Da Vinci Code", The Richard Sharp books, "The Lord of the Rings", Robert Ludlum's various bestsellers, and (turning to a younger market) the Harry Potter series and the "Twilight" sage all contain masses of apparently extraneous information, which doesn't seem to have weakened the novels (or negatively affected their readership base) one whit.

I would say let the works appear as they were intended, or at the very most edit the longer, less directly relevant passages to make them a little snappier.
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Apologies for not joining this topic sooner. I have been sunning myself on a Majorcan beach whilst reading a Howard Spring novel (Sorry charles!!) He's a very good writer though.

I can't really add much more to the excellent analysis provided by Alan but I did wonder if the term may have been penned by one of our own readers. I entered a search into the site and the first reference to the term seems to be made by Garry Holmes on 5th August 2006. See below;

Garry Holmes
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When we begin this volume of Mr Sallust's adventures, he finds himself in danger of being called up for active service (this sort of thing never happened to 007!). Sir Pellinore solves that problem in double quick time, but very soon Sallust is worrying about the gloomy prospects of the war finishing any time soon.
The bane of any DW novel, the dreaded info dump, takes up quite a bit of the first 90 pages of the novel. Sallust and Sir P. discuss Communism v Facism in a way that will doubtless get some of the regulars on this site at each others throats for weeks to come, but ultimately a decision is reached and Sallust is sent to Hungary to see whether they can be convinced to join the allied cause. Sallust is having a wonderful time to begin with, but as DW fans will guess, this doesn't last very long.
This is one of those novels where it is best to finish reading each chapter half way through. If you wait till the cliff-hanger then it will be necessary to go on to the next one. Unlike some of the previous Sallusts, such as 'Faked Passports', 'Traitor's Gate' benefits from a cleverly constructed plot. There is also a sprinkling of what could be called romantic comedy, as Sallust must constantly try to square things with Erika, as she constantly gets the wrong end of the stick and threatens to leave him.
A very enjoyable read, with an ending which can be construed as both cynical and romantic at the same time.


However the term goes back well before then. Wikipedia has a section on it - as you might imagine.
Extract below.

Information dump
When the presentation of information in fiction becomes wordy, it is sometimes referred to as an "information dump," "exposition dump," or "plot dump." Information dumps expressed by characters in dialogue or monologue are sometimes referred to as "idiot lectures."

Information dumps are sometimes placed at the beginning of stories as a means of establishing the premise of the plot. In serial television drama, exposition in individual episodes often appears as a brief montage of scenes from earlier episodes, prefaced with the phrase "Previously on [name of series]." Villain speech is a specific form of exposition in which the villain describes his sinister plans to a helpless hero, often prefacing his exposition with the comment that it can't hurt to divulge the plan, since the hero will be dead soon anyway (or the plan will be impossible to stop in the short time available). The villain's motivation sometimes includes his desire to have his cleverness admired by the character most capable of appreciating it. Examples include Comic book supervillains and villains in James Bond movies.

In television, information dumps are common in sit-coms with the introduction of non-recurring characters which drive the comedic plot of a particular episode. An example would be the use of the narrator in Arrested Development to sum up the revelations and inner thoughts of characters in order to keep the viewer tuned to the plot.

In television sketch comedy, which borrows from the tradition of vaudeville comedy, exposition in the most exaggerated sense is used for outrageous comedic effect.

Stories which are concerned with the unearthing of a secret past sometimes include lengthy exposition sequences. These may include large quantities of exposition, complete with theorizing about the implications of the information. Examples include:

Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code
Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash
Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum


Ken, Many thanks for the offer of the film, The Duchess. I would like to see it, if you don't mind. I don't have Blue Ray though so I don't know if it will work on the cheapy players?? If you think it will work I will post it back to you afterwards.
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Steve,

Informative analysis as always, and thanks for confirming who first used the phrase 'info dump' in the Library.

It may have been implicit in your reply, but I'd be interested to know whether you agree with Alan on the info dumps, or whether having done your reading for the reviews, you feel that some of the dumps could be or should be removed to maximise DW's appeal to the modern audience.

Again I stress this is just for info as and when the subject is raised with me by Chorion, as one day I am sure it will be.

Also, having had Alan's fascinating views, I'd be interested to know everyone else's views on the subject.

Glad you enjoyed Howard Spring. I guess we have to forgive you as he was a close friend of DW's Very Happy

Best to all as always !

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Charles,

I think that if we are trying to introduce new readers to DW it might be easier for some readers to read if some of the dumps were removed. Having said that, as an established fan I would not like it to be done as I then have the option of whether I choose to read it or not.

Think of it this way, Would a prospective new reader want to read Charles Dickens or Jane Austin for the first time in the abridged format or the original format.
Personally, I would like to try the real thing before I tried the shortened version.

Steve
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for me the the info dumps are an essential part of the books and if they were removed it could just look like the ramblings of a dandy chasing across the globe with no real purpose. a regency james bond.
of all the series of books the RB one does follow a complete narrative from beginning to end and although we all know how the history panned out how many know how it happened. the detail is fascinating. the treaties, schemes, plots and and counter plots that drive the whole political processes of the era are astounding and to weave that into a best selling series of books is for me DWs storytelling gift.
the RB series is my favourite and i would love to see it brought to the screen but must admit that the thought of how it would be treated fills me with dread. the info dumps would really hinder a screen adaptation.i haven't read any of the books on which the film was based but master and commander is an excellent film set around the same time with almost no background story and it works very well. in fact rumours abound that a sequel is is real possibility.


as for the duchess film stevie p, mary and i intend to travel down to the convention by train on the friday morning so could bring it and our blu-ray player with us for a friday night viewing if any one else is interested? ( the hotel wouldn't object would they charles?)

to be honest i had it in a pile of "don't bother with again" and if it wasn't a blu -ray it would have found its way into a charity bag by now. so if the viewing doesn't work out i can post it down but wouldn't be to bothered about getting it back.

speaking of the convention charles are we any further forward? i know this is not the correct thread but i have had a few ideas. if one of them comes off i will need to get in touch with you direct if thats ok! also seeing that it maybe on all hallows eve what if we picked some of our favourite scary DW moments and read them out? if its not to pushy we do have some one with a great voice who would maybe consider doing the readings for us.(sorry nik!!!)or we could be really scary and act them out between us.



ken




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Deeply appreciative of everyone's views on the 'info-dumps' - thank you.

Anyone else's views more than welcome.

Re the Convention, Ken, excellent idea, thank you.

We are working on the odd surprise (nothing guaranteed yet) but the programme has several gaps, so ideas most definitely welcome. Either via the site or direct to me by personal email (I think you all know it by now !)

Nick and I will be speaking shortly and all ideas most definitely welcome.

Best to all as always !

PS No problem with the blu-ray so long as you bring the leads and the player !

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