Tolstoy has a go at taking at least some of the troll stories down. Does he also add to ‘serious’ O’Brian studies? Patrick would have hated the concept; but just as Picasso’s genius makes him fair game for scholarship, so does O’Brian’s achievement in producing one of the greatest series of historical novels ever written (and some extremely good other fiction too). The answer must be yes. Tolstoy contributes important background knowledge, and makes the case that O’Brian’s unhappy childhood, his disastrous first marriage, his extreme poverty for many years, his love for Mary and his deep attachment to Collioure in French Catalonia, where he lived, all provided raw material for his books.