The last novel I summarized on this blog was the C. Northcote Parkinson novel, featuring is character Richard Delancey, Dead Reckoning. The book covers about five years of Delancey’s career and involves operations in Borneo and, most significantly, against the remaining French possessions centered on Mauritius.
I’ll be using the next few posts to acquaint you with some of the characters involved in the campaign and some of the actions which lead up to it.
In C. Northcote Parkinson’s Richard Delancey novel Dead Reckoning, Captain Delancey tracks a French privateer to its base on the Kapuas River in Borneo. The privateer is protected by a stockade which fortifies both sides of the river.
Dead Reckoning fast forwards the life of C. Northcote Parkinson’s character Richard Delancey by four years picking up in late 1805. When we left Delancey in Touch and Go he was a recently made commander on the eve of the Peace of Amiens. Now he is a married post captain with one commission, in the 28-gun frigate HMS Vengeance, under his belt.
He receives his orders to take command of the aging 32-gun frigate, HMS Laura, to the Far East with trepidation. He is deeply in love with his wife, an actress and only barely socially acceptable, and doesn’t look forward to the long separation. But he is not financially secure enough to decline the commission and spend the rest of his life on half-pay.
Major spoilers follow.
The Moroccan port city of Tetuan features prominently in the plot of the C. Northcote Parkinson novel Touch and Go featuring the British naval officer Richard Delancey. Delancey, in the sloop HMS Merlin, and a merchantman it is escorting stop in Tetuan to replenish water supplies. It is just off the main square, pictured above, that Delancey participated in a slave auction as a purchaser.
The main square is drawn as it appeared circa 1838 and very similar to the way it would have seemed to Commander Delancey.
Touch and Go follows the career of C. Northcote Parkinson’s naval character Richard Delancey from late 1797 through the Peace of Amiens.
When we last enountered Richard Delancey, he was unemployed due to using his command, the fireship Spitfire, as it was intended to be used. His resourcefulness, however, won him the respect and patronage of the aristocratic Captain Ashley. This, in turn, led him to be made commander into the 18-gun sloop HMS Merlin.
Major spoilers follow.
C. Northcote Parkinson’s Richard Delancey novel, Fireship, opens in the shadow of the mutinies at Spithead and The Nore.
Delancey is a lieutenant on the frigate HMS Medusa, which is just returning from Spain and bound for the dockyard at Chatham to be paid off. Delancey, with no interest and few friends in the service, anticipates a long period on half pay as he scrambles to find a new billet.
The hilltops with glory were glowing
‘Twas the eve of a bright harvest day
When the ships we’d been wearily waiting
Sailed into Killala’s broad bay
And over the hill went the slogan
To waken in every breast
The fire that has never been quenched, boys
Among the true hearts of the West
lyrics from Men of the West
Devil To Pay is the second nove, chronologically, but the first in order of publication, in the Richard Delancey series by C. Northcote Parkinson.
Parkinson is best known for his work in the field of public administration and is credited with the eponymous “Parkinson’s Law” or “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” But he was an accomplished naval historian as well, writing a classic biography of Admiral Sir Edward Pellew. He is best known to Horatio Hornblower fans as the author of The Life and Times of Horatio Hornblower.
Devil To Pay opens in July 1794. Lieutenant Richard Delancey is unemployed and seemingly unemployable. He was involved in giving evidence at a court martial against the captain of his last ship, the frigate HMS Artemis, unfortunately for him the captain was acquitted and he was beached with a reputation for disloyalty attached to him. He has no friends or family to provide the necessary influence to find employment for him and it looks as though he will spend the rest of his naval career either on a receiving ship awaiting an assignment that will never come, or as an unemployed lieutenant on half pay.
Since that time HMS Artemis has been shipwrecked with heavy loss of life, including the captain, and many in the navy are now beginning to think that Delancey may have been right in giving his testimony. But no one is willing to offer him employment.
Major spoilers follow.
Having found myself temporarily deprived of Dewey Lambdin’s Alan Lewrie novels and totally dissatisfied with Julian Stockwin’s Thomas Kydd novels (despite the slamming cover art by Geoff Hunt) I’ve been searching for other naval fiction to use as a focal point for the historical features on this blog.
As I mentioned, I’ve rediscovered Dudley Pope’s Nicholas Ramage and I suspect I’ll get around to doing the same for Alexander Kent’s Richard Bolitho. In the meantime I found my local library carried some of the Richard Delancey novels by C. Northcote Parkinson. And I’ve decided to read this series as well as Pope’s Ramage novels for the time being.
As we’ll be serializing C. Northcote Parkinson’s Richard Delancey novels over the next weeks it seems appropriate to start with Delancey’s hometown.
St. Peter Port, shown here with Castle Cornet in the right midground, is the capital of Guernsey. During the Age of Sail, Guernsey was a hotbed of smugglers and privateers.