Friday, December 21, 2018

Forgotten Books: THE KING'S COAT by Dewey Lambdin (1989)

You're probably somewhat acquainted with C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower, who starred in 10+ novels, a few shorts, a movie and a TV mini-series. He's honest, brave, honorable and pure of heart. (If you don't know him, think Captain James T. Kirk, who was based on old Horny.) Other heroes, notably Alexander Kent's Richard Bolitho, Dudley Pope's Ramage, Richard Woodman's Nathaniel Drinkwater and Patrick O'Brian's Jack Aubrey, have followed more or less in the same tradition.

Dewey Lambdin's Alan Lewrie, though, brings something different to the genre. He likes women (all he can get) and alchohol (of any sort), and is no more honest than he has to be. And he cares more for his own prospects than for the honor of the Navy. In short, he's almost a real person. 

In The King's Coat, first in the series of 26 books (so far), he's caught boffing his half-sister and forced to join the Navy to avoid the scandal. (But lest you think too poorly of him, know that the half-sister seduced him under orders from her father, to cheat him out of his inheritance from his mother.) 

Anyway, there he is, a Midshipman (the most junior of officers) in Her Majesty's Navy, circa 1780, and hating it. Over the course of the book, he makes friends, discovers a love of gunnery, and (to his own surprise) proves his bravery in battle. He decides the navy isn't so bad after all. But he remains a real guy, and at this point in his career an 18-year-old guy, with all the usual vices. 

Lewrie's interaction with his fellow midshipmen, his superiors and his subordinates is nicely handled, and the battle scenes are great. The only drawback is the naval jargon. Despite having read all the Hornblowers, all 30 Bolitho books, three Captain Bloods, half the Aubreys and assorted others, most of that stuff is still Greek to me. 

There are stays'ls and jibs, pawls and cro'jack yards, binnacles, braces and backstays, shrouds and spars and dozens of other dinguses the crew is always fiddling with. You could look all this stuff up, of course, and try to remember it (as I have, and failed), but I've found the best way to deal with it is to let it roll over you like poetry, knowing there will be human interaction - and battle - coming soon. 

I enjoyed this one so much, I plowed right into the second book (The French Admiral), something I dang near never do. 


George said...

I'm a big fan of Dewey Lambdin's navel adventures, too!

I still have a dozen more Dewey Lambdin novels to read. I'm trying to make them last so I only read a couple per year.

Anonymous said...

Alan Lewrie sounds like a literary descendant of George Macdonald Frazer's Flashman.

Cap'n Bob said...

Had I but world enough and time...

Evan Lewis said...

Lewrie is pretty tame (and almost resectable) next to Flashy. He's closer to Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe, but still very different.

Kate Lynch said...

Great post.thank you so much.