This section contains reviews of books by David Hayes and members of the forum

Review: Britain's Greatest Naval Battle by Richard Freeman

Britain's Greatest Naval BattleI have now read a couple of Mr Freeman's works which have used the style of comparing different aspects of something and deciding which was the most important to history or 'Greatest'. In this book, Britain's Greatest Naval Battle, the author compares two battles from different periods of the Age of Sail, The Armada and Trafalgar, with the more modern Battle of Jutland, to decide which was the most important to Britain.

Freeman first sets out a number of criteria which he will use to reach his decision and then analyses each Battle in turn against these, finally reaching a decision as to which is the greatest. I will not spoil the book by revealing this conclusion.

Whether you agree with the outcome  or not, the book will certainly make you think about these battles from a different perspective. For scholarly works they are shorter than usual, but they are priced appropriately for this and it made them an easier read than some. I enjoyed comparing such disparate actions and if you just want to spend a few hours on non-fiction rather than undertake some detailed in depth research this is certainly one to consider.


Review: At Drake's Command by David Wesley Hill

At Drake's CommandI was privileged to receive an advanced copy of At Drake's Command: The Adventures of Peregrine James During the Second Circumnavigation of the World, by David Wesley Hill, which tells the story of a young cook who joins an expedition under Francis Drake.

The first third of the book is land based and does an excellent job of setting up the principal character, Peregrine James. The narrative quickly grabbed my attention and after that was hard to put down.

It then follows the fleet as it heads for, and passes down the coast of, Africa, interacting with the Moors of Barbary. England at the time was seeking to get a foothold in overseas trade which at the time had been granted by the Pope to Spain and Portugal and which they fiercely defended. Attitudes at the time were sharply focused and the views and language of the time are reflected in the text.

Books on Drake tend to focus on the Armada so it is good to see one that covers another period of his adventures. Having a cook as the principal character in an adventure novel is unusual but proved to be an excellent move. I won't spoil the plot by saying more but I soon got to like Peregrine.

The novels' subtitle includes 'Circumnavigation of the World' so as I devoured the plot and was still off Africa I was certainly starting to hope that this was to be the first in a series and would not just have an abrupt ending. So when it ended with a major cliff hanger I was certainly pleased to see a note from the author that there will be a sequel. I am sure this series will educate me on an event in history I know little about.

This book from Temurlone Press (where you can pre-order a copy autographed by the author) will be out in November 2012 and I highly recommend it.


Roger Marsh Review: British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793 - 1817

British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793 - 1817Rif Winfield has made a lifetime's study of the sailing warship. This is the third and, until the present day, the last book published in his excellent series of sequential volumes from Seaforth Publishing (though it was the first of them written). This monumental trilogy, taken as a whole, details every single known British ship in service with the Royal Navy from 1603 to 1817, every vessel built, purchased or taken. As we have said before, nothing quite like this series of volumes has ever been produced.

This one spans the period from 1793 until 1817, from the outbreak of the French Revolutionary War through to the aftermath of the 22-year-long Great French Wars and of the more minor War of 1812 between Britain and the USA, both of which conflicts ended in 1815. The timescale takes us up to the armament re-rating of 1817 in the post-war period (the launch year of the frigate HMS Trincomalee).


Julian Mackrell Review: Captain Blackwell's Prize by V. E. Ulett

Captain Blackwell's PrizeCaptain Blackwell's Prize is a Romance set in the world of 'Nelson's Navy' early in the 19th century. As such, there is actually more grappling under sheets than on deck (two ship actions): though I could perhaps wish for a little more 'naval' and a little less 'romance', it all works pretty well to form a satisfying page-turner. Most of the action takes place shipboard, so lovers of naval fiction should feel right at home.

Ulett's characters are as convincing as her naval action is credible. Blackwell is somewhat Aubrey-ish, an uncomplicated bear of a man who is equally at home pummelling his enemy as delicately caressing his beloved Mercedes, a capable girl, strong-willed yet vulnerable. Unlike O'Brian, we are treated to greater detail of their carnal relations than naval issues while ship-handling technicalities are kept to a minimum.


Review: Blood Diamond by Mark Keating

Blood DiamondBlood Diamond is a novel about a pirate but, as the cover description makes clear, if you are conjuring up pictures of a Caribbean swashbuckler think again. A large portion of this book is based in London and Paris, not the usual haunt of pirates. However there is some nautical action, principally in the English Channel.

For those dedicated nautical fiction fans, you should not be put of by the large land based element. The principal character, Patrick Devlin, is a very believable character, far from the stereotypical pirate created by Hollywood, and the well written plot blends the land and sea elements well. It is based around the speculation which became known as the South Sea Bubble.

I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading more about the characters.



Roger Marsh Review: British Warships in the Age of Sail 1714 - 1792

British Warships in the Age of Sail 1714 - 1792We previously reviewed Rif Winfield's volume covering the period 1603 to 1714, published in the excellent series from Seaforth Publishing which details every single known British ship in service with the Royal Navy from 1603 to 1817, built, purchased or taken. As we said of the first volume, nothing quite like them exists.

The volume we are looking at this time is, chronologically, the second in the series as well as the second of them written by the author, covering the period from the accession in 1714 of King George I, shortly before the setting up of the first formal Establishment of 1719, through to 1792 under George III, the year before the outbreak of the French Revolutionary War. This time scale covers all the major naval wars of the eighteenth century except for the last one, taking us through an era when Britain consolidated her dominant position at sea and also became a major imperial power, in spite of the loss of her American colonies founded in the previous century.


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