King's Captain

Dewey Lambdin, Author Thomas Dunne Books $25.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-26885-5
The ninth book in Lambdin's Alan Lewrie series (The King's Coat, etc.) begins rousingly enough with the famous British defeat of a Spanish armada at Cape Saint Vincent in 1797. Lewrie comes in for some glory by trusting Nelson and participating in an apparently foolhardy maneuver that ensures victory for the English. After a short visit at homeDdreaming all the while of anticipated prize moneyDLewrie is made captain of the brand-new frigate Proteus. Before he sets to sea, though, Lewrie and his officers are ensnared in the mutinies at Spithead and Nore. The tars are petitioning for fairer wages, medical care and shipboard treatment. Lewrie faces a fierce enmity from a seaman he isDerroneouslyDsure he has never met before and spends most of the book planning to wrest HMS Proteus away from the mutineers. Eventually, of course, he does, and again, of course, Lewrie comes out on top. The delivery of a last-minute anonymous letter detailing Lewrie's extramarital escapades acts as a teaser for the next book. It is impossible not to compare Lambdin's Lewrie adventures to Patrick O'Brian's dazzling Aubrey-Maturin seriesDand the comparison does not favor Lambdin. O'Brian would probably have dealt with the Nore mutiny in a chapter or two: Lambdin takes considerably more pages. There is less seamanship here and practically no memorable characters. Language veers from the quaintly archaic to the brashly anachronistic: ""Do-able, d'ye think?"" Despite efforts at painting Lewrie as a forerunner of Flashman, there's no real humor. Also, Lambdin's afterword explaining doings at the Nore should have been a foreword. Readers desperate for an O'Brianesque fix may squeeze some enjoyment out of Lambdin's latest, but they will perhaps not be surprised to discover that Alan Lewrie is no Jack Aubrey. (Dec. 15)
Reviewed on: 12/04/2000
Release date: 12/01/2000
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