An alternative trailer to Cavalier's Call, a celebration of Portugal's dawn to the Age of Discovery.

An Audio Excerpt to Cavalier's Call


Related Posts:

1) Interview with Grant de Graf [Part I]
2) Cavalier's Call, a historical novel celebrating the dawn to Portugal's Age of Discovery
3) 5 Facts About the Age of Discovery
4) Sparks that Ignited the Advent to the Age of Discovery
5) A Review of Cavalier's Call
6) Read an Excerpt of Cavalier's Call
7) Watch the Book Trailer
8) Cavalier's Call Untold Secrets video


A CONTINUATION ... - In this issue Grant de Graf provides a candid account of his personal life, his experiences in the South African Navy as a diver, and the factors that compelled him to later pursue a career in finance. [To read Part I CLICK HERE]

Do you think that that your experiences in the navy as a diver, afforded you a privileged perspective to the mechanics and mindset found in the military? 
When a person spends nearly two years in what is reputed to be a crack unit in the defense force, it’s hard not to emerge from the experience without embracing a changed perspective on life. The training that our team endured was physically and mentally draining, designed to push us to the limits. Only a small percentage of candidates qualified as a navy diver, after undergoing what was argueably one of the toughest courses in the defense force. A YouTube Video Clip highlights some of the criteria that are required to be accepted into the U.S. Naval Diving School. Similar guidelines were followed by the South African Navy. I don’t believe that given the parameters and choices that I had in life that I could have achieved a more intense exposure to the military.

"More than fifty percent of candidates on the course dropped out in the first month."

Can you give us some examples of what the training may have consisted? 
For the first month, the schedule was purely focused on physical fitness, typically for about twenty hours, with little sleep and few breaks. The program included long swims in the sea, marathon runs on the beach, rope climbing and night dives that became part of the evening entertainment. Every other day, without any regular pattern, the dickies, (diving instructors) would wake us at about 3am for a night swim. More than fifty percent of candidates on the course dropped out in the first month.

When did you actually start to dive? 
Our team was issued wetsuits after about a month of very aggressive physical training. Until that point, every day is a day closer to wearing the prized diving gear. A single day in a wetsuit knocked me to my senses and made me regret having ever felt an inclination to bare the diving gear. The suffocating heat that attacked us in the neoprene material, specifically constructed for heat retention, after spending hours of severe physical training on the beach and carrying logs, is just sheer torture. Several members of our unit including me, passed out from exhaustion and dehydration. I learned to appreciate the meaning of the term that the only easy day was yesterday.

"I learned to appreciate the meaning of the term that the only easy day was yesterday.”

After two weeks of receiving our wet suits, we were issued with full diving gear. That’s when the fun really starts. We never could anticipate the strikes, or when they would occur. The visibility was poor and when I did merit to view my hand in front of my face, I was considered fortunate. At depths of about a hundred feet, our instructors launched simulated enemy attacks against us. Our underwater breathing apparatus was cut and we were required to buddy breathe from team mates. In some cases, about six divers had to rely off the supply from one diver. Any attempt to surface, would immediately be classified as panic. In such a case a candidate would immediately be disqualified from the course and sent packing. Each day I lived with the hope that my diving buddies would not express a greater love for air, than the amount for which I needed to survive. In some cases we were required to dive in shallower depths, to avoid the need for decompression. In these instances we dived for periods that extended more than a straight twenty-four hours, without break for food or water. I have never experienced hunger and thirst like I knew then, given the energy which our anatomy needed to expend to maintain body temperature. As the minutes ticked by, the water became increasingly cold. The fact that at times we were diving in shark infested waters, was of our least concern.

Then there were the dry-dock dives, conducted through narrow underwater passages. Here there were no second chances and a turn in the wrong direction would mean no coming home. We were also commanded to jump off ships and cranes that extended over two-hundred feet in height from the water surface. A show of hesitation to perform a jump, would mean taking the royal salute and course termination. The concluding phase of the program was a course in explosives and demolitions. An accurate perspective of the course were words that one navy diver had related to me, prior to my decision to apply to become a diver. “I can tell you about the challenges that I experienced, but you will never be able to truly appreciate the hardship, until you experience the program first hand.” 

"...we were lowered by helicopter into the troughs of gigantic Indian Ocean rollers that were over eighty feet in height."

