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Hakeswill’s Enemy May 22, 2013

Posted by Me in Hakeswill's Enemy, Obadiah Hakeswill, Sharpe Series.
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Ever since becoming a fan of the Sharpe novels and films, I’ve wondered about how the enmity began between Sharpe and Hakeswill.  Starting with Sharpe’s Tiger, which is the first Sharpe novel I read, Bernard Cornwell makes it abundantly clear why Richard Sharpe hates Obadiah Hakeswill.

But Cornwell never explained how Obadiah came to have a personal hatred for Sharpe and why he singled him out for more intensive harassment than he gave to other men under his command.  Those who take his character at face value, might simply shrug their shoulders and say that Obadiah doesn’t need a reason; that he’s simply “mad”.

However, that’s too simple of an explanation for me.  Why Sharpe?  Obadiah is more cunning than “mad”, despite having some  issues from his bad childhood and from being hanged as a 12 year old — that would seriously mess up anyone.  I figured there had to be some reason for it  and that this reason likely went all the way back to Sharpe’s first years in the army, because the hatred seemed long-standing and well-developed by the time of Sharpe’s Tiger.

Considering that Bernard Cornwell has yet to write a novel about Sharpe’s first years in the army that includes when he first met Obadiah Hakeswill, I decided to write a story to explore this idea myself, which I’ve entitled Hakeswill’s Enemy.

As I began to write this story, I rejected the idea of Hakeswill immediately hating him on first sight — something had to have  happened between them to cause Obadiah to single him out.

But what?  Because most disputes in this world boil down to money, power, or sex, or a combination of the three, I considered these motivations first.

I rejected power right off the bat, as Sharpe was only a teenager when he first joined the army and would have been no threat to whatever influence Hakeswill might have built up by that time.

A dispute over money was a distinct possibility, considering that both Sharpe and Hakeswill were talented thieves, but I rejected that, too, as it wasn’t quite personal enough to explain Hakeswill’s single-minded hatred of Richard Sharpe.

That left sex.  Or, to be more specific, one woman in particular.  This fit both men perfectly, for various reasons.

For Sharpe, the novels firmly establish that he has a weakness for women.    He hadn’t always been a perfect gentlemen with them and had a reputation of being a love ’em and leave ’em kind of a guy.   And the film Sharpe couldn’t remain faithful even to Teresa, a woman he deeply loved.

Several times, Sharpe underestimated women, to his own detriment.  And as he hadn’t always behaved as a gentleman with women, he also did not play fair when other men shared an interest in the same woman.  Consider how he lost his friendship with Frederickson over Lucille and remember how Frederickson resented how it was always Sharpe who got the woman and couldn’t understand why Sharpe couldn’t leave a few for other men for once.   Just imagine how Obadiah would react in a similar situation!

For Obadiah, Cornwell repeatedly mentioned that no one had ever loved or cared for him, except for his mother, implying that some of the anti-social behavior this friendless and unloved man engaged in had its roots in this fundamental lack in his life.  Though coming from a similar background  as did Sharpe — though Sharpe never had to experience a botched hanging — Obadiah didn’t have the benefits of a handsome face and a charming personality to help him win the heart of a woman, let alone to make friends and mentors in the army who would help him to advance.  Just as Frederickson resented Sharpe’s facile ease with women, in my story Obadiah did so as well, though in a greatly intensified fashion because of his age and lack of maturity as well as the other issues I mentioned above.

When the story begins, Richard Sharpe is not quite sixteen and the events that trigger Obadiah’s hatred happen when Sharpe is eighteen.  Because Sharpe is not all that long removed from his upbringing, his behavior is less than gentlemanly.   But it is more thoughtless, immature behavior, than it is purposely malicious.

Obadiah is twenty-three when the story begins and twenty-five when the pivotal incident occurs.  Because he is so young, life has yet to completely shape him into the bastard he will become later in the books, though he’s well on his way to it during my story.  Yet, he still retains a touch of the innocence of youth,  in that he still hopes to find a woman to marry and raise a family with, like any other man.  His hopes have yet to be completely crushed.  Indeed, even in India years later, in Sharpe’s Fortress, Obadiah still naively thinks that the woman, “Brick”, will want to marry him.

So, from Obadiah’s point view in which I mostly write this story, the pivotal event is yet another loss for him and another kick in the teeth, which serves to contribute to the man he was later to become, as well as creating and cementing his hatred of Richard Sharpe.

Hakeswill’s Enemy is now available to read in its entirety on FanFiction Net.


Story Notes for “Let This Heart Be Still” December 22, 2010

Posted by Me in Let This Heart be Still.
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Recently, at the recommendation of a couple of friends. I read the Richard Sharpe series of books by Bernard Cornwell and watched the related TV DVDs.  I took to this series like a duck to water, devouring the books and DVDs available from my library in the space of two months or so.

