THE BLACK COCKADE by Victor Suthren

THE BLACK COCKADE

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Another set of lively, hokey 1740s adventures for young naval-infantry officer Paul Gallant--the French-colonial hero who swashbuckled around with art-treasures and Indian maidens in A King's Ransom (1981). This time Gallant, with the Acadian crew of his corvette Echo, arrives at the fortress of Louisbourg (Cape Breton) with rumors of a possible English attack from Boston. (The Anglo-French war in Europe is just starting to spread to America.) But no one believes Gallant, and the fortress is utterly unprepared when the New Englanders arrive: the fortress is besieged; casualties are high; defeat is imminent. So the Louisbourg commandant orders Gallant to set sail in Echo, get past the British blockade, and bring news of the siege to the French king--who'll surely send help. And off indeed goes the Echo . . . with the British frigate Redoubtable in pursuit. Eventually, then, there's a stalemate in a Mediterranean inlet on the Spanish coast: the British can't get at the wily Echo, but the Echo is checkmated in place. So the British sneak ashore and plan to bomb the Echo from the land side . . . just as Gallant daringly persuades his crew to row out to sea, in the dark, right under the noses of the English. More chases ensue; the Echo sails straight into the Barbary Coast--where Gallant's mate Bessac displays a surprising familiarity with Arabic and with His Most Merciful Serenity the Dey of Algiers. And for a while, then, the Frenchmen are safe in Algiers, with Gallant falling for the Dey's favorite dancing girl, Abigail (who just happens to be--yes, folks--the long-lost daughter of a wealthy British clan). Finally, however, there's another showdown with the Redoubtable in the Algerian harbor: Gallant, largely out of love for the wounded Abigail (who has tagged along), surrenders; the Echo and its passengers are taken as prisoner to the isle of Minorca; and only after a French landing does Gallant get his message to Paris at last--too late, of course. (But, with Abigail by his side, it's a happy ending anyway.) As before, Suthren's characterization is flat, his dialogue is corny, and his plotting is just a string of incidents. But the action is non-stop, with authentic detail--some of it grisly--whenever warfare or seagoing is involved. (""We'll lay out the niplines to pay out the starboard hawser, and lower the anchor from the cathead into the jollyboat."") And there's relative historical-adventure freshness in the Louisbourg story and the French-colonial viewpoint.

Pub Date: Dec. 6th, 1982
Publisher: St. Martin's