Review: French Warships in the Age of Sail 1786 – 1862 by Rif Winfield & Stephen S Roberts | Historic Naval Fiction

For those who have read Rif Winfield’s series British Warships in the Age of Sail, this new work on French warships will have a familiar feel, and as the later period covered by the book covers the introduction of steam he is aided by Stephen S Roberts. It starts with an historical overview of the French Navy during the main periods of control, the Royal period, the revolutionary government. Napoleonic era and post war. There is also a section on the naval dockyards with maps and a brief history of Naval operations.

The main body of the book has a chapter for each class of vessel, starting with the three deckers, subdivided into periods starting with those vessels already in service in 1786. These sections have a brief introduction and then a detailed history of each ship and it’s design, including changes such as conversion to steam in it’s later career, and there are some illustrations and ships plans.

Whilst the names of many of the larger ships will be well known the bulk of a navy is of course made up of the smaller ships. To do these vessels justice it is of course necessary to keep the details for all ships fairly brief but this is to some extent helped by grouping ships into their design class.

This comprehensive work is well structured and is an excellent reference work for all those who wish to know more about the French Navy which receives far less attention than it’s main rival the Royal Navy. As the cover description says it is possible to form a clear picture of the overall development of French warships in the latter half of the sailing era and into the age of steam when it started to recover from it’s wartime losses and through technical innovation and invention produced some of the most advanced ships of the age. Recommended.

Source: Review: French Warships in the Age of Sail 1786 – 1862 by Rif Winfield & Stephen S Roberts | Historic Naval Fiction

Philip Nolan: The Man Without a Country (HC) | Historic Naval Fiction

Chuck Pfarrer has a new novel available for pre-order in Hardcover, Philip Nolan: The Man Without a Country. It will be released in the US on 15 April 2016 and in the UK on 30 April 2016.

Philip Nolan: The Man Without a Country is Chuck Pfarrer’s captivating adaptation of Edward Everett Hale’s American classic “The Man Without a Country,” first published in The Atlantic Monthly more than a century ago. Masterfully blending history and fiction, Pfarrer tells the story of a young artillery officer, Philip Nolan, who becomes embroiled in Aaron Burr’s 1807 conspiracy to invade the territories of the Louisiana Purchase. Insinuating his scheme has official approval, Burr convinces Nolan to carry a coded message into the Orleans Territory. Nolan has no knowledge of the former vice president’s intended treason–and Burr has no idea that Thomas Jefferson has discovered his scheme. Soon Philip Nolan is in military custody with Burr, charged an accessory to the plot.

The nation holds its breath as Burr is tried for attempting to tear apart the Union. The charges against Burr seem ironclad, but his lawyers are clever, and Burr walks free. An embarrassed prosecution looks for a scapegoat, and expands the charges against Nolan to include desertion and sedition. Learning that his own court martial will proceed, despite Burr’s acquittal, Nolan denounces his accusers, damns his country, and tells the court he wishes never again to hear the words “United States” as long as he lives. The judges return with an ominous verdict: the prisoner’s wish will be granted. Nolan is sentenced to permanent exile aboard a series of U.S. warships, never again to hear news from or speak of his country.

Decades pass. Shuttled from ocean to ocean, Nolan realizes he is a stateless person, estranged from his keepers and forgotten by his country. Eventually passed aboard an American frigate in the Mediterranean, Nolan comes into the custody of a newly commissioned lieutenant, Frank Curran. When Barbary pirates capture an American whaleship, the pair is drawn into a web of international deceit and mortal danger. As a rescue mission is launched, Nolan teaches the young officer a lesson about duty, loyalty, and the meaning of patriotism.

Equal parts adventure, naval history, and morality tale, Philip Nolan: The Man Without a Country is more than frigate duels and small boat actions. Intricately plotted and beautifully crafted, the novel is a poignant and closely observed examination of the human condition.

Source: Philip Nolan: The Man Without a Country (HC) | Historic Naval Fiction

The Struggle for Sea Power (HC) | Historic Naval Fiction

Sam Willis has a new book available for pre-order in Hardcover, The Struggle for Sea Power: A Naval History of the American Revolution. It will be released in the US on 15 February 2016 and in the UK on 11 March 2016.

The American Revolution was a naval war of immense scope, embroiling twenty-two navies fighting on five oceans. Britain alone launched simultaneous campaigns in the English Channel, the North and Mid-Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean, the Pacific, the North Sea, and, of course, the Eastern Seaboard of America. Not until World War II would a single nation fight in so many different theaters. If the British had had the luxury of focusing on their American problem alone, the outcome would have been quite different. But it was thought that losing Jamaica to the Spanish or India to the French would have been much more crippling to the British economy than losing the American colonies.

The Struggle for Sea Power bristles with stunning reversals of fortune and desperate naval encounters. Readers will come away from it with a profound understanding of this global war, of the rise and fall of the British Empire, and of the way in which seapower shaped our world. 8 pages of color illustrations

Source: The Struggle for Sea Power (HC) | Historic Naval Fiction

Fox is Back | Historic Naval Fiction

Back in the 1970’s Kenneth Bulmer, writing under the pseudonym of Adam Hardy, released a series of fourteen naval fiction books. They follow the career of George Abercrombie Fox who “would become the toughest bastard who ever walked the rolling deck of a fighting ship!”.

Popularity of the series fell off at the time leading to substantially reduced print runs, however subsequently it has had something of a cult following leading to a vibrant second hand market. This in turn has led to some of the later books which are hard to come by being offered for high prices.