After you qualified as a diver, what duties did you perform? 
I was based in Durban, located on the east coast of Africa, where we would often receive calls from the 15 Squadron to conduct helicopter rescue operations for missing seamen. These SOS signals were typically from Taiwanese trawlers and yachts, positioned off the coast. Occasionally, squalls hugged the coast, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. During rescue missions we were lowered by helicopter into the troughs of gigantic Indian Ocean rollers that were over eighty feet in height. In one incident, our diving base received a call at dawn to conduct a helicopter search and rescue mission for a missing yacht. I tool the call. The yacht was apparently positioned off the wild coast, a few hundred miles south. On that occasion we were not able to locate the vessel. Fortunately, the yacht and seamen were later discovered a few days later. However, I had opportunity to view some of the most spectacular and breath-taking scenery that I have ever experienced, during that five-hour flight operation along the coast.

In other instances, we would conduct routine bottom searches on the naval fleet, for limpet mines and enemy explosives.

Do any of these experiences manifest themselves in Cavalier’s Call? 
Not directly. However, I would hope that my exposure to the navy afforded me the ability to provide an account of military matters, in an authentic manner, especially the dialogue.

After you completed your service, did you have any perspective on the direction in life that you were interested in developing, from a vocational aspect? 
My contemporaries from the navy all went to dive in the North Sea, where they made big money and retired after a few years. My intent was always to graduate from university and pursue a career in finance. I grew up in a home that broadcast a very strong entrepreneurial atmosphere. Even though my father was based in the hotel industry, he was in essence a serial entrepreneur. On several occasions I traveled with him to meetings at which he was seeking to conduct preliminary investigations into possible acquisitions. Our home was an operations room for various projects in their infancy stage. Proposals that were being piloted ranged from real estate projects to undertakings in the electronics industry. My father and uncle would bank roll these projects through to development, and from about nine years old I would sit in on the discussions with a keen ear. I listened to the presentations, the cross-questions and I observed the sparks fly. It was amazing, exciting and I thrived on every minute.

"The second rule was that no guest was permitted to have an empty glass."

My father had two rules. The fist was that no one was permitted to knock on the door to announce their arrival. They were required to enter on their own accord and make themselves at home. This was not as imposing as it sounds, because we had a sizable home with a homely entertainment area. The second rule was that no guest was permitted to have an empty glass. From a young lad I held the key to the bar and was commissioned to ensure that everyone’s glass was always full. The range of beverages extended from soft drink based concoctions to the full monty of alcoholic cocktails.

From the age of about seven or eight I was reading financial news reports and tracking my first dummy stock portfolio. Shortly thereafter I was buying and selling shares and commodities through a broker. Asset management or finance was the natural direction in which I gravitated and with that orientation in mind, I set off to obtain a university education. I certainly appreciated that achieving success does not simply comprise of education plus experience. I knew that the road ahead would be tough and trying, but I was committed to make the sacrifices necessary, to achieve those goals.



In this segment of the interview, Grant de Graf speaks about (1) his life-threatening account of fighting bush fires in Australia, (2) growing up in the Durban Point, and (3) how he was able to incorporate some of his personal experiences into his historical novel, Cavalier's Call.

Q. Do you have any impressionable memories, working as a jackeroo on a sheep station in Australia?
One incident that is difficult to forget, is the bushfire that the region experienced during my term. It was the most brutal fire to sweep the country in the decade. We received the call mid-morning. All hands rushed over to try and rescue sheep from the inferno and create breaks, so that we could contain spread of the fire. There were ‘roos everywhere, running in sheer panic and the poignant smell of mutton filled the air, a result of the casualties that the bushfire had claimed. A group of us had penetrated some dense bush with a ute (utility vehicle), in an attempt to create a break at the frontline. Suddenly, we realized that we were trapped. We were encircled with flames and there was no exit point. The pilot of a small plane hovered overhead and tried to direct us out the death-trap, through radio communication. I was knocked unconscious from smoke inhalation. Fortunately, one of our rangers managed to break through a field of low flying flames and rescue us from certain tragedy. It left me with a very high level of respect for fire and the potential damage that it can achieve. We were lucky to be alive.

Q. Were you able to see any parts of the Barrier Reef?
Yes. In fact I had a gig as a water sports instructor on one of the islands within the Whitsunday cluster near the mainland, given my experience in the navy as a diver. The Barrier Reef is actually much further out, at that point. The coastal waters near the mainland can be quite dangerous, as during certain periods of the year, the area is home to the box jellyfish, a venomous creature that can kill a man in a few seconds. However, within the cluster of islands there is greater level of protection and the dangers are not as prevalent. During my stay in Australia, I also covered as a bartender in several pubs in Queensland and Sydney, pulling beer. In Queensland it was make it a XXXX mate, and in New South Wales the call was Tooheys New served in a pony, midi or schooner.

