Lewrie and the Hogshead

 

hogshead

The area of operations in Lewrie and the Hogshead as views from space. The Turks and Caicos are at lower left, Inagua, Bahamas, in the center, and Cuba under the cloud bank in the upper right.

Over the Christmas Holiday we received an extra treat. Dewey Lambdin released a novelette in advance of the release of the newest Alan Lewrie naval adventure, Hostile Shores, scheduled for release on 26 February. This novelette is Lewrie and the Hogshead.

When last we saw Captain Sir Alan Lewrie, Baronet, in Reefs and Shoals  he was the senior officer commanding in the Bahamas after his bête noire, the porcine Captain Francis Forrester, had run his own ship aground while in pursuit of a non-existent threat to the Bahamas and been cashiered by a court-martial. (As a matter of schadenfreude, I enjoy the way that Lewrie is seeing people who detested him and wronged him in the past receive the cleansing benefits of karma. Maybe in some future post I will enumerate those to whom a future reckoning is due.)

The Bahamas are largely a lazy backwater in 1805 and Lewrie is cooling his heels aboard his HMS Reliant leaving the patrolling to his subordinates, a proto-Nelsonian ‘band of brothers’, as he knows the local mercantile interests will panic if Reliant puts to sea.

One of his brigs, HMS Fulmar, arrives in port bearing the survivors of an American merchantman, the Santee, which had run afoul of a Spanish privateer. Bored and under pressure from the American consul to do something, Lewrie investigates. The more questions he asks the more it becomes apparent that the American master is being parsimonious with the truth.

Leaving one of his subordinates as senior officer aboard Reliant, Lewrie takes to sea with two small combatants to find out what happened to the Santee and why its master can’t quite get his stories straight.

Without giving it all away, the plot involves a continuation of that in Reefs and Shoals – the chronic violation of Britain’s attempts to blockade its enemies by American merchants insisting of the right of neutral vessels to trade where they pleased — and explores some of the reasons for the maritime friction that eventually led to the War of 1812.

There is nothing in the novelette that moves either the Lewrie character or the series forward, so if you miss it you won’t find it critical to enjoying the next novel. It is short it is an enjoyable and relatively short read that will be welcomed by Lewrie fans. We hope that Mr. Lambdin does this more frequently in the future.

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Lieutenant Robert Pigot on the St. Mary’s River

Having finished another Alan Lewrie adventure, it is time to take a quick look at the historical incidents that were form a backdrop for the novel.

How effective was French privateering operations against British commerce? Not very. It was a nuisance, siphoning off numerous minor combatants to protect convoys and patrol against privateers but the losses were minor. As a strategic weapon aimed at the British economy it was an abysmal failure.

The highlight of Reefs and Shoals is the small boat action on the St. Mary’s River. Like so many incidents by Pope or O’Brian or Lambdin this one is rooted in fact. Continue reading

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Reefs and Shoals: Random Thoughts

In my view, Reefs and Shoals is the best Alan Lewrie book  since Baltic Gambit. The previous three books have seemed more intent upon tying up loose ends than moving the Lewrie story forward. Some of those tied up ends were long overdue. The detestable Choundas had become a Monty Python skit. More’s the pity since he was an excellent villain. Some of the ends were sad. The killing off of Caroline without a true reconciliation between her and Lewrie was a shame. She was an interesting character in her own right and made some of Lewrie’s best and worst traits more obvious. Bringing back two of his French paramours along the way seems to add little of nothing to any potential story line.

On the eve of Trafalgar we find Lewrie cooling his heels in the Bahamas. Will he make a surprise entrance much as he did at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent? Or will he become involved in the minor British campaigns against French Caribbean possessions? More intriguingly, will he somehow end up with the American Navy and his son, Desmond, during the First Barbary War? He does, you will recall, have significant ties with that young fleet.

Lambdin has foreshadowed that Trafalgar will be of some significance to Lewrie because we know that Hugh Lewrie will be there aboard whatever ship, be it Aeneas or Pegasus, that Lambdin finally decides upon. With his father at death’s door, cut off from his brother-in-law, Gouvernor, because of his chronic infidelities, loathed by his daughter and nearly so by his youngest son, will his only close relation be swept away by French roundshot leaving Lewrie very alone in his middle years?

Will he marry Lydia? He got damned close in this episode (though there was an echo of how he and Caroline decided to get married from The Gun Ketch).

Has Lewrie reformed? Though a commodore sailing on Admiralty orders, Lewrie managed to stay remarkably chaste while cruising the American southern Atlantic seaboard.

So I’m doing what I haven’t done for the past three years: looking forward to the next Alan Lewrie novel.

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Reefs and Shoals

Note and warning. This synopsis will include spoilers. Spoilers don’t bother me because I usually read the last chapter of a book first. I understand YMMV.

