Review: Death’s Bright Angel by J. D. Davies

The latest offering in the ‘Journals of Matthew Quinton’ by historian J. D. Davies, Death’s Bright Angel, starts with Matthew taking part in a little known raid on the Dutch at Vlie which became known as “Holmes’s Bonfire”.

The theme of fire continues as the majority of the book deals with Quinton and some of his crew helping to fight the conflagration of the Great Fire of London and the results of the public paranoia that it created. As an historian Davies has done some excellent research of the historical records surrounding one of the most famous events in English history and whilst the narrative is of course fiction, it is based on fact and there is a detailed ‘Historical Investigation’ at the end.

Whilst for the naval fiction purist the book may spend too much time ashore, one of the most famous characters associated with the Navy at the time was Samuel Pepys and he is probably best remembered for his diary entries on the Fire. The effects of the fire, in an age when the fleet did not keep the sea during the winter and had to be funded when the new fighting season started, particularly it’s impact on the national economy, were undoubtedly a factor leading to the infamous Dutch victory at Chatham the following year which I assume will feature in the next book of the series. It is am important bridge between the large scale battles and victories that preceded it and the ignominious defeat that followed it and the detailed land based narrative is therefore both justified and important to the series as a whole.

Personally I enjoyed the whole of the book, learning of a naval raid I was not previously aware of and much more detail about the Great Fire, and found it to be a hard to put down. Highly Recommended.

Source: Review: Death’s Bright Angel by J. D. Davies

Review: The Notorious Captain Hayes by Joan Druett

It is always a pleasure to read a book that explores history you are not aware of. Whilst it seems the legend of the pirate William ‘Bully’ Hayes is well known in the Pacific region due to the interest in his exploits amongst the popular press, he is not known in Europe.Though he is popularly known as a pirate, his activities seem to fall a long way short of those amongst his Atlantic counterparts such as Edward “Blackbeard” Teach. What becomes clear from Druett’s well researched narrative is that he may have been a confidence trickster, swindler and ‘blackbirder’ who left a string of debts behind him but he did not lead a muderous gang of cutthroats.He seems to have been a charismatic individual who was actually liked by many who met him casually though he was harsh with his crew and obviously unpopular with those who supplied his ship only to see him sail away with their bills unpaid.He must be considerd lucky as he survived a number of shipwrecks and largely managed to avoid the authorities, even with a number of Royal Navy vessels looking for him at times.On this side of the Atlantic it was an interesting read to learn his history and if you are already aware of him this book will sort out the facts from the myths and rumours that circulated in the press of the period and still form part of his legend today. Recommended

Source: Review: The Notorious Captain Hayes by Joan Druett

Inferno (HC)

Author Julian Stockwin’s new novel, Inferno, will be released in hardcover, kindle and audio formats worldwide on 6 October 2016. It is now available for pre-order.

Captain Sir Thomas Kydd’s famous sea action aboard Tyger in the Baltic has snatched his reputation from ignominy. He is the hero of the hour. But though Britain’s Navy remains imperious at sea, a succession of battles has seen Napoleon Bonaparte victorious on mainland Europe. His enemies have sued for peace and the Emperor’s Continental System, establishing a European blockade, will mean that Britain will be cut off from her economic lifeblood.

But one small link in this ring of steel is still free of French control: the neutral state of Denmark, which controls the straits through which the entire Baltic Trade passes. The French army are already mustering at her borders. If her navy falls into French hands all Europe will have fallen.

Thomas Kydd’s great friend, Nicholas Renzi, now the Lord Farndon, is sent on a desperate diplomatic mission to persuade the Danes to give up their fleet to Britain. But the Danes are caught between two implacable forces and will not yield, opting instead for the inferno of battle. Kydd sails with a combined navy and ground force. Soon a bloody and fiery battle for Copenhagen is raging. Mariners, soldiers and civilians are all caught up in a conflict in which the stakes could not be higher.

