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Author Bernard Cornwall was born in Essex, UK in 1944, and was adopted at the age of six weeks. The family who adopted him were members of a now-extinct fundamentalist Christian sect called the Peculiar People. This sect was almost entirely limited to Essex and was named from a quote from the bible in Deuteronomy, Chapter 14, Verse 2 "and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself." The sect was strongly puritan, and forbade the use of alcohol and tobacco, and taking part in entertainments such as dancing, cinema, theatre and television. One of the other things forbidden under the rules was toy guns – the group was pacifist and members were conscientious objectors during wars.

Given this repressive background, it is possibly not surprising that Cornwell grew up with a fascination for things military, and during his teens he developed a passion for the Hornblower novels written by C.S. Forrester, and began a lifelong interest in the Napoleonic wars. As he grew up, he tried to desperately to enlist in the army, but because his eyesight was poor he was not considered suitable for a combat unit and he wasn't interested in an administrative posting.
Denied his opportunity for heroism, he went to university to read theology instead, and after graduating he became a teacher briefly, before moving to another area forbidden to him in his youth, television. He joined the BBC's Nationwide programme, eventually rising in the hierarchy to become first head of current affairs at BBC Northern Ireland, then later, editor of Thames Television News.

He would probably have stayed in television if, at the age of 35, he hadn't fallen in love with Judy, an American citizen. For what Cornwell describes as "a myriad of reasons", the couple decided to settle in the US rather than the UK, and Bernard gave up his job, the pair married, and moved to the States. However, he was unable to get a green card, so for his first eighteen months in the country he had no occupation.

He decided to turn his obsession with The Peninsular War into cash, and the result was the first of many novels about Sergeant-turned-officer Richard Sharpe, Sharpe's Eagle. The depth of Cornwell's research makes the Sharpe novels outstandingly accurate, and the hero is one of the best realised characters in modern fiction.

In 1992 ITV serialised Sharpe's Rifles and Sharpe's Eagle, casting Sean Bean in the lead role. While the actor doesn't match Cornwell's description of the soldier – he's a fair haired northerner, whereas the book's hero was black-haired and from London - Cornwell was so impressed with his portrayal that he states that Bean was the best thing to happen to Sharpe. Later books, he says, were written with the actor firmly in mind.

As well as the Sharpe series, Cornwell has written the Nathan Starbuck Chronicles – tales from the American Civil War, and a highly critically acclaimed retelling of the Arthur legend, as well as a number of standalone novels and thrillers.

Bernard lives with his wife Judy in Cape Cod, and owns a house in Florida, and – his other obsession – two boats. Apparently he takes two months a year off from writing, and indulges this passion by spending most of the time on his 24-foot Cornish crabber, Royalist.


Bibliography

Richard Sharpe series:
Sharpe's Tiger
Sharpe's Triumph
Sharpe's Fortress
Sharpe's Trafalgar
Sharpe's Prey
Sharpe's Rifles
Sharpe's Havoc
Sharpe's Escape
Sharpe's Eagle
Sharpe's Gold
Sharpe's Battle
Sharpe's Company
Sharpe's Sword
Sharpe's Enemy
Sharpe's Honour
Sharpe's Regiment
Sharpe's Siege
Sharpe's Revenge
Sharpe's Waterloo
Sharpe's Devil

Also: Sharpe's Skirmish a novella, which presupposes a good knowledge of the Sharpe story to make sense.

Nathaniel Starbuck Chronicles:
Rebel
Copperhead
Battle Flag
The Bloody Ground

The Warlord Chronicles:
The Winter King
Enemy of God
Excalibur

The Grail Quest Series:
Harlequin
Vagabond
Heretic

Other:
Stonehenge
The Archer's Tale
Wildtrack
Redcoat
Sea Lord
Killer's Wake
Crackdown (Murder Cay)
Stormchild
Scoundrel
Gallows Thief
The Last Kingdom
The Pale Horseman


Thanks to SgtP Hazelnut & Master Villainfor updates.

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