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 S. Thomas Russell: "Under Enemy Colors" 
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Post S. Thomas Russell: "Under Enemy Colors"
No Spoilers in this section

"Under Enemy Colors" by S. Thomas Russell is the best first novel that I have read in a very long time. The characters are wonderfully drawn and the story is engrossing. I had trouble stopping to eat.

There are a few flaws and one (maybe) implausible plot event but they pale in comparison to the author's obvious love of sailing and the details of period life aboard ship and ashore.

I like the fact that this was published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, a leader in publishing successful books for many years. It is obviously well edited and far from the self-published book of many first time authors of this genre. Mr. Russell must have impressed someone in New York to have garnered their services. He writes extremely well.

I was a little concerned when I noticed the spelling of "colors" in the title as I suspected the author was another American writing British fiction. However, Mr. Russell is Canadian and I could find no obvious cultural missteps. A British reader might be more successful than I was, however.

Possible Spoilers Below

Lt. Charles Saunders Hayden is given a difficult assignment by the First Secretary of the Admiralty. He must assume the position of First Lt. on a frigate where a murder has recently taken place. He is presented a severed finger to confirm the murder and told his new captain is rumored to be less than competent. He is asked to regularly send secret reports of his captain's actions to the Admiralty or say goodbye to his naval career. Hayden is caught in the First Secretary's web because, although a superb officer himself, he has no patronage to help his advancement. The duality of being half-French and a son of a RN captain is explored in depth as he accepts this odious assignment and sails off to war against France (his other home) with a very fragmented crew. The story reminds me of a murder mystery... who did what and why? There is also plenty of naval action and a decent love story.

I would be happy to go into a more detailed discussion if anyone else reads this and desires to do so.

Don


Mon Oct 29, 2007 3:14 pm
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Curse you, <i>Under Enemy Colors</i> by S. Thomas Russell! Hold still a minute while I load grape on top of round shot . . .

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Post Re: S. Thomas Russell: "Under Enemy Colors"
timoneer wrote:
I was a little concerned when I noticed the spelling of "colors" in the title as I suspected the author was another American writing British fiction.

This is amusing, as the publisher has left the British spelling in the text (aside from the running headers).

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Sun Feb 03, 2008 5:49 am
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Work's been keeping me quite busy, so it took me a while to finish this book. I feel I should apologize to William Hammond for my earlier comments, as it seems this book had more f-words than Hammond's (based on what DonC said in his review). :lol:

Anyway...I thought the book started off slowly, but got more interesting along the way.

The author states in his notes that he is not a historian and has probably made some mistakes. There are a couple I felt he should have caught (lieutenant uniform with epaulette in 1793 :shock:, for example), but they don't really affect the story.

I did wonder if anyone else felt that the relationships between the gunroom officers of the Themis were a bit too...casual?

And maybe too many coincidences?

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Sat Feb 16, 2008 7:27 am
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I have it on online request from my library, so I look forward to reading it in due course. Interestingly, I am second on the list; how intriguing it would be to meet the other "addict" who has beat me to it! :)


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Sun Feb 17, 2008 12:03 pm
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I have not got very far into this book and am only persevering because of the recommendations in this thread. I was almost persuaded to give it away when I arrived at the preposterous trial of the ship’s powder entailing the firing of a ball from a 32pdr carronade in the crowded anchorage of the Hamoaze! I fear that Lieutenant Hayden, if not summarily hanged, drawn and quartered by the Port Admiral, would surely have been arrested by the Plymouth magistrates.


Tue Mar 11, 2008 9:43 am
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IONIA wrote:
I have not got very far into this book and am only persevering because of the recommendations in this thread. I was almost persuaded to give it away when I arrived at the preposterous trial of the ship’s powder entailing the firing of a ball from a 32pdr carronade in the crowded anchorage of the Hamoaze! I fear that Lieutenant Hayden, if not summarily hanged, drawn and quartered by the Port Admiral, would surely have been arrested by the Plymouth magistrates.





I just started reading the book, and the incident you mentioned reminded me of the following which I posted in the Odd/Strange Incidents thread, namely: :

" .....PLYMOUTH, September 10......Went up the Hornet, of 18 guns, Captain C Sheppard, to refit off the Hoe....she fired a gun for the master attendant's boats for assistance, which proved to be shotted....the shot, a nine-pounder, whizzed by three gentlemen on the Hoe...it passed over the heads also of a gentleman and his family above the town, and fell in a field in a straight direction from off the Hoe....."

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Fri Apr 11, 2008 12:20 pm
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.... for UK readers, I spotted this book in Asda this morning at the very reasonable price of £7.87.




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Tue Apr 15, 2008 9:48 am
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Mil Goose wrote:



.... for UK readers, I spotted this book in Asda this morning at the very reasonable price of £7.87.







I also saw a copy in Tesco this morning, not quite so cheaply, but nevertheless it was good to see the genre in these popular, frequented outlets.


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Fri Apr 25, 2008 1:22 pm
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I finished this book recently and, more or less, agree with all the opinions expressed here, however, I had no desire to give it away. ;)

There are a couple of things I question but, all in all, I consider this is a very good first novel and look forward to reading Russell's next one.


