Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Tales of the Sea

The Battle of Trafalgar
(William Clarkson Stanfield)
I have recently come into possession of a fine tale from the age of fighting sail. It is A King's Commander, penned by one Dewey Lambdin, an American novelist and son of a naval officer. Here's a taste...
The frigate, outsailed then outshot, spent a last bit of Gallic pique upon Jester, rippling out one final, irregular broadside. A crash aft and below, as a ball scored at last, caving in the transom timbers abaft the stores rooms and officers' quarters, a great thonk as the ball continued to carom down the length of the empty berth deck. Glass shattered as another exploded the larboard quarter-galleries -both Lewrie's and the gunroom's- toilets. Splashes and feathers to either beam around the stern, and a further hollow thonk and high whine as a ball plowed a furrow down Jester's side. - Copyright 1997 Dewey Lambdin
A ripping good yarn so far.

HMS Temeraire and HMS Victory at Trafalgar
(Detail from 'Hold the Line' by Richard Grenville)
This book is part of a series following a Royal Navy officer by the name of Alan Lewrie. I lucked into this book, finding it on the book swap rack outside the library at work.

The cover bore a painting of fighting ships so I took a peek. I read a few words and I was hooked. So far the book has me riveted.

Oddly enough, the first book I ever read concerning the age of fighting sail I also got for free. It was on Okinawa in the last century (and yes, I do like saying that) and was given to me by a fellow airman. A Purdue man as I recall (the college, not the chicken concern) who had left that august institution short of the credits required for a degree.

As I remember it, he, like myself, was far too fond of beer to make time to actually study. So he, like me, left university to pursue other endeavors.

He, like me, wound up in the Air Force and at Kadena Air Base.

As I recall he had three novels which he no longer had any use for (having read them already) so he asked if I was interested. The concept of something for free aroused my inner Scotsman. Of course I said "Yes, render them hither!" (Or words to that effect...)

That set me off down a long road following the career of a certain Richard Bolitho of His Majesty's Royal Navy. That is a long series written by Douglas Reeman under the pen name Alexander Kent. I believe I have read most of that series.

Mr. Reeman was a officer in the Royal Navy in World War II and has also written books on naval warfare during that time period. The man knows the sea very well. Checking his Wikipedia article (linked above), I see he also has a series featuring the Royal Marines. As I know an ex-Bootneck or two, I feel honor bound to start reading that series as well.

Oddly enough I have never read any of Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey novels. Though I have seen the movie, Master and Commander, the big screen seldom does a good book justice. So there's another series of books on my "to do" list.

Where oh where will I find the time?

Or the ready coin?

But do it I must, because...


Belay that! What about Hornblower, man? C. S. Forester and all that?

Ye gads, another series I need to read!



I'm all aback!

Hands aloft! Loose topsails!

Of course, I need to do all that and keep the blog up and running. I have responsibilities dontcha know?


Oh and a job, a paying job, mustn't forget that now!

26 comments:

  1. Just excellent. I was reading Hornblower when I was 8, and have the entire series (plus some extraneous commentary and explanations from various sources). I return to the series (plus pretty much anything else by the author) regularly. I do enjoy Reeman's works (mostly on Kindle these days) as well as O'Brien. I'll check put the titles you recommend--had not heard of them before now.

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    1. Lambdin is big on having his characters "speak" in their own dialects of English. Which can be off putting at first but you get used to it, in fact expect it, after you've gotten into the story.

      There's also a nice graphic in the paperback which lays out what "close hauled" and other nautical terms actually mean.

      So now I can go all "full and bye on the larboard tack" at cocktail parties and sound very salty indeed!

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    2. I do pretentious very well. (I would expect that an old salt like yourself would see right through me!)

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  2. "...yes, I do like saying that."

    My personal favorite has been, "I was born in the first half of the last century."

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    1. I can't say that. Missed it by a few years.

      That's a good one!

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  3. I think I have read and enjoyed (and frequently re-read) all Douglas Reeman's books but I never did get on with Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey novels. Not sure why.

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    1. Same here BP. (I think I've read the Bolitho books at least twice each!)

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  4. Ah, thanks for the recommendations!

    If you ever want to see something funny, watch what happens when this former airdale is bragging on his naval service and runs into a real sailor. Big man becomes little boy in an instant!

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  5. You have definitely piqued my curiosity for the Dewey Lambdin series. I grew up reading C.S. Forrester's books and then started in on Douglas Reeman's Bolitho series at Kadena (you're probably the one that got me hooked on Douglas Reeman). I had all of Forrester's and Reeman's books that had been published in my library when they were lost in our house fire in '95.

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    1. Oh man, that sucks about the house fire. Was anyone hurt?

      I think you'll like the Lambdin series.

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    2. No one was hurt. my son was visiting from Germany with is wife for Christmas. We were
      out Christmas shopping on the 22 of December and came home to find the fire department
      hosing down an empty shell.

      Looking forward to the Lambdin series.

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    3. Damn. Nothing like a house fire at Christmas to spoil the holiday. Glad no one was hurt!

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  6. One 'can' get wrapped around the axle with some of those series... :-) especially if one's 'free' book is in the middle of the series! :-)

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    1. Which is exactly where I'm at. :-)

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  7. Try Alistair MacLean. Very good writer about the sea. HMS Ulysses comes to mind. I don't think he did fighting sail type stories, though.

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    1. Excellent choice. I always like to compare and contrast "Ulysses" with "The Ship", "Cruiser" and "The Cruel Sea". All of them superb--but very different while hewing to the same general theme.

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    2. Will - Alistair MacLean is a favorite. Breakheart Pass and Where Eagles Dare are excellent, both as books and as movies!

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    3. Cap'n Steve - I need to reread those as well. Time to dig through the archives, I know they're here somewhere!

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  8. Another WW II excellent--very excellent--read is Forester's "The Good Sheppard" about USN DD convoy duty in the North Atlantic..

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    1. That is indeed an excellent book. I think it's the only book by Mr. Forester that I've read. But that was a long time ago, before I became a voracious reader.

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    2. I have a hardback copy of The Good Shepherd. It is perhaps my favorite Forester book, that or Hornblower and Hotspur. It's odd how the book describes KEELING as a MAHAN, but the weapon outfit is a post 1943 FLETCHER, with the twin 40's in front of the Bridge. Forester could spin a yarn, as could Monsarrat, and Kent.

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    3. Now I'm going to have to go look all that up Scott.

      Not that I don't believe you, but there could be a post there! One never knows.

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  9. Thanks very much for the tip in reading material. I became hooked on the Hornblower books as a teenager and devoured them all (from midshipman to admiral). Have been looking for some proper reading material lately. Your recommendations help a lot.
    (And, yes, I was born in the first half of the last century. Am one of the very first "Baby Boomers.")

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