THE BLOODING OF THE GUNS: A Novel of the Battle of Jutland

Alexander Fullerton, Author . Soho $24 (304p) ISBN 1-56947-259-9

Originally published in England in 1976, this first novel in an eight-book series is overloaded with detail about the largest naval battle of WWI, a two-day clash between Britain's Royal Navy and the German High Sea Fleet in 1916 off the coast of Denmark. The often confusing action is witnessed through the eyes of Nicholas Everard, a sub-lieutenant aboard the destroyer HMS Lanyard, and from the perspective of members of his family serving on other British ships. Unlike their comrades in the trenches of France, Everard and his fellow sailors have been largely idle, focusing on their career ambitions and longing for the thrill of battle and the glories of victory. Nick is "delirious with happiness" when he realizes the fleet is about to engage with the German navy, and another sailor muses on the "happy thought that perhaps he'd be blooding his guns" soon. Military genre fiction can't shy away from battle; still, the absence of empathy—or even ambivalence—in the face of extreme violence makes this war story one-dimensional. There's plenty of minutiae on ships, guns and naval tactics, and the book is loaded with action—the Battle of Jutland was intense, involving some 250 ships and more than 100,000 sailors—but even armchair tacticians may wish the human element had been more fully developed. (Dec.)

Forecast:Packaged like Patrick O'Brian's popular naval novels, this series is clearly being reissued in an attempt to fill the O'Brian void. Though the warship cover of the first installment may beckon to O'Brian fans, it is unlikely that Fullerton's series will strike the same chord with them.

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 12/01/2001
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