The Edinburgh Dead is set in 1828, a time of relative peace in Britain and Europe. But it is not itself a particularly peaceful story, and I have to report that on a number of occasions within its pages, various characters resort to violence. So: the equipment of violence.
This is a Land Pattern musket:
It’s a weapon I didn’t know anything in particular about until I started researching the book, but the more I read about it the more interested I became. Like a lot of guns, I find a certain appealing, utilitarian grace in its design. (Even as I find an ugliness in its purpose). What really got me interested, though, was its nickname. An enormous number of different versions of the Land Pattern were produced for use by the British armed forces in the 18th and 19th centuries, and many of them were known by those who used them as Brown Bess. As someone observes in The Edinburgh Dead: ‘a soft, almost companionable, name for something that had spat such storms of smoke and fire and lead and spilled such torrents of blood the world over.’
The Brown Bess was, in some ways, the ferocious midwife to the birth of the British Empire. More directly relevant to The Edinburgh Dead, as will become clear, she was at the side of thousands of British soldiers fighting in the brutally extended Napoleonic Wars that ravaged Europe in the early years of the 19th century.
This is a briquet, a French sabre:
A blade of the sort carried into battle by the French soldiers striving to fulfil Napoleon’s imperial ambitions. Guns of one sort or another had been the dominant force on the battlefield for a very long time by the start of the 19th century, yet there was still a place for the devices of horribly intimate slaughter. I can only guess that people could still find a use for swords of one sort or another mainly because the reload time for many of the firearms then in use was such that not all killing could easily be done at a distance. But still, even the muzzle-loading flintlock Brown Bess shown above could apparently be reloaded by a skilled operator remarkably quickly: three or four shots a minute was evidently possible.
This is a French flintlock pistol of the time:
Pretty, no? Strange how such gruesomely-intentioned equipment can appear so elegant. Why the emphasis on French weapons, you might wonder. Well, The Edinburgh Dead‘s central character – Adam Quire – is a veteran of the Napoleonic Wars. At the time the novel is set, he lives still with the physical, psychological and material legacy of that conflict. It casts a faint shadow over much of what happens in the book, and that includes the weaponry that appears in the story. Each one of the three weapons pictured here features somehow, so this really is a very literal photo-trailer.
And I’ll add one more image, by way of a less specific hint. Not strictly a weapon, but an important player in the action of The Edinburgh Dead. You don’t need me to tell you what this is:
Previous instalments of The Edinburgh Dead photo-trailer:
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