Review: The Seventy-Four by M. C. Muir

M. C. Muir’s The Seventy-Four is the latest novel in her ‘Under Admiralty Orders – The Oliver Quintrell Series’ and starts with Quintrell arriving in Rio de Janeiro where he receives welcome new orders from a seventy-four which he is now required to escort to England.

With the power of the seventy-four it should be an easy voyage but they are soon engaged with two French frigates. When one is sunk and the other captured the British Captains have to spread their crews through the three ships whilst guarding a substantial number of prisoners. Into this mix is thrown some dissaffected Irishmen.All the threads were woven into a well wiritten plot which was an enjoyable read. In the Quintrell series the plots differ from the norm as the things tend to go wrong, even though it comes right in the end, which also makes them a refreshing amd believable read.Both the book and the series as a whole are highly recommended reading.

Source: Review: The Seventy-Four by M. C. Muir

Review: The Blackstrap Station by Alaric Bond

Following the wreck of HMS Prometheus, some of the crew have managed to evade capture and a British Frigate is nearby. When their attempt to steal a vessel coincides with a cutting out attempt, action and new responsibilities follow for Tom King. Now based in Malta with a shore job he worries that  his seagoing career will be over.Another well written narrative from Bond with sea action and some nefarious shoreside activities which as usual follows a wide cast of characters from all ranks as well as some civilians, all of whom you feel you know. The plot had plenty of unexpected twists which made it hard to put down.Bond’s historical accuracy, knowledge of sailing ships and characterisations imerse you in the period and he continues to be one of the best contemporary naval fiction authors. Highly recommended.

Source: Review: The Blackstrap Station by Alaric Bond

Review: The Sugar Revolution by Lyle Garford

The Sugar Revolution is the second book in The Evan Ross Series which follows an officer who lost an arm and has little prospect of further sea appointments. Instead, ably assisted by James Wilton, he runs the Antigua dockyard, however, this is a cover for his counter espionage activities.

A party of French nobles are seeking to end slavery on the sugar plantations in the Caribbean islands, and if they can’t do it with words will aid slave rebellions. The navies of all the powers are seeking to stop these activities and are mistrustful of the other nations. Ross must steer a path that is diplomatic but which finds and deals with the source of the slave unrest.Whilst not a navel novel in the purest sense, with a lot of time spent ashore, it nevertheless fits the genre and has a well written plot with a good pace. Despite this lack of sea time it was an enjoyable read and is one I recommend.

Source: Review: The Sugar Revolution by Lyle Garford

Review: The Fireships of Gerontas by Alan Lawrence

The Fireships of Gerontas is the second book in The Continuing Voyages of HMS Surprise series which is a homage to O’Brian’s work. As such it may appeal to some or alienate others, however, I prefer to read them just as naval fiction set against a background of events not widely covered by other authors, the Greek struggle for independence from Turkish rule.

The book, which follows on immediately from The Massacre of Innocents, consists ot two parts The first section covers the build up to and the next major naval battle against the Turkish and Egyptian fleets in which, as the title implies, the Greeks used fireships. This is followed by the voyage home of Surprise during which the crew have to endure one the worst storms ever to have reached English shores, the hurricane of November 1824.

The narratives of the battle and storm sequences were well written, as was the interplay between the various characters. Coupled with the refreshing setting this made it a good read. Whilst I review it as a stand alone work is should appeal to O’Brian fans. Recommended.

Source: Review: The Fireships of Gerontas by Alan Lawrence

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

Review: Albemarle by Jim Stempel

From this side of the Atlantic I know little of the naval aspect of the American Civil War other than the Monitor/Merrimac encounter and a vague awareness of a Union blockade and Confederate blockade runners, therefore I was pleased to have the opportunity of reading Albemarle by Jim Stempel. The book is a fictionalised account of the true story of the Confederate Ram Albemarle and it’s activities on the Roanoke river, interspersed with the raids of it’s eventual nemesis Lt. William B. Cushing and also uses conversations and thoughts of Abraham Lincoln to set their actions in the wider context of the war.

This was a very interesting read which as well as being a well written naval fiction story about the ship’s and officers involved gave me a good insight into the wider actions of both navies and the men who fought with them, all set within the wider political context of the aims and activities of both governments and their armies.

I enjoyed reading this novel and for anyone who wished to know more about the Albemarle, the extraordinary achievements of Lt. Cushing and the river campaigns of the navies this fictionalised account is recommended reading.

Source: Review: Albemarle by Jim Stempel