Source: Inferno (HC)

The Lost Story of the William and Mary (HC)

Gill Hoffs new book, The Lost Story of the William and Mary: The Cowardice of Captain Stinson will be released in Hardcover in the UK on 30 September 2016 and in the US on 2 January 2017. It is now available for pre-order.

The emigrant ship William and Mary departed from Liverpool with 208 British, Irish, and Dutch emigrants in early 1853. Captained by young American Timothy Stinson, the vessel was sailing for New Orleans when the ship wrecked in the Bahamas in mysterious circumstances. Instead of grounding the ship on a nearby shore or building rafts for the passengers, Stinson and the majority of his crew sneaked away in lifeboats murdering at least two of the emigrants with a hatchet as they did so and reported the ship sunk with all on board lost. But the passengers kept the ship afloat and two days later were rescued by heroic wreckers as the ship went down. Now, over 160 years on, the tale of the two murdered in Bahamian waters and the hundreds who escaped thanks to kindly wreckers can finally be told. Stinson is no longer getting away with murder.

Source: The Lost Story of the William and Mary (HC)

Crusoe’s Island (HC/K)

Andrew D. Lambert’s new book, Crusoe’s Island: A Rich and Curious History of Pirates, Castaways and Madness will be released in worldwide in Hardcover and for kindle download on 13 September 2016. It is now available for pre-order.

From an acclaimed naval historian, Crusoe’s Island charts the curious relationship between the British and an island on the other side of the world: Robinson Crusoe, in the South Pacific.

The tiny island assumed a remarkable position in British culture, most famously in Daniel Defoe’s novel. Andrew Lambert reveals the truth behind the legend of this place, bringing to life the voices of the visiting sailors, scientists and artists, as well as the wonders, tragedy and violence that they encountered.

Source: Crusoe’s Island (HC/K)

A Low Set of Blackguards (K)

Richard woodman recently released a new book available for kindle download worldwide, A Low Set of Blackguards: The East India Company and its Maritime Service 1600-1834. This is the first volume in a two part work.

Volume 1: The Heroic Age 1600-1707

Following his ground-breaking and award-winning five-volume History of the British Merchant Navy, a revised version of which is now published both in e-book and print-on-demand editions by the Endeavour Press, Richard Woodman’s A Low Set of Blackguards tells the neglected and forgotten story of the East India Company’s shipping – its ‘Maritime Service’.

This first of two volumes covers the years during which the original East India Company struggled against the Portuguese and the Dutch to establish a trade with the spice islands of Indonesia, India and the Far East. This was met by mixed fortunes and while the book deals with the complex issues involving the wars and politics of foreign states, it focuses on the many voyages – some successful, some disastrous – made by the Company’s ships and seamen. Among these and the merchants who sailed with them as ‘factors,’ are a rich variety of characters (some blackguards among them) in whose lives originated the English novel as well as that great and contentious outcome – ‘British India’.

Woodman rescues these tremendous early mercantile voyages from obscurity and reminds us that Britain’s rise to global power emerged from mercantile, not naval, seafaring.

Source: A Low Set of Blackguards (K)

13 Sharks (HC)

A new hardcover book by John D. Grainger, 13 Sharks: The Careers of a Series of Small Royal Navy Ships, from the Glorious Revolution to D-Day, is now available in the UK. It will be released in the US on 2 November 2016.

John D Grainger charts the careers of the thirteen vessels that have served the Royal Navy under the name HMS Shark. Despite the ferocious name, they have all been relatively small vessels including one brigantine, five sloops, one Sixth Rate, a gunvessel, four destroyers and a submarine. Collectively they therefore give a good representation of the various roles of these types, which receive far less attention than larger, more glamorous ships. Furthermore, as the first entered service in 1699 and the last was sunk in 1944 (having the dubious distinction of being the only Allied vessel lost on D-Day), they illustrate the changes and continuities in the Royal Navy and war at sea across almost 250 years. In each case the author considers the origin of the ship, the purpose for which it was designed and employed, its captains and where possible its crew, as well as the activities of the ship itself and its final fate; in addition background information of a general nature is included as a necessary context for those actions.

Source: 13 Sharks (HC)