I do my best to make sure that the background to my stories is accurate. Most of my books are read before printing by some twenty people, usually including one or two experts – scientists, historians, or just people who have direct experience of what I’m writing about. But, somehow, mistakes always creep through…
Edge of Eternity
I suggest that American men were inducted into US military service by means of a lottery in 1966. In fact, the first Selective Service System draft lottery was held on 1 December 1969.
The Mississippi/Tennessee delegation
In the early 1970s, I have the mayor and a delegation from Roath, Mississippi, explaining their hiring practices, but when the meeting is over say that the delegation from Tennessee left. I meant Mississippi.
I claim that the Lockheed U2 spy plane travelled ‘a mile a second’ – 3 600 miles an hour. In fact, the U2 cruised at about 500 mph (800 km/h).
I state that Yugoslavia was behind the Iron Curtain and thus Yugoslavs could not travel to the West. This is incorrect: Yugoslavia was a communist state but not a Soviet satellite, and holders of Yugoslav passports were able to travel freely during the Cold War.
Winter of the World
The Old Ebbitt Grill
I incorrectly placed this famous Washington restaurant on 15th Street – its current location. It was actually around the corner, at 1427 F Street.
In Chapter 18, I said that one of my female characters was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship in 1944, but she could not have as women were not eligible until 1977. The scholarship, founded by South African mining magnate and politician Cecil John Rhodes in 1902, is awarded for study at the University of Oxford but was, in terms of Rhodes’ will, originally restricted to men.
United States aircraft carriers
I state that 90 aircraft carriers were constructed by the United States from 1942 until the end of the war – a number widely quoted in many reputable sources. In fact, there were 112 in total – 22 full size carriers, 9 smaller fleet carriers and 81 escort carriers.
United States Army Air Forces
I refer to the United States Air Force (USAF), but was a bit ahead of the times as what was properly the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) only became the USAF in 1947. And the famous Tokyo raid led by Lieutenant Colonel James ‘Jimmy’ Doolittle took place on 18 April 1942, not 25 April as I thought.
The Washington Senators
I refer to the ‘Nats’ baseball team. Although today’s Washington baseball team, which was founded in 1969, is presently known as the Nationals or Nats, this was not always so. This team was originally the Montreal Expos and only became the Washington Nationals in 2005 when the franchise was relocated. The original Washington baseball team, founded in 1901 as the Washington Senators, was officially named the Nationals from 1904-1955 but this was never recognised by the fanbase and the Senators name was always used.
Fall of Giants
In the map in the US edition, Aberowen is incorrectly placed in north Wales, whereas it should be just near Cardiff, in the south.
Blagny and Gagny
During the defence of Paris, a French colonel commandeers five hundred taxis to transport troops some 50 miles east to Nanteuil-sur-Marne, via the village of Blagny. I meant Gagny. Blagny is also to the east, but is 166 miles from Paris, which would be quite a detour.
I refer to the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” as one of the religious groups in Aberowen. However, the congregations associated with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania did not adopt the name Jehovah’s Witnesses until 1931.
President Woodrow Wilson and Josephus Daniels
I state that Woodrow Wilson was the first US President to leave the country while in office. This is incorrect. Theodore Roosevelt was, as he visited Panama in November 1906, to check the progress of the Panama Canal. I also mis-spelt the name of President Wilson’s Secretary of the Navy, who was Josephus Daniels, not Joseph.
We’ll Keep a Welcome in the Hillside
The song “We’ll Keep a Welcome in the Hillside” was actually written in 1940 by Lyn Joshua and Mai Jones for a BBC Cardiff radio revue called “Revue of Autumn” broadcast on the 24th September 1940.
World Without End
The word “corn” is a little confusing. It was used in England at that time to mean any grain crop including wheat, barley and rye. It is also short for Indian corn or sweetcorn which was brought to Europe from the New World in the 15th century.
Football was played in the Middle Ages. We know this because the authorities sometimes tried to ban it. Of course the modern rules had not been developed and it was a much more violent game.
Gwenda and Sam
On page 910 of the US edition and page 997 of the UK edition I write that “Gwenda and Ralph reached the settlement…”. It should read “Gwenda and Sam…”.
The Pope’s residence
In chapter 54 I wrote that Merthin passed through Avignon, which was the Pope’s seat at the time, on his journey home, and a few pages later wrote that the new Bishop needed to go to Rome to be confirmed. I meant Avignon.
On Christmas Eve, Stanley opens a bottle of ‘Brunello Di Moltepulciano’. He couldn’t have, as I had created a blend that doesn’t exist. I meant ‘Brunello Di Montalcino’ (though there is a wine named ‘Rosso Di Montepulciano’).
Arne is smuggled from Bornholm to the mainland in the back of a Volvo PV444, a large estate car or station wagon. Unfortunately, this vehicle did not go on sale until 1947, six years after the time of the story.
In my first draft, the rendezvous at the cathedral was to be at eleven o’ clock in the morning. In the rewrite, I changed this to three in the afternoon. But in one place I overlooked it and left the old time in.
‘Flick’ Clairet learns that Major Dieter Franck attended Humboldt University in Berlin. However, he could not have, as between 1828 (when it was founded by Wilhelm von Humboldt) and 1949 it was known as Friedrich Wilhelm’s University. It changed its name to the one I used four years after WWII had ended.
Code to Zero
In 1958 Luke steals a Ford Fiesta car, but the Ford Fiesta only came onto the scene in 1978. I was thinking of the 1953 Oldsmobile Fiesta.
The date of the moon landing is given as 1968, when it was actually in 1969. In a novel about the space programme, this is a really embarrassing mistake.
I have had many letters saying there were no Xerox copiers in offices in 1958, but in this case I believe I’m right. The Xerox ‘Model A’ copy machine was first marketed in 1949. It must have been rare, because many people imagine that Xerox copiers did not exist before the early sixties. However, they did!
At the beginning of the story, Luke has no watch. By the end, he has a wristwatch. When did he get it? He might have picked it up when he was at the Carlton Hotel – but the book doesn’t say.
James Van Allen
I incorrectly placed James Van Allen, who headed the team that discovered in 1958 the radiation belts that are named after him, at Iowa State University. In fact, he was at the University of Iowa.
The Hammer of Eden
Hindu and Muslim names
One of the FBI agents is a Hindu called Raja Khan. Raja is a popular Hindu name, but Khan is a typical Muslim name. Some of my readers suffer a sense-of-humour lapse about this error.
Lie down with lions
At school I was good at chemistry but I struggled with physics. When Ellis and Jane are on the run in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains, they have trouble cooking rice “because it took forever to boil water at this altitude.” Wrong. At high altitude, where the air pressure is reduced, water boils more quickly, because it reaches boiling point at lower temperatures. The problem is that the water, not being so hot, takes a long time to cook the food.
Eye of the Needle
“The U-505 wheeled in a tedious circle, her powerful diesels chugging slowly as she nosed through the depths like a grey, toothless, shark.” Nice imagery, but unfortunately submarines used electric engines when submerged. The diesel engines can only be used when the vessel is on the surface (though later versions of U-boats had ‘snorkels’ that allowed them to use the diesels submerged at a shallow depth). Although she did not change the course of the war by picking up 'Die Nadel', U-505 played a very significant role in another way. She was captured by American naval forces on June 4, 1944, between the Moroccan coast and the Cape Verde Islands, and the codebooks, Enigma encryption machine, and other secret materials found on board were very useful to Allied codebreakers. U-505 is now on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.