I am mostly a writer of fiction. Having said that, the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken is a true story – Children of Eden: The Story of the Salmon Family of Tahiti.
Like a gift from the blue, the idea popped into my head as I was getting into bed one night 10 years ago. I had suddenly remembered the Tahitian Princess who was buried in my home town in Scotland – with a long exotic very un-Scottish name on her pink granite tombstone. I thought, “There’s a great subject for a story, but I know nothing about Tahiti – I’ll do some research.” To my amazement, as I surfed the Internet and plunged into dusty books at the Library of Congress, I discovered a remarkable set of characters and a story full of drama, passion and conflict. I discovered that my Scottish-Tahitian Princess was the daughter of Alexander Salmon, an English Jew who grew up in the London of Dickens’ Pickwick Papers. This penniless young man sailed to the South Seas to seek his fortune and married the beautiful Princess Ariioehau, the Queen of Tahiti’s sister in 1841. Their marriage produced eight cosmopolitan children (educated in Australia and Britain) who dominated the economic and social life of the French protectorate of Tahiti throughout the 19th century. They also befriended the many European and American visitors to the island, including Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry Adams, and Paul Gauguin, and featured prominently in their writings. But after the death of their mother in 1897, the siblings fell out drastically among themselves and the family fortune seeped away into the hands of lawyers. It’s a classic rise and fall tale. I knew fiction wouldn’t do it justice - I had to write the real story. For pictures of the Salmons, see here.
And yet there are times when I simply have to go back to fiction. At those times, I slip right back into Albion’s Millennium, the story of the Ingham and Brodie families in 20th-century Britain. It starts on the hottest day since records began on August 10, 1911 and will end with a counter-factual State of Emergency in 2001, taking in two world wars, labor unrest, the rise and fall of socialism, the Cambridge spies, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and much domestic turmoil for my characters in between. I plan to tell the story in a series of five novels. Five novels? Am I insane? Probably, but you have to write what you have to write, and this story has been dogging me for years. The first book is edging towards the finish line, but for now Children of Eden must come first as my agent in London is waiting patiently for the manuscript. Now all I need is the gift of time...
This sounds like a fascinating subject! I can't wait to read your five novels.ReplyDelete
Hi I am a decendant of this family from tahiti...I would very much like to get a copy of this intriging story...please let me know how I can do this....my name is Tua..I am of Brander and Salmon decentReplyDelete
Hi Tua, I'm sorry - I only just saw this comment. It's great to hear from you. I assume you must be descended from one of the sons of John and Titaua Brander? I have written a short biography of Titaua Brander which will be published in Scotland sometime this coming year. Also, as you will have seen, I'm writing a book about that whole generation of your family which I hope will be published in the next couple of years. If you'd like more details, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.ReplyDelete