You are the high spirited 19-year-old daughter of a penniless widow, born and brought up on an isolated, windswept South Atlantic island, a girl with virtually no prospects, when out of the blue the most famous man on earth falls into your lap. Still smarting from his defeat at Waterloo, still the hero of Liberals everywhere, Napoleon has been exiled to tiny Saint Helena because it is the remotest and most easily defended island in the British Empire.
I am a South African who attended Rhodes University, worked as a reporter on The Pretoria News, taught high school English and then emigrated to London in 1966. I met my future wife, glamour photographer Suze Randall there at the height of the swinging sixties while I was writing The Dominant Man: The Pecking Order in Human Society which was published in five languages. We emigrated to Los Angeles in 1975 where we were on the Playboy Mansion’s celebrity studded “Gang List” for two years until we showed Hugh Hefner the proofs of a book I had written about the experience. To my astonishment Hefner didn’t like the way he was portrayed and we were banned from Shangri-la!
When I was very young back home in South Africa my grandfather, who was born on the remote island of St Helena, boasted about his family’s acquaintance with Napoleon when he was exiled there after his defeat at Waterloo. A large portrait of the famous conqueror had pride of place on his living room wall.
I researched Grandfather’s intriguing claim many years later and soon struck gold. Charlotte Knipe, my great-great-grandaunt, said to be the most beautiful girl on St Helena, was a frequent guest of the emperor and rumored to have been his lover. Napoleon called her Rosebud.
Suze and I live on a ranch in Malibu. Napoleon’s Rosebud is my third novel.