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The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914
Richard J. Evans
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Young Wilhelm: The Kaiser's Early Life, 1859-1888
John C. G. Röhl
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My life as a podcaster begins!

Napoleon: Soldier of Destiny - Michael Broers

It's official; I'm a books podcaster!


Until a few weeks ago, I never thought I would write those words. But then I contacted New Books Network about reviewing opportunities and was invited instead to start a podcast on historical biographies, involving roughly hour-long interviews with authors with recently-published books in the genre. This seemed like an easy enough request, so I thought I would give it a try, I quickly discovered, though, that saying I would start a podcast and starting one were two different things.


Starting a podcast for the NBN involves two things: 1) acquiring the technology -- hardware and software -- necessary to host a podcast, and 2) arranging the interviews. The second proved the easier of the two for me, as I already had someone in mind: Michael Broers, the Oxford historian who recently published a biography of Napoleon Bonaparte. I had e-mailed him a couple of years ago when it had first come out in the UK, and he had come across as friendly. Sure enough, when I e-mailed him he proved amenable and we arranged a time for the interview.


It was the first part which soon proved the greater challenge, as it necessitated acquiring both headphones and microphones of a better quality than I possessed, and downloading Skype (free, but requiring money to make calls to phones) and Pamela (which costs money, but is available for a trial subscription). Procrastinator that I am, I downloaded the software the night before the interview was scheduled to take place, thinking that I could master it easily enough, and a couple of test calls seemed to validate this.


The next morning I set up my equipment in a quiet part of the house and attempted to call Broers. This should in retrospect have been a warning sign of the limits of my technological mastery, as it took me nearly ten minutes to place an international call via Skype. When I finally connected, though, Broers proved understanding and we began our interview. While I was admittedly nervous, the interview seemed to be going well, with Broers proving an excellent interviewee.


One of the things I discovered after downloading Pamela is that when I placed a call a window popped up from Pamela asking if I wanted to record the call. This I thought I had done when I connected with Broers, yet as he talked I glanced frequently at the window for Pamela and saw no activity. While concerned, I didn't worry too much, as during my tests the night before I found that the file didn't appear until after I had finished recording. When I clicked on what I thought was the stop button at the end of the interview, however, I found that I hadn't recorded a second of the interview. Though Broers seemed a little exasperated (something for which I could hardly blame him), he was game for redoing the interview, which we did a few days later.


With my first interview now posted, I'm moving on to the next ones. The site allows me to choose which books to feature (one of the things which made this opportunity so appealing) and I'm identifying some biographies of interest and reaching out to their authors. Two have already replied agreeing to interviews, so hopefully soon I will have some additional podcasts to post. Feel free to give it a listen and let me know what I can do to improve the interviews.