It is 1780, and 17-year-old Alan Lewrie is a brash, rebellious young libertine. So much so that his callous father believes a bit of naval discipline will turn the boy around. Fresh aboard the tall-masted Ariadne, Midshipman Lewrie heads for the war-torn Americas, finding - rather unexpectedly - that he is a born sailor, equally at home with the randy pleasures of the port and the raging battles on the high seas. But in a hail of cannonballs comes a bawdy surprise.
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Currently, the second and third books are two credits (a bit high priced). If you liked books by Bernard Cornwell (Sharp's Rifles Series), C.S. Forester's Hornblower saga, Frederick Marryat - Peter Simple saga, and Patrick O'Brian - Jack Aubrey series you will also like this series.
Some books of the series are a bit slow (at parts), and lots of sailing until the battles and sex... Dewey Lambdin writing is excellent but is not worth the extra credit with the choice of comparable books.
- Andrew "I read everything (from Victorian Romances to espionage).
I even like kids books (i.e. Bloody Jack series)."
Tom Jones as Horatio Hornblower meets Fanny Hill
In the Tom Jones-esque prologue to Dewey Lambdin's The King's Coat (1989), the 17-year-old bastard Alan Lewrie is caught by an outraged posse--his natural father, his half-brother, his father's servant, his father's lawyer, and the new vicar--in bed in flagrento delicto with his half-sister. She immediately begins screaming that he has raped her (despite having been seducing him for two weeks) and Alan is in a fix. He is disowned, banished, and, what is worse, shipped off to sea to join the British Navy as a "gentleman" midshipman during the Revolutionary War. Alan, whose only notion of the navy has been that it is a floating prison with the added danger of drowning, nevertheless soon determines to learn and thrive there so as to get some measure of revenge on his scheming family.
Lambdin depicts Alan's reluctant entry into the navy and subsequent adventures with enthusiastic detail. Frigates, orlops, topgallants, fo'c'sles, kedges, 9-pounders, warrant officers, dog watches, and more. Along with Alan we learn about the ships, masts, sails, lines, knots, duties, punishments, foods, eating, sleeping, relieving, and cleaning arrangements, weapons, tactics, and men (and boys) of the 18th century British navy. I can't visualize which sail is being used when, etc., but the gist of what happens is always clear. And there are some exciting and horrific naval battles to experience.
In addition to vividly depicting the world of the navy, Lambdin has a sense of humor, as in this description of the father of the elfin and nubile Lucy Beauman:
"Pere Beauman was squat as a toad, crammed into a bright green velvet coat, a long skirted old style waist coat, awash in silver brocade, buff britches and hose, with calves as thick as tiller-heads, and the high-roached, elaborately curled bag wig he wore fairly screamed, 'Country!' of the worst hunting, shooting, riding, drinking, tenant-trampling, dog-loving, view-halloo variety."
Fans of C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series should enjoy The King's Coat, but should be aware that Lambdin relishes recounting Alan's sexual encounters with women, from lonely married ones to prostitutes, and also has him swear like, well, a sailor. A couple of sequences involving Alan's hedonistic pleasures on shore leave nearly had me wondering whether I'd entered John Cleland's Fanny Hill. Sex is as much a part of the human experience as violence, so if Lambin wants to spend as much graphic detail on Alan's amorous engagements as on his naval ones, why not?
Once in the navy, Alan exhibits a Hornblower-like knack for being in the right place at the right time and for reacting in dangerous situations quickly, courageously, and effectively (despite his confusion and fear). Alan is interesting because his temper and foul mouth sometimes get the better of him, but his sharp tongue may also ooze honey, and whenever he is loathing himself for toadying to some senior officer, one suspects that he really means his flattery because at heart he is a good person and an earnest midshipman. And at times Alan resonates with the wind in the sails, the sun in the sea, and the membership in a community of men who are diligently working in some of the most complicated and impressive things human beings have created, wooden sailing ships.
John Lee reads The King's Coat with his characteristic wit and manner, and fully enjoys himself with it, especially when voicing the snide or uptight characters.
I am looking forward to the other volumes in the series.