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Authors: Diana Gabaldon

A Trail of Fire

BOOK: A Trail of Fire
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DIANA GABALDON

 

A Trail of Fire

 

Four Outlander Tales

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This book is for Susan Pitman Butler, without whom ten million necessary things would not get done

 

 

 

 

Contents

Cover

Title page

Dedication

 

Acknowledgements

Mistress of the Bulge

 

A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows

The Custom of the Army

Lord John and the Plague of Zombies

The Space Between

 

Chronology of the Outlander series

Copyright

 

 

 

 

Acknowledgments

 

 

 

 

The author gratefully acknowledges . . .

. . . Maria Szybek, for invaluable advice in the matter of Polish vulgarities and WWII flying history . . .

. . . Douglas Watkins, for vivid descriptions of aerobatics (and crashing) in a small plane, technical information regarding the flying of small planes, and for coming up with a Really Good Reason for the crash that occurs in this book.

. . . Philippe Safavi, my French translator, who very graciously offered his services in translating the French bits in ‘Plague of Zombies’ and ‘The Space Between’, if only to save himself the pain of having to read my ungrammatical attempts. (Any misplaced or missing accent marks are my fault; any misspellings are undoubtedly the fault of Beastly Interfering Microsoft Word, which ought to be taken out and shot, if you ask me. (So should anyone who relies on its asinine suggestions re spelling or grammar.)

. . . Barbara Schnell (my German translator), Karen Henry (Nitpicker-in-Chief), Allene Edwards (Assistant Chief Nit-picker) and a number of other kind friends and acquaintances from the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum, where it’s been my pleasure to hang out for the last thirty years, for drawing my attention to assorted things needing attention. (I am Not Good with dates.)

. . . Ivan Rendall, whose
Spitfire: Icon of a Nation
was my principal technical reference for ‘A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows,’ Wendy Moore, whose excellent biography of Dr John Hunter,
The Knife Man
, inadvertently inspired ‘The Custom of the Army’, Wade Davis, for his valuable book,
The Serpent and the Rainbow
, with its scientific information on making zombies, and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, whose
Black Rebellion: Five Slave Revolts
supplied much of the historical background for ‘Plague of Zombies.’

. . . Catherine MacGregor, for advice on Gaelic inclusions, and for telling me about the two memorial plaques at the Plains of Abraham.

. . . George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, who inadvertently set me on the path to writing short (well, sort of) pieces.

. . . John Joseph Adams and Jim Frenkel, for their graciousness in allowing me to publish ‘The Space Between’ in this volume. (This story will be available in the US in early 2013, in their anthology THE MAD SCIENTIST’S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION, edited by John Joseph Adams, published by Tor.)

 

 

 

 

Mistress of the Bulge

 

 

 

 

When
The Scottish Prisoner
was published, a bookseller friend turned to me in delight and said, ‘I think you’ve invented a new literary form – the bulge!’ In other words, a story that is neither sequel nor prequel, but lives inside an existing body of work. Now, frankly, I wish she had thought of something more poetic to describe my efforts, but I have to admit that ‘bulge’ has a bit more punch – with its vivid imagery of a snake that’s swallowed some large and squirming prey – than colourless terms like ‘interpolation’ or ‘inclusion’.

I first wrote a short story fifteen years ago, mostly to see whether I
could
write something shorter than 300,000 words. It was an interesting technical challenge, but ‘short’ is not what you’d call one of my great natural skills. Still, I found the experience interesting, and since then have written the occasional short (well . . . sort of; it’s all relative, isn’t it?) piece when invited to contribute to an anthology now and then.

Even though these stories are relatively brief, they’re almost all connected to (and integral parts of) the large series of novels that includes both the huge
Outlander
novels and the smaller historical mysteries focused on the character of Lord John Grey. These novellas too are bulges; stories that fill a lacuna in the main story or explore the life and times of secondary characters, while connecting with the existing parts of the series.

Now, an anthology is a collection of stories written by a number of different authors. It’s a good way to sample the styles and voices of writers you might not usually encounter, or try an unfamiliar genre. Still, some readers may be chiefly interested in a particular favourite writer, and not want to buy an anthology for the sake of just one short story or novella.
1

A few years ago, I collected three novellas about Lord John Grey (two of them previously published in anthologies, one written specifically for the new collection) into a single volume, and titled it
Lord John and the Hand of Devils
. Readers enjoyed having these pieces of Lord John’s story conveniently to hand, and so I figured that whenever I had a few more short pieces, I’d publish another collection. This is it.

This volume includes two Lord John novellas:
The Custom of the Army
, and
Lord John and the Plague of Zombies
. In terms of the overall chronology of the novels and shorter pieces involving his lordship,
Custom
follows the novel
Brotherhood of the Blade
and precedes the novel
The Scottish Prisoner
.
Zombies
follows
The Scottish Prisoner
(though it was in fact written
while
I was writing
Prisoner
, and was published before the novel was finished, and if you don’t think
that
was a swift bit of juggling . . .). You’ll find an overall chronology of both the main
Outlander
novels and the Lord John novels and novellas at the back of this book.

The Custom of the Army
is set in 1759, in London and Quebec, and while it probably
was
all the fault of the electric eel, Lord John finds himself obliged to leave London for the wilds of Canada and the dangerous proximity of James Wolfe, the British general besieging the Citadel of Quebec.
(‘Melodramatic ass,’ was what Hal had said, hastily briefing him before his departure. ‘Showy, bad judgement, terrible strategist. Has the Devil’s own luck, though, I’ll give him that.
Don’t
follow him into anything stupid.’)

Plague of Zombies
takes place in 1761, on the island of Jamaica, where Lord John is sent as commander of a battalion intended to suppress what seems to be a revolt of the escaped slaves called maroons. But things are not always what they seem.
(He rubbed the rest of the blood from his hand with the hem of his banyan, and the cold horror of the last few minutes faded into a glowing coal of anger, hot in the pit of his stomach. He’d been a soldier most of his life; he’d killed. He’d seen the dead on battlefields. And one thing he knew for a fact. Dead men don’t bleed.)

Now, you’ll also find two other stories in this book:
A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows
, and
The Space Between
.
Leaf
is the story of Roger MacKenzie’s parents, Jerry and Dolly, and takes place during WWII.
(It was cold in the room, and she hugged herself. She was wearing nothing but Jerry’s string vest – he thought she looked erotic in it – ‘lewd,’ he said, approving, his Highland accent making the word sound really dirty – and the thought made her smile. The thin cotton clung to her breasts, true enough, and her nipples poked out something scandalous, if only from the chill. She wanted to go crawl in next to him, longing for his warmth, longing to keep touching him for as long as they had.)

The Space Between
follows the events in the novel An Echo in the Bone, is set in Paris in 1778, and concerns Michael Murray (Young Ian Murray’s elder brother), Joan MacKimmie (Marsali MacKimmie Fraser’s younger sister), Master Raymond, Mother Hildegarde (yes, she’s still alive), the Comte St Germain (ditto – surely you didn’t think he was really dead, did you?), and a number of other interesting people.
(‘What a waste of a wonderful arse,’ Monsieur Brechin remarked in French, watching Joan’s ascent from the far side of the cabin. ‘And mon Dieu, those legs! Imagine those wrapped around your back, eh? Would you have her keep the striped stockings on? I would.’ It hadn’t occurred to Michael to imagine that, but he was now having a hard time dismissing the image. He coughed into his handkerchief to hide the reddening of his face.)

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