"Wherever you have men with a little alcohol under the belt, you are bound to find a few loose steer on the top paddock."

Q. Did you have to deal with situations when the patrons of a pub became a little frisky?
Wherever you have men with a little alcohol under the belt, you are bound to find a few loose steer on the top paddock. But I had seen action before. When my father came to Durban from Johannesburg, as a qualified pharmacist and second generation hotelier, he was offered a lease on a derelict pub in the harbor in the Point, called the Criterion Hotel. My parents signed the lease and called the establishment the Smuggler’s Inn, because it was the only tavern in the world that boasted a custom’s gate in its courtyard. I can’t vouch for the sobrietry of the custom’s officers, but everyone had a good time. It attracted a very animated and vibrant clientele. In Durban you had the Point, which extended perpendicular from the Bluff on the opposite side of the bay. My father always used to joke that Durban was all bluff, until you got to the point. In about 1965, the tavern was considered a security risk and the property expropriated, due to the lack of control that was being exercised at the custom’s gate. My parents acquired the Alexandra Hotel, located at 124 Point Road, a few hundred yards away from the original tavern and on New Year’s Eve, to the beat of a lively band and much fanfare, hundreds of patrons marched from the old Smuggies, as it was nicknamed, to the new Smuggies. The Alexandra Hotel had also been the location at which President Paul Kruger resided, during one of his visits to Durban during the nineteenth century.

"Every sailor who had weathered the seven seas was my friend, with whom I had sparred in a bout of arm-wrestling."
In the harbor there was a lot of shunting – the trains. They were all steam driven. In those days, the docks was my playground, and I was on first name terms with every train driver on the block. I would hitch a ride on the old steam locomotives, from the bottom end of the Point across to Maydon Wharf, which was where the sugar containers were located, on the other side of the bay. The most enthralling part of the trip was when the driver would allow me to ring the train’s bell and whistle, as it expelled jubilant hissing sounds. Every sailor who had weathered the seven seas was my friend, with whom I had sparred in a bout of arm-wrestling. Of course they would always let me win, which made me think that I was the strongest man alive.

Q. Did you attend a nursery school or kindergarten?
Yes. It was called the Claire Ellis Brown Nursery School and situated on Point Road. I remember one incident that occurred when I was about four years old. A friend at the kindergarten enticed me to bunk and come to his home to view his toys. During the middle of break, we both secured our bags and hurtled down Point Road at full throttle. Fortunately for the teachers and us, a young student caught up with our trail. We were spanked, placed in a corner and prohibited from participating in the scheduled entertainment, a showman who made animal shapes with balloons. The principal, a Ms. Meinjies, sent us home with a note to our parents urging them not to punish us, as we had already been scolded. That was very graceful of her. Years later when I was at high school attending DHS, I paged through some old photos and immediately recognized the boy with whom I had participated in the foiled escape of my toddler days. He was a very bright student and we shared a place in the high school’s swimming team, under the guidance of Springbok lifesaver Alan Burt. His name was David Curry. When I recalled the incident to David who remembered the experience well, he claimed that I had attempted to solicit him to watch a show at the Smuggler’s Inn, which of course was not true.

Q. Did Smuggies attract mainly seamen?
In 1967, after the six day war and the closure of the Suez Canal, all shipping was diverted around the Cape of Good Hope. Business boomed, as the hotel’s clientele was principally seamen and stevedores. It was as if the old silk and spice route had been re-opened. There were literally hundreds of ships that were anchored off the coastline on a daily basis, waiting to enter the harbor for fresh supplies and to re-fuel. We could always tell how good business was, by counting the number of ships anchored offshore.

When our family was not hosting the famous Sunday braai (barbeque), we would venture down to Noddys, next to the paddling pool on the beachfront. This was the location where I had experienced my first swimming lessons, provided by a veteran coach who would wear a safari-style peaked cap, and who would ask me whether I had eaten my jungle oats that morning. Noddys was famous for its waffles and in between ice-cream, I would accost visiting seamen from the navies of the world with my friendly greeting. I had been instructed by my father that they were our friends. Every seaman that walked passed was a potential candidate to an arm-wrestling challenge.

"Of course there was Hellcat Margaret who was reputed to deal with ill-behaved customers by seizing their ear between her teeth and dragging them outside."

