…and in a Kindle version:
Dymphna bought the Kindle version as soon as it came out, and has already finished reading it. She says the action is fast-paced, the story contains surprising plot twists, and the characters are well-developed. She also appreciated the rich historical detail.
You’ll be hearing more from her about Red Cliffs in due course.
In the meantime, our English correspondent Seneca III has supplied a historical preface for Gates of Vienna readers. As it happens, he worked with Mr. Bracken as a technical consultant on the British parts of the book, so in the essay below he outlines the history of the Moorish slavers in Europe, with special emphasis on the British Isles.
The Red Cliffs of Zerhoun, by Matthew Bracken – A Commentary
by Seneca III
Part I – As it was
During the dark winter months, driven by westerly gales, the deep, grey rollers of the North Atlantic descend upon the western coastlines of Ireland and Britain with a cold, inanimate ferocity. Yet each year, without fail, the seasons progress and winter slowly segues into spring and spring into summer, and with summer comes the sailing season.
And, for now at least, in the calm of these summers, protected by the maritime forces of the Irish Republic and Great Britain, craft of every type, large and small, make their way to and fro on business or for recreation whilst the towns and villages on the surrounding coastlines bustle with holidaymakers and visitors from far and wide, but other times have not always been so pleasant. From the 16th to 19th centuries the sailing season brought a horde of far less welcome visitors: Barbary Corsairs, the bearded, demented Slaves of Allah, who descended like a wolf on the fold to rape, plunder, kill, torture and enslave all in their path with an equally cold ferocity.
They came from the shores of Tripoli and Morocco…
…paralleling the coast of an Iberian Peninsula still recovering from the physical and psychological traumas of the seven-hundred-year Reconquista and the centuries-long depredations of the fratricidal Berber, Almohad, Almoravid and Umayyad Caliphates. Then, leaving astern the westernmost point of Europe, Carbo da Roca, they pressed on past La Coruña to steer either due north across the Bay of Biscay or to meander unopposed along the lee shore of the Atlantic seaboard of a still turbulent France, raiding and ravaging as they went, until their bows breasted the first gentle waves of the Celtic Sea.
From then onwards, sporadically, for over 300 years they ravaged far and wide into northern Europe, from the coastlines of Ireland and Britain to as far north as Scotland and Iceland and easterly as far as the Netherlands. They seized ships and raided coastal settlements, taking an estimated 800,000 to 1.25 million Europeans to the slave souks of Algiers, Tunis, Rabat and Salé. It was Corsairs from the latter who in 1627 seized and held the only part of these islands to ever fall into Muslim hands for a prolonged period (until recently, that is): the tiny outcrop of Lundy lying at the mouth of the Bristol Channel only twelve miles from mainland Britain.
For the best part of five years, until 1632 when Sir John Pennington and his men-at-arms landed, put the barbarians to the sword and tore down their Ottoman flag, Lundy was a transit point for the slavers. Throughout the season its holding pens were gradually filled, awaiting the autumnal voyage south to North Africa. There, upon the auction blocks were paraded the men, chained and beaten into submission, the women naked, shaved and fragrantly oiled and, beside them, the most prized of all that booty, the pre-pubescent virgin girls, the ones who commanded the highest prices of all.
Thus, for close on the 200 years since the French finally put an end to Muslim piracy and slaving in and around the Mediterranean basin by taking Algiers in 1830 and, in the years that followed, all of Algeria, once again we face this old enemy. As the 21st century corsairs of ISIS so profoundly demonstrate, it is axiomatic that apart from opportunity, nothing in Islam changes.
And as it has come to pass that only we have changed, and the inevitable result of this cultural spinelessness and moral turpitude that now terminally infects the West will be what leads us on from the phony war of today into a possible but not totally unfamiliar tomorrow… and perhaps even unto similar redoubts.
Middle America, July 23rd, 2017
Matthew Bracken was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1957, and attended the University of Virginia, where he received a BA in Russian Studies and was commissioned as a naval officer in 1979. Later in that year he graduated from Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, and in 1983 he led a Naval Special Warfare detachment to Beirut, Lebanon. Since then he’s been a welder, boat builder, charter captain, ocean sailor, essayist and novelist. He lives in Florida. Links to his short stories and essays may be found at EnemiesForeignAndDomestic.com. For his previous essays, see the Matthew Bracken Archives.