A reference to the thrashing of the French and Spanish fleets by the British at the Battle of Trafalgar (part of the War of the Third Coalition) on the 21st October 1805. The Franco-Spanish forces lost twenty-two ships, the British none, although Nelson was fatally wounded during the battle. The Guardian newspaper provides an interactive guide to the battle here. Nelson is of course famously immortalized in Trafalgar Square, where he is appropriately elevated to a height of forty-six metres. Cavendish would probably have passed by or through Trafalgar Square each day on his way to his office in Haymarket (see bookmark for p.377).
The Yalta Conference (held from Feb 4th–11th, 1945) was one of three conferences held between the three heads of state to determine the future of postwar Europe. At this conference it was resolved that nothing less than the unconditional surrender of Germany would be tolerated, that Germany would be demilitarized and denazified and that Nazi war criminals would be hunted down and brought to justice. The summit was held at Livadia Palace, near Yalta in Ukraine.
It is unlikely that he is called Milton by accident. John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost depicts the antagonistic forces of good and evil, God and Satan. In Paradise Lost Lucifer is the fallen angel, as indeed is Milton in Half-lives a deserter of the righteous cause. The character Smoke, of course, rears up from the sulphurous flames of hell. With a gold coin in one pocket and a gun in the other, he could well be a modern incarnation of death.
Nebuchadnezzar I, the king of the Babylonian Empire, lived from about 1125 BC. to 1103 BC. Redwood is the name normally given to the Sequoia, an evergreen tree that lives for up to two thousand two hundred years. They may be found in coastal California and count among the tallest trees in the world. General Sherman (pictured) is the tallest in the world and is named after a General from the American Civil War. This seventy four metre Giant Sequoia is dated between 2300 and 2700 years old.
The .38 refers to the loaded diameter of the case and not the gun. The Smith and Wesson .38 special was standard for most police departments in America from the 1920s to the early 1990s. The cartridge is very accurate when used in a well-made revolver, produces little kickback and remains the most popular in the world.