Philip Nolan: The Man Without a Country is an unusual entry for the historical naval fiction genre in that the ‘hero’ is a former soldier (artillery officer) convicted of treason and sentenced to life as a prisoner aboard warships. Nevertheless it fits very well.
Nolan has spent many years at sea moved from ship to ship far from home and destined never to hear any news of the United States. Sometimes he is treated harshly and sometimes with some degree of humanity, but he accepts his confinement with equanimity. When he is transferred to the frigate USS Enterprise, ordered to combat Barbary pirates, the Captain orders his humane treatment. It has been difficult, but over the years Nolan, a keen observer, has picked up many of the skills of a seasoned mariner and ship’s officer, including the ability to navigate and to speak several languages.
As the ship battles it’s enemies death and incapacitation’s amongst the officers leads to a demand for Nolan’s skills and he earns the respect of all the members of the crew.
The descriptions of life aboard the frigate and the battles she is involved in are well written with well rounded characters and would result in a recommendation on their own, but it is the interesting life of Nolan that takes the book to the next level and makes it hard to put down as you wish to know how things will turn out for him. Highly recommended.