Q. Were there any interesting personalities that you knew?
I could keep you busy for a month of Sundays. Of course there was Hellcat Margaret (other versions of the story describe her as Hellcat Peggy) who was reputed to deal with ill-behaved customers by seizing their ear between her teeth and dragging them outside. It was rumored that as a warning to others she kept a jar of preserved ears, within close range. I knew Hellcat Margaret and was witness to her dealing with ill-behaved customers, but I never saw the infamous ears that had been kept in a jar of preservatives. Truthfully, I was too afraid to ask, because I didn’t have any doubt that she would produce the evidence on request.

In the early seventies, we had the John Rothman years. He was a male dancer-singer, who took the city by storm and later became a choreographer for South African Television. John performed to a packed house for nearly two years. Smuggies came into its own as a venue that was considered hip, frequented by a cross-spectrum of people from all walks of life, from seamen to professionals. It was attractive for three reasons: (1) the atmosphere was considered authentic and unpretentious, (2) it was a dare, and (3) there was always good entertainment. Certainly, not the place that you would take the new girl on the block, but it was fun.

Then my parents hit the restaurant industry with a bombshell. They started selling giant T-bone steaks for fifty cents, which by today’s standards would be like selling steak in a Manhattan restaurant for ten dollars. People came from everywhere and at times the lines extended to lengths of over a quarter of mile down Point Road. Smugglers was also know for its famous Xmas lunch. I have very fond memories of the lady patrons, sifting through Christmas pudding and helping me to find the hidden tickies (nickels) buried within. They said that it was like trying to find their men.

"Certainly, not the place that you would take the new girl on the block, but it was fun."

When my father passed away, my whole world was turned upside down. I was now ostensibly the man of the house and had to take my stand by my mother and sister. As a relatively young widow, my mother shouldered the responsibility of managing the hotel and entertainment operation, but I was given significant powers of command. The staff referred to me as Boss Grant and they were quick to act on my wishes. During the days that school closed early, I would take my friends to Smuggies for steak, chips and cabaret.

View of Durban Point today.

Q.  Have you used the benefit of these experiences in your novel, Cavalier’s Call?
Yes, in a peripheral way. I have several scenes that unfold in a vibrant tavern atmosphere. Action follows and expresses itself in a manner, which I believe is authentic and entertaining. In fact in one incident Joao, the lead character and Ines Peres, a woman for which he has strong aspirations, enter a tavern disguised as French cavaliers. When Joao is attacked, Ines Peres draws a sword and comes to his defense.

"She promptly pulled out a baby Beretta and tried to shoot me."

Q. Are your characters based on real life experiences?
I can’t say specifically. I have had the odd encounter. In one incident, I suggested to a friend that I had been dating that we terminate the relationship. She promptly pulled out a baby Beretta and tried to shoot me. “If I can’t have you, then no one else can,” she protested. Fortunately, I succeeded in wrestling the weapon from her grip. Of course, I did the noble thing and confiscated the gun. After the experience my friends called her six-gun Kelly.*

The Durban July
"It is reputed that on days that they would fire the flame, the poignant aroma of curry would waft across the entire Durban Berea."

Q. It seems that you have an appreciation for entertainment?
In the right context, yes. I can recall in later years, a friend and I hit on an idea to host a marquee at the Durban July, South Africa’s premier racehorse event. I don’t know if it’s the same today, but then, everyone who was anyone attended. My friend was Ian Rout, or Trouty as we knew him. The Rout family was known to have access to a closely guarded and secret recipe in curry. It is reputed that on days that they would fire the flame, the poignant aroma of curry would waft across the entire Durban Berea. For the Durban July event, Trouty and I had a very low budget so the marquee that we hired was second grade and the cheapest obtainable. After workmen had hoisted the tent, it looked a poor and sorry sight, poised to collapse on the hint of a slight breeze. “You need to pray hard,” I suggested. “If anyone sneezes, she will probably go.” I secured the services of the famed singer and guitarist Josh Sithole, who was playing at the Umhlanga Sands. The event was an incredible hit. No one sneezed and there was a buzz that carried on late into the night. This was the springboard for other such events that were hosted in the years that followed.


Related Posts:

1) Interview with Grant de Graf [Part I]
2) Cavalier's Call, a historical novel celebrating the dawn to Portugal's Age of Discovery
3) 5 Facts About the Age of Discovery
4) Sparks that Ignited the Advent to the Age of Discovery
5) A Review of Cavalier's Call
6) Read an Excerpt of Cavalier's Call
7) Watch the Book Trailer
8) Cavalier's Call Untold Secrets video 

* Not her real name

Book Club Discussion/ Questions (Cavalier's Call)

1) Did the relationship which João enjoyed with his father have any bearing on his personality?