In good news, for the fans if not those seeking a profit, the series is coming back into print through the offices of Thunderchild Publishing in both paperback and kindle versions, the first of which was released on 19 January. The series is to be released in chronological order, unlike the originals, so there will be some differences in the volume number. Accordingly volume 1 is Powder Monkey.

I understand that subsequent volumes will be released at the rate of approximately one a week so you will not have long to wait for those elusive later volumes.

Source: Fox is Back | Historic Naval Fiction

Alaric Bond Review: Active’s Measure by John Danielski | Historic Naval Fiction

With its main protagonist a Royal Marine officer, Active’s Measure will be welcomed by many looking for a different slant on Napoleonic Nautical Fiction. And a breathless pace is set from the start, with numerous characters and a fair amount of back story being introduced as a British landing party go in to attack a far superior French force.

The battle scenes are brutally realistic; I might even have wished for rather less detail at times, although none of the violence is in any way gratuitous. Besides, this is a story about men at war, with no place for sugar coating. Some may wish for a little more basic plotting, especially in the initial chapters, but if the need is for an action packed page turner, then Active’s Measure will not disappoint.

In brief, Mr Danielski has produced a very readable book, with strong characters that catch the imagination. The story is well told, and there is every reason to expect this to develop into a good series.

Source: Alaric Bond Review: Active’s Measure by John Danielski | Historic Naval Fiction

Review: The Sailing Master by Lee Henschel Jr. | Historic Naval Fiction

In this first book of his new series, The Sailing Master, Lee Henschel Jr. sets the scene for it’s future as an ageing Sailing Master recounts his early career aboard his uncle’s ship. When family finances are strained following the death of his mother young Owen Harriet is sent off to join Captain James Cedric as Cabin boy aboard HMS Eleanor where his ability with mathematics results in the Sailing Master training him. His abilities also arouse the interest of a diplomatic passenger resulting in a special mission as well as the less welcome attentions of some inimical characters aboard.

This was a well written book which had a good pace and well developed characters which I enjoyed. I do not recall another book that uses the route of a cabin boy as the entry to a series, and this is a proper cabin boy not just a convenience for the ships books to get an extra Midshipman aboard, and the concept of following the career of a Sailing Master rather than a commissioned officer is also new and something I look forward to seeing developed in later books.

The mention of the Sukiyama in the cover description perhaps leads to a question of whether there is a fantasy element to this book which is not really the case. Recommended

Source: Review: The Sailing Master by Lee Henschel Jr. | Historic Naval Fiction

Review: The Threat in the Baltic by Roger Burnage | Historic Naval Fiction

The Threat in the Baltic continues the story of James Merriman’s career, now in command of the frigate Lord Stevenage. A treaty between the Baltic States threatens to cut off vital supplies for the navy so  Grahame to check the defences of Copenhagen and naval preparedness in the region.

Back at the Admiralty he reports his findings and meets Admiral Horatio Nelson who asks for him to be part of the Baltic fleet. As a result he is present at the battle of Copenhagen. He is then ordered further into the Baltic to find a French ship of the line.

This book familiar mix of naval action and espionage with well rounded characters but in places the narrative continues to seem a bit sparse. Also some modern terms which do not fit the period, such as sending the crew to Action Station rather than Quarters have started to creep in. If you are enjoying the series it is worth continuing with this one.

Source: Review: The Threat in the Baltic by Roger Burnage | Historic Naval Fiction

Fortune’s Whelp (PB/K) | Historic Naval Fiction

Benerson Little, known for his non-fiction works on piracy, recently released the first book in a new fiction series, Fortune’s Whelp. It is available in paperback and for kindle download worldwide.

Set in the 17th century during the heyday of privateering and the decline of buccaneering, Fortune’s Whelp is a brash, swords-out sea-going adventure. Scotsman Edward MacNaughton, a former privateer captain, twice accused and acquitted of piracy and currently seeking a commission, is ensnared in the intrigue associated with the attempt to assassinate King William III in 1696. Who plots to kill the king, who will rise in rebellion—and which of three women in his life, the dangerous smuggler, the wealthy widow with a dark past, or the former lover seeking independence—might kill to further political ends? Variously wooing and defying Fortune, Captain MacNaughton approaches life in the same way he wields a sword or commands a fighting ship: with the heart of a lion and the craft of a fox.

Source: Fortune’s Whelp (PB/K) | Historic Naval Fiction

Review: Britannia’s Spartan by Antoine Vanner – Historic Naval Fiction | Historic Naval Fiction

Britannia's SpartanBritannia’s Spartan by Antoine Vanner continues the adventures of Commander Nicholas Dawlish, serving in the Royal Navy as the Victorian Era draws to a close. Newly promoted to Captain and command of the navy’s newest cruiser, HMS Leonidas, he is ordered to the Far East on what should be a routine voyage to test her capabilities, becoming the first RN warship to complete the round trip by steam alone.

On arrival orders are changed and he is sent on a diplomatic mission to Korea where Chinese influence is on the wane, a rapidly modernising Japan is seeking to fill the void and Britain needs allies against Russian expansion.

Dawlish soon finds himself having to make some hard decisions as to what would be in Britain’s interest as war between the regional powers threatens to break out.

Plenty of action follows both on land and at sea in what was a well written novel with a good plot that flowed smoothly holding my attention well. I continue to enjoy Dawlish’s adventures for their insights into how the Navy handled the transition to steam vessels, their powerful weapons and innovations such as torpedos. I look forward to reading more.

Both this book and the series as a whole are highy recommended.

Source: Review: Britannia’s Spartan by Antoine Vanner – Historic Naval Fiction | Historic Naval Fiction