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 Peter Smalley: HMS Expedient 
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Post Peter Smalley: HMS Expedient
I just finished this book and had mixed feelings about it. Its fairly interesting but it has entirely too much dialog. The author seems to be very aware of the amount of money he was getting per word. There are too many unproductive meetings, too many arguments and disagreements between the Captain and the First Lieutenant, even arguments between the Captain and certain warrant officers (not realistic).

There are no sea battles.

I did some research and, as far as I can tell, the back-story that drives the novel is pure fiction. I know, I know..... it's a fictional book..... but I normally like a book a little more if it has a historical setting as background.

The special gun powder (red) used on the voyage is historical. It was developed in 1783 and is discussed on page 135 of "The Arming and Fitting of English Ships of War 1600-1815" by Brian Lavery. I could not find out anything about the Waterfield Guns -- special grooved guns invented by Alexander Waterfield. Of course, grooved barrel -- muzzle loading guns failed miserably so maybe very little may have recorded about such failures.

A minor irritation is the poor proof-reading by Century Books, part of Random House. Example: they incorrectly calculate the number of guns in the 36 gun frigate (page 42). Some typos are simple, page 276 says "My" Symington instead of "Mr." Symington and, on page 335 "and act of war" instead of "an act of war." The most irritating example is the spelling of Pacifick and Atlantick. Both these words appear in written documents reproduced in this book and the extra "K" is probably very typical of the period (Samuel Johnson's dictionary being not commonly available). However, to make the document spellings appear, all the other uses of these words are misspelled too. This was like hitting speed bumps to me. Since the action in the novel involves a voyage to the Pacific, the misspellings appear often in dialog and descriptions.

Nevertheless, I will probably read Smalley's next work.

Don


Thu Jul 07, 2005 7:23 am
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Post Re: Peter Smalley - HMS Expedient
I just finished it, too, but cannot agree with all that you say.



timoneer wrote:
I just finished this book and had mixed feelings about it. Its fairly interesting but it has entirely too much dialog. The author seems to be very aware of the amount of money he was getting per word. There are too many unproductive meetings, too many arguments and disagreements between the Captain and the First Lieutenant, even arguments between the Captain and certain warrant officers (not realistic).


I, personally, appreciate dialogue between characters. ** I think it brings them to life. POB peppered his novels liberally