2) Ines Peres fled from her father’s home to be with João. Should she rather have hearkened to the voice of her father and refrained from making contact with João?

3) The crown was responsible for some underhand manipulation in dealing with the accused Carlos Carreira. What duty did they have towards making full disclosure and coming clean?

4) Was the action of Ines Peres to come to João’s defense when he was under attack in the Santa Clara tavern, proper?

5) Should the crown have come to João's defense when he was being pursued from Don Antonio Esteves’ bondeleros, instead of taking a passive stance and turning a blind eye?

6) Should João have attempted to make contact with his friend, Nuno during the period that he was in hiding, at the risk that his assassins would establish his location?

7) Was the apprehension that the consortium of Lisbon merchants expressed about entering into an agreement with the Castilians, when King Ferdinand I died, justified?

5 Facts About the Age of Discovery


1) The Age of Discovery was ignited in the 15th century, and triggered one of the most significant initiatives in history, with the establishment of a connection between the Old World and the New World.

2) Giovanni de Plano Carpini preceded Marco Parlo in securing a trade route to Mongolia in 1241.

3) The explorations of Marco Polo were conducted throughout Asia from 1271 to 1295, in which he was a guest at the Yuan Dynasty court of Kublai Khan

4) An advancement in navigational instruments and the development of new ship designs in the form of the caravel, acted as catalysts in facilitating the Age of Discovery.

5) Henry the Navigator, son to João de Aviz, was able to initiate his conquests in exploration, through funding that he had secured from wealthy monarchs and the church.


The author of Cavalier's Call provides a candid account of his personal life and writing his historical novel.

What prompted you to write Cavalier's Call?
Mostly, I was encouraged by friends and colleagues, who were always egging me on to complete a novel. But, more than anything, I actually enjoy writing and articulating aspects about life's experiences.

Do you have any formal training in writing?
No. However, I came from a family that was rooted in entertainment. My parents were impresarios who were probably the first to bring out international artists, singers and dancers to South Africa. This was a greater achievement than it may appear. Forty years ago we didn't have the access to air travel that we do today.

"I was weaned on song and dance."

Were flights less frequent?
That's an understatement. Travel was much more expensive and not as common. By comparison, about twenty years ago a train trip from Durban to Cape Town, which is about a thousand miles, took three days. International travel was a major undertaking, rather than the bus ride that it is today. As South Africa was much more isolated, even before sanctions, bringing out international celebrities to a local venue was a novelty. I recall very fondly, the regular Sunday braais (barbeques) that my parents would host. There would be well over a hundred guests at each event. I was weaned on song and dance. Also, when my father passed away, I was pulled into the family business for a brief period. So the entertainment industry is not something new to me.

Do you see writing as entertainment?
I would categorize it as entertainment on a sophisticated level. If a novelist can't hold or grab an audience within the few first pages, the writer has probably lost them. Obviously, I very much aspire to engage my audience, in a way that has them hanging and desperate to turn the next page.

Why did you choose the dawn of Portugal's Age of Discovery, as the backdrop to Cavalier's Call?
Really, I wanted to write a historical novel that involved the development of the mining industry in South Africa, and the Cecil John Rhodes and Barney Barnato conflict. However, that topic has been extensively covered. When I started to turn the pages of South African history, I was taken back to Portugal, to Joao de Aviz, Henry the Navigator and Bartholomew Diaz who was the first explorer to set foot in South Africa.

What motivated these explorers to sail towards Southern Africa?
They were essentially seeking a new passage to India, which previously was fixed on an arduous land route through the Middle East. The Venetians held somewhat of a monopoly over this turf. Additionally, the cost that caravans had to pay to third parties was prohibitive.

" had every man with a compass and piece of timber trying to make his way around the Cape of Good Hope."

Did discovery of the new trade route to India change things?
It was revolutionary, beyond all imagination. Obviously silk, spice and the host of goods that originated from that region were able to find its way to the European market, quicker and at a much lower cost. The Portuguese initially held a monopoly over the route, given their expertise, silver-lined pockets and sovereignty of the high seas. As a consequence of their success and the profits they generated through colonization, you had every man with a compass and piece of timber trying to make his way around the Cape of Good Hope.

Did other countries follow?
Certainly. Castile (Spain), France, Holland, and England jumped on the bandwagon. The mood for exploration changed the entire ship building industry and the way people thought. Every mother suddenly wanted her son to be a navigator – my son, the navigator. Suitable candidates attended Henry the Navigator's school of navigation at Sagres on the Algarve, which was like going to Harvard.