My friends assured me that if I liked Jason Isaacs as Colonel William Tavington, then I’d surely like the equally handsome and audacious Sean Bean as Richard Sharpe.  They were right, I quickly became addicted to the stories taking place in India and Europe during the Napoleonic era.

But completely unexpected to me, it soon became apparent that it wasn’t Sharpe himself, though a thoroughly fascinating character, who most interested me.  No, it was Sharpe’s main nemesis, Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill who drew me in.  I’ve always had a thing for villains; the bad boys of any book, TV show, or movie.

And Obadiah Hakeswill is truly an original when it comes to an antagonistic character.  For those who take him simply at face value, he’s evil, he’s crazy, or feigns being crazy to advance an evil agenda.  For those who look beyond the surface, he’s a man who survived a traumatic childhood horror and despite suffering PTSD because of it, managed to survive in the British army for thirty years by learning how to work the system to his benefit.

In every book he’s in, Bernard Cornwell tells the story of his horrible childhood, specifically that of surviving a hanging at the age of twelve that left him with an vivid purple scar around his neck and a periodic uncontrollable facial twitch.  In other words, the man suffers from a major case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, which largely explains how he ended up the way he was.

Cornwell never explains exactly how Sharpe and Hakeswill became enemies, but he tells the reader that Sharpe and Hakeswill came from startlingly similar backgrounds; from the dregs of society where neither man knew his father or a happy childhood.  The main difference between the two men is that Sharpe never was subjected to the trauma of being hanged as a child, and he was able to depend on his charm and good looks to find mentors and friends at key points in his life, where Hakeswill could not.

So, the books made Hakeswill an interesting character to read about, but before seeing the DVDs, I was not inspired to write a story about him.  Indeed, Cornwell had gone above and beyond the call of duty in making Obadiah as physically repulsive as possible.  In the first two books written with him in it, not only was he hugely fat (which seems rather unlikely when combined with descriptions of some of the antics he engaged in), he was dirty, with rotted teeth, lank hair, bad breath, and perpetually with spittle on his chin.  Ugh.

If not for the DVDs, the Sharpe series would have simply remained an entertaining series of books with a more interesting than usual antagonist, but that’s about it.  Before the DVDs, I was not inspired to write a story in this series.

Enter Pete Postlethwaite, the brilliant character actor whom Steven Spielberg once dubbed “the best actor in the world”.  I don’t know who made the decision to cast Postlethwaite as Obadiah Hakeswill, but the man was born to play the role.   And better yet, while not being a conventionally handsome man, Postlethwaite is a vast improvement over the repulsive Hakeswill of the books.

Pete Postlethwaite did a masterful job bringing Obadiah to life, clearly hinting at the damaged little boy buried underneath the unmitigated bastard. He took a character teetering on the edge of being a cartoon bad guy and fleshed him out. In essence, Pete made Obadiah human.

Bernard Cornwell apparently agreed.   He’s admitted that the three books taking place in India, written after Sharpe’s Company and Sharpe’s Enemy had been filmed, had Obadiah written with Postlethwaite in mind.  He’s even expressed regret for killing the character off, as he now considers Hakeswill as Sharpe’s most interesting adversary.

Another Sharpe video, Sharpe’s Peril, reveals that Obadiah Hakeswill left behind a son, who is shown in this episode.  Peril takes place four years after Hakeswill is executed by firing squad in Sharpe’s Enemy.

After learning of his son, who bears his father’s surname and is in the army in his father’s old unit, the wheels began turning in my head.  Because the young man bore the surname of Hakeswill and was in his father’s old unit, it seemed highly unlikely that he was simply the product of a rape.  It seemed logical to assume that there had to have been some sort of a relationship between Obadiah and the boy’s mother, if not a marriage.  I began to wonder how that relationship came about, what the nature of it was, and what eventually happened to the woman who gave him a son.

But it wasn’t until I saw Steshette’s excellent Hakeswill YouTube video, which supplied me with the title of this story, that everything fell into place and I knew I had to write a story about Obadiah.  Even the words of the accompanying song fit Obadiah to a T.  The video can be viewed below.  Readers should note that Obadiah is thirteen years older in this video than he is in the beginning of my story

While Pete Postlethwaite can never be considered the leading man type, there’s a certain quality about him that ignited the chemistry in me and I was hopelessly besotted.  I sometimes have weird tastes in men, having been attracted to the “bad boys” in TV and film since my earliest years. I love Obadiah to pieces. So sue me.

I’ve written this story with the idea that love isn’t just for the beautiful and the popular, but that there’s someone for everyone  Even Obadiah Hakeswill.

I hope you will enjoy it.

Sergeant Obadiah Hakeswill