From the book's Afterword
To borrow a line from The Grateful Dead’s song, Trucking, “lately, it occurs to me, what a long strange trip it’s been.” And it has…
When I started with the conclusion to this story, I was immediately rocked by the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic. My employer of 29 years was undergoing a corporate buyout putting my career in question, and the world seemed to be in a chaotic place. Throughout my creative process, there were several starts and stops, and I found the story harder to conceptualize. Much more difficult than the first book.
What kept me coming back to it were my readers. I received such positive feedback from many different people, which gave me the willpower to ignore the craziness of the world around me and push on.
With the devastation of the pandemic and my own challenges to my personal life, I just did not have it in me. I kept putting the project down and just watched in horror as the death toll from the pandemic rose and at the same time, dealt with the bittersweet loss of my career.
Like all phases of life, however, resilience kicked in. I learned to accept the new reality. I found another career equally as challenging as the last and learned to adapt to a new world of social isolation, masking, and washing my hands fifty times a day.
What makes writing a sequel to a story easier is the existing foundational material of characters and settings all too familiar to the reader. A writer writing a sequel can introduce characters with confidence that the readers will pick up where the previous book left off.
Much to my surprise, several readers wrote to me asking to develop the character of Eloise, Agent Nadeau’s girlfriend. This came as a bit of a surprise to me as I felt she was more of a background part, but once I started to imagine her role in the story, I found I could make it work. It added an element to Nadeau that was not evident in “A Question of Time.”
Keeping Nadeau front and centre, I wanted to ensure that his sense of loss was felt as his world was changing around him due to the constant tinkering of Lambert in the past. The French Empire became more and more oppressive, and when it came to Eloise, Nadeau felt the changes personally. It drove him to react like he did in the last few chapters, and I think Eloise had much to do with how he pressed on.
Jonathan, as well, was a changed man. Despite his initial apprehensions about changing history, he did a rapid about-face with the illness of his young son. Sanitation became a topic front and centre, and I put myself in his shoes when I imagined the need to drink unpurified well water. He suspected it was Cholera but was it? It could have been one of many pathogens found in unsanitary drinking water.
On the topic of Cholera, I needed to take a little bit of poetic licence with its introduction in this story. Although Cholera was around and documented in the 1600s, it did not really ravage Europe until the 1800s. I needed the mechanism of Cholera and so needed to imagine a local outbreak in the late 1700s. Savvy historians might nitpick at this paradox, and I’d like to say to them, “I’m aware of it.”
This sequel needed to go off the rails of history more than in the first book. I was introducing concepts that were radically changing the timeline of Nadeau. Cartridge munitions and rifling, and a machine gun are the main technical factors affecting change. These introductions caused more ‘action’ than in the previous novel. On the economic front, the train was the principal agent of change. One can rapidly see the advantages of a national rail network and how it changed the United Kingdom in the 1800s. Had it been widespread in the pre-revolutionary days of France, it could have helped keep people well-fed and satiated. Hence potentially avoiding the revolution to begin with.
And finally, I had to consider the concept of a timeline. Some people like to call it the Butterfly effect or the space-time continuum. I prefer to point out that every day in the history of humanity, a decision is made that can change the world. Even a minute change that might seem inconsequential, and the consequences can be massive. Technological innovations have transformed the human race throughout the years in ways our ancestors could have never imagined. The sum of all human knowledge is available in our pockets, in our cars, and in our home appliances at the touch of a button. Information is spreading about at a blazing speed, and light is being shined in very dark places. Wars that are fought are fought in the clear light of millions of cameras in real-time.
Do I imagine an apocalyptic world like the one envisioned in this book? I hope not. Only our children and children’s children can ensure that we do not descend into an autocratic, technologically oppressive world that Nadeau bore witness to.
Thus ends the story of Johnathan Lambert and Laurent Nadeau. There will not be another. I hope it has been a project worthy of your attention, and I hope you have found it entertaining.
Steven Lazaroff is an extensive traveller with a passion for history. Able to root out the backstory of a building, an architectural ruin or battlefield, he seeks the humorous side of the story and attempts to convey a scene with sarcasm, humour, and style.