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Fri May 02, 2008 12:08 pm
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Post Re:
IONIA wrote:
I have not got very far into this book and am only persevering because of the recommendations in this thread. I was almost persuaded to give it away when I arrived at the preposterous trial of the ship’s powder entailing the firing of a ball from a 32pdr carronade in the crowded anchorage of the Hamoaze! I fear that Lieutenant Hayden, if not summarily hanged, drawn and quartered by the Port Admiral, would surely have been arrested by the Plymouth magistrates.

Peter, I am just beginning the second in this series and I was reviewing my notes and the posts here about the first book. Something in my past connected to this implausible event. When I was in the army and stationed on a particular firebase, there arose times we needed to fire weapons, for example, to give a soldier experience with a new weapon, check out the condition of ammunition, etc. We had a certain area that we could fire into after getting permission. Since the main purpose of an AoS warship was to take weapons where needed and those weapons and powder needed to work properly, was it possible that the Hamoaze had a place, a direction, that when clear of traffic, and with the proper clearance, could be used to test fire as discussed in the book? I realize that I raised the "implausible" issue to start with, but this particular event might not be so far-fetched.

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Sat Aug 14, 2010 8:59 am
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timoneer wrote:
Peter, I am just beginning the second in this series and I was reviewing my notes and the posts here about the first book. Something in my past connected to this implausible event. When I was in the army and stationed on a particular firebase, there arose times we needed to fire weapons, for example, to give a soldier experience with a new weapon, check out the condition of ammunition, etc. We had a certain area that we could fire into after getting permission. Since the main purpose of an AoS warship was to take weapons where needed and those weapons and powder needed to work properly, was it possible that the Hamoaze had a place, a direction, that when clear of traffic, and with the proper clearance, could be used to test fire as discussed in the book? I realize that I raised the "implausible" issue to start with, but this particular event might not be so far-fetched.



Perhaps I was being hypercritical but I have some difficulty in accepting that the casual discharge of a shotted gun in a crowded river anchorage would be permitted.


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Sat Aug 14, 2010 10:36 am
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Post Re: S. Thomas Russell: "Under Enemy Colors"
Peter, to further explain my experience on the firebase, we fired toward a particular terrain feature that was away from any friendlies. So I was thinking that a ship might have an approved direction or target to fire at, "away" from the crowded anchorage. I am not familiar with that area but maybe a low promontory or into a suitably high bank might work. I couldn’t really check this on-line.

It is not unusual for modern ships to fire toward land to check their weapons. The US Navy did so for many years at the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. Did something similar happen during the AoS?

Of course, this is probably just the "implausible" fictional musing of the author. I did leave email at his website to see what, if any, historical facts he might have to support this element in his book.

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Mon Aug 16, 2010 9:58 am
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Post Re: S. Thomas Russell: "Under Enemy Colors"
Hello Don:

I do not have a copy of this book and I cannot remember the details but I think that the ship was at anchor in the usual naval anchorage in the Hamoaze - probably in the vicinity of the 1912 photo that I put up. Perhaps you could correct me by consulting the book. I have no doubt that had the ship been moved further up the river then a spot could have been found for a gun trial but not, I think, without some careful prior preparation for safety reasons. I believe that some gun trials were carried out in the Hamoaze in the mid-19th century - but not in the anchorage!


Tue Aug 17, 2010 2:50 am
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Post Re: S. Thomas Russell: "Under Enemy Colors"
IONIA wrote:
I do not have a copy of this book and I cannot remember the details but I think that the ship was at anchor in the usual naval anchorage in the Hamoaze - probably in the vicinity of the 1912 photo that I put up. Perhaps you could correct me by consulting the book. I have no doubt that had the ship been moved further up the river then a spot could have been found for a gun trial but not, I think, without some careful prior preparation for safety reasons. I believe that some gun trials were carried out in the Hamoaze in the mid-19th century - but not in the anchorage!

Peter, I looked back at the book and it seems that the "Themis" was anchored within sight of the dockyard (page 33) when Hayden joined. There is no notation that the ship moved prior to the powder incident. On page 56, Lt. Hayden found the powder was "tacky" (with moisture) and fell in "doughy dollops" from his hand. On page 57 Hayden says "Although there is little point, let us test this powder before I write to the Ordnance Board for more." In the following paragraphs, the first cartridge failed to fire and had to be withdrawn. The second made a dull thump with much debris left in the barrel, After two more misfires, they managed to fire a ball but the sailing master observed that he could "throw it further himself."

Seems like Hayden did not expect the powder to fire, or if it did, did not expect the ball to reach the bank, if indeed that is where the cannon was aimed.

I did receive a response from the author on this subject. It read: "The south side of the Hamoaze is to this day an open area of field and wood - although there is a considerable manor house there now. The Royal Navy were a little cavalier about where they practiced their gunnery - where I live people dig up iron balls to this day!"

I take this to mean that the firing of a cannon in the Hamoaze was fictional.

By the way, from the book jacket information, the author lives at Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

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Tue Aug 17, 2010 4:57 am
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