H.M.S. COCKEREL by Dewey Lambdin


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Reluctant British naval officer Alan Lewrie (The Gun Ketch, 1993, etc.) assists in the defense of Toulon at the beginning of England's war with revolutionary France. The year is 1793, and our once-rakehell hero is now a domesticated half-pay lieutenant, seven years married, with three children and a farm that he is just learning to manage, not liking it any more than he does most of his neighbors. When war is declared, Alan returns to active service as first lieutenant on a new frigate, the HMS Cockerel, commanded by flogging-prone Captain Braxton with his son for a second lieutenant and two other brutal relatives as midshipmen. Alan soldiers on, however, rediscovering that he is ""damn good at this,"" and soon finds himself in Naples, standing in for the malaria-stricken captain. In good Lewrie style, he savors Italian food and the favors of Lady Emma Hamilton (before she meets Nelson). Then the action shifts to Toulon, which has been surrendered by loyalist French. Alan has been seconded to its defense forces by Braxton as a means of advancing his son. Well fortified as it is, the city cannot be held without reinforcements. After being briefly captured by a Colonel Bonaparte, Alan is assigned to use a surrendered French vessel to ferry loyalist civilians to Gibraltar, which he does with distinction during a climactic sea battle. Naturally, while in Toulon, he takes pity on pauvre Phoebe, bedmate to one of his fallen shipmates, a development that will surely lead to further complications. Lambdin continues to plunk Alan Lewrie down in the midst of interesting times with humor and plenty of authentic detail. Great fun for the amateur military historian--with the whole of the Napoleonic Wars still to come.

Pub Date: July 25th, 1995
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Donald Fine