I’m doing what has become my annual post on this blog on the latest Alan Lewrie naval adventure by Dewey Lambdin. This one is title Reefs and Shoals.

January 1805 finds Lewrie still in command of HMS Reliant frigate and heavily engaged with the lovely and available Lydia Stangbourne. Lydia, who we first met in the previous Lewrie adventure, is something of a bookend for Lewrie. She has his healthy libido and a reputation for dissolute behavior. Unfortunately, for her and for Lewrie, her reputation is undeserved and the result of a smear campaign conducted by her vengeful ex-husband after she sought the unthinkable: a divorce because of his beastly appetites. Continue reading

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More On Splinters

A while back I wrote a brief post entitled Why Splinters? In it I examined why injuries from wood splinters figure prominently in literature and history of combat during the Age of Sail and pointed out that there are some doubters.

Anytime you challenge the Myth Busters you do so with trepidation but in this specific instance I felt the frequency splinters were mentioned in contemporaneous literature was dispositive and that the experiment set up by the Myth Busters was flawed on various levels.

Now, thanks to poster Karel I’m adding this video to the collection. I think we can now close the book on this discussion.

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Invasion Year

Invasion Year, the latest Alan Lewrie novel by Dewey Lambdin, begins with Captain Lewrie and HMS Reliant attached to the British fleet operating against the French fleet in Haiti. They arrive on the scene as the French capitulate on land. Lewrie plays a key role in negotiations with the rebels based on the knowledge he attained in Sea of Grey.

True to form, Lewrie causes some discomfiture on the part of his commodore, even though he is the senior captain, but in the end they are on friendly terms.

While replenishing supplies in Kingston, Jamaica, Lewrie receives unexpected news from England in the form of a letter informing him he has been knighted for his services to the Crown with the ceremony held in abeyance until his return. The squadron receives orders to return to England but they have to act as convoy escorts en route. The largish, 100+ ship, convoy loses some vessels to French privateers but not so many as to affect the career of the commodore.

Upon arrival in England, Lewrie is eventually seen at Court and knighted by a somewhat befuddled King George III. In the process he makes the acquaintance of Lady Lydia Stangbourne. She is a well connected young woman who has had her reputation besmirched in the course of a rather ugly and public divorce. In short, her reputation will not suffer for her association with Lewrie.

HMS Reliant is caught up in a secret mission being carried out by Admiralty revolving around using floating bombs, torpedoes, against the French invasion fleet in port. In the course of this experience Lewrie renews his acquaintance with the former commander of Lewrie’s HMS Thermopylae, Captain Joseph Speaks, and with Foreign Office operative James Peel.

Reliant tests the devices and eventually takes part on Admiral Lord Keith’s inconclusive raid on Boulogne.

When Lewrie returns from the raid he finds Peel has a distasteful new mission for him.

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Thoughts on King, Ship, and Sword

King, Ship, and Sword is a decidedly mixed bag.

On the one hand, it doesn’t move the development of Alan Lewrie forward much, if at all. The major focus of the novel seems to be tying up lose ends, like Lewrie’s rocky marriage and the ever diminishing villain Guillaume Choundas, and setting the stage for the second half of Lewrie’s life which, if he avoids court-martial, should see him hoist his flag by the time Waterloo rolls around.

It is obvious that Charitė de Guilleri and Phoebe Aretino are reentering the picture. Lewrie seems to be building an expertise in New Orleans and environs that one suspects will result in him being present for the Battle of New Orleans. As the War of 1812 looms, he will undoubtedly encounter his son who, at last look, was an officer in the US Navy.

Now Lewrie (quick close your eyes if you don’t want to read a spoiler) has two sons in the Navy which will certainly cause him some anxious moments.

His roguish father has started putting his affairs in order which hints at his upcoming demise. Unfortunately, looks like Sir Hugo is destined to die peacefully in his own bed rather than violently in someone else’s.

His half-brother, Gerald, has been absent since Lewrie had him press-ganged into the navy. His half-sister, Belinda, hasn’t made an appearance since the first novel, The King’s Coat. Even though she is pushing 40 she is still a highly desired hooker. It’s hard to believe she won’t reappear at some point.

On the whole, this is not the best of the series. The naval action seems to be an afterthought. A respected, upright Lewrie isn’t quite as much fun as the devious, edgy Lewrie we’ve known in the past. And Lambdin makes some technical errors, like complaining about the “purser’s pound”, i.e. rations being issued at 14 rather than 16 ounces to the pound, a practice which ceased with the Spithead Mutiny. He also describes the cheese in terms that could only be Suffolk cheese which was dropped by the Victualling Board in 1758.

But we’re waiting for the next in the series, The Invasion Year.

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