Can we find any active remnants of the mind-set or process that existed in the days of Portuguese explorers, today?
That's a very interesting thought. I think that we can say that America (U.S.A.), as a country, has probably been the most significant driving force in technological advancement in history. There are several factors that have helped advance the process. These include (1) creativity, (2) the ability to source and to commit capital to projects, and (3) the ability to bring goods to market. It was precisely these very factors that initially drove the Portuguese to achieving the success that they did, in establishing an alternative to the existing silk and spice route. The same entrepreneurial qualities found in the United States today, responsible for the technological boom that is being experienced, were precisely the qualities that inspired the search for the new route to India.

Can you be more specific?
When Joao de Aviz and his son Henry the Navigator first inked the idea of a new sea passage to India, people sincerely believed that that they had lost their mind. Such an initiative had previously been unthinkable. The cost of constructing the vessels that would survive such a trip was astronomical. The navigational skills that were necessary, would need to be of a sophisticated standard and were literally off the map, and the possibility that a ship could be wiped-out by a storm, had to be seriously considered. Additionally, any attempt to group together a crew that would embark on such a voyage was met with failure. There just were no takers for love or for money. In short, they had to source funds for a task that was impossible. I don't doubt that the Bill Gates' and Steve Jobs' of this world, had to endure similar hurdles in their quest for success within their industry.

How were the Portuguese ultimately able to succeed in soliciting the funds?
Henry the Navigator had several qualities that earned him his title. Firstly, he had an extensive range of contacts from which he could draw. These existed in the church and extended within economic, political and social circles. Secondly, he could talk a good game. He had the gift of the gab. Initially, he approached wealthy monarchs who were able to commit themselves to his cause, but then he found a rainmaker – the church. He made them an offer they couldn't refuse. "You provide us with the funds, and we'll convert the rest of the world to Christianity." It was a no-brainer.

Do you cover these issues in Cavalier's Call?
Not directly. I was interested in capturing the spirit and mood that existed, immediately prior to the Age of Discovery. I wanted to identify the aspects of the era that facilitated the initiatives on which Henry, the Navigator embarked. The re-creation of those details is subtle. Also, Cavalier's Call is Volume I of a two-part series. Initially I have dealt with Joao de Aviz' impressionable years, growing up in the royal palace in Coimbra as a rookie courtier, where he is commissioned to defend a villain and argue his case against the bench of the prosecution led by the talented Don Antonio Esteves. Joao's escape from a band of bondoleros follows. His love for Ines Peres Esteves ensues, daughter of his most vehement opponent, climaxing in his appointment to lead Portugal to independence. Of course there are many twists, turns and mystery to keep readers hanging onto the edge of their seat. It's an engaging, easy read. Remarkably, this specific era in history has not been extensively covered by historians or novelists.

I'm aware that Joao de Aviz lost his father, the king, as a boy. How were you able to relate to this and articulate the emotions that he felt?
I lost my father when I was fourteen, so hopefully I was able to suitably describe and identify with the feelings that Joao may have experienced. Readers will find it interesting, because the emotions for me anyway, were not entirely what one may expect under those trying circumstances.

"...I would gallop into the setting sun at breakneck speeds..."

Are you able to describe any specific incidents that you've experienced, which helped you in creating and relating certain aspects of Cavalier's Call, to your readers?
It's hard to say, because as you know we are all products of a chain of experiences, rather than one incident. However, the novel does provide detail of the advanced horsemanship and polo games in which Joao de Aviz and his childhood friend Nuno Álvares Pereira participated. This facet of the novel was cultivated from the fond memories that I have as a boy of about ten, of visits to my grandfather's property in Paarl, near Cape Town, and to my uncle's farm in Wepener, near the Lesothu border. On these occasions my cousins and I would gallop into the setting sun at breakneck speeds, as if there was no tomorrow. My grandfather was a thoroughbred enthusiast who for several years held the South African champion title for his show of Cameos Thunderbird. The horse was a stallion of the American Saddler strain, a magnificent creature.

Have you ever worked on a ranch?
During a visit to Australia about twenty years ago, I worked as a jackeroo on a sheep station in Yarrawongo-Mulwala, which is on the border of New South Wales and Victoria. It was real Ned Kelly country. The owner of the property was a cockie by the name of John Sloane. I established my relationship with John when we traveled to Australia on the same plane. It was an amazing experience.