|Cochrane – The Life & Exploits of a Fighting Captain – Robert Harvey — Both a complementary addition to the Patrick O’Brian naval series, it stands on its own as the biography of an almost unbelievable naval hero. From single ship actions (in one action, Cochrane fought and defeated a ship more than twice his own ship’s size and firepower); to political missions (Cochrane became the admiral of the emergent navy of the west coast of South America, using his tiny fleet to stop Spain from reinforcing its failing colonies), Harvey writes a compelling story. But the stories take on even more interest when you match them with the adventures of Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. Over and over, bits of action or plotting from Cochrane’s life show up in the Aubrey novels (O’Brian openly admitted that he borrowed from Cochrane’s career to build Aubrey’s), and as interesting are where the parallels fail. The descriptions of the stock market swindles and trial are particularly interesting and vivid.
Patrick O’Brian naval series
These novels are filled with carefully written dialog, often humorous, but ever in the style of the time. The relationships are perfect and filled with tiny details. [e.g., the employment of injured sailors as Jack’s estate workmen, where they keep the home as spit polished and shipshape as any of Jack’s oceangoing homes. ] Stephen & Jack’s musical diversions are sui generi- a clever yet telling development of friendship under wartime conditions. The sailing and action sequences remain the core of this genre and O’Brian never fails – the storms and other trials of Aubrey’s seafaring abilities are ever
Lobscouse & Spotted Dog : Which It’s a Gastronomic Companion to the Aubrey/Maturin Novels
Harbors and High Seas: An Atlas and Geographical Guide to the Aubrey-Maturin Novels of Patrick O’Brian
Other Nautical fiction
|Under the broad heading of nautical fiction, there are tales of the Vikings, and tales of the industrial wars of the 20th century, but by far the most prolific and interesting stories deal with the Napoleonic era of 1790 – 1815 . Few other periods give an author enough scope to develop his character over many novels, and provide enough foes to enable frequent promotions. Curiously, novels about the lower decks, while available, rarely can carry on beyond a single volume, perhaps because the drama in a ship of war is concentrated in the hands of one man, and the rest of the ship’s community has little room for freely chosen action. CS Forester’s Hornblower series was long the standard for other authors to approach, and none surpassed it until Patrick O’Brian.In the non series category, there are more to choose from. Known mostly for his land based historical novels of 18th century colonial & revolutionary America, Kenneth Roberts‘ Lively Lady still holds up as a compelling story of privateers in the War of 1812. Rabble in Arms is the story of the greatest hero of the revolution – Benedict Arnold. Nautically this inland saga describes Arnold’s Fabian strategy of building a small fleet on Lake Champlain that fatally delayed Burgoyne’s advance from Canada to the Hudson Valley
The Aubrey series by Patrick O’Brian is easily the best nautical series ever written — far superior to Hornblower, Bolitho and the others. Read them in order, or out of sequence, each is a gem. O’Brian is to the nautical novel what Le Carre is to the spy genre – excelling in their chosen form, while creating literature. O’Brian combines detailed seamanship with intricate plotting. All the characters develop as the series progresses, and it’s worth starting the series over to see how much was foreshadowed in the early books.
C. Northcote Parkinson [of P’s Law], wrote several entertaining novels in this genre, including “Devil to Pay” and “Fireship”
Julian Stockwin‘s tales of Thomas Kydd show the times from the view of a pressed landsman, starting at the bottom. Unfortunately, they lack any compelling interest after the first volume; I started the second but couldn’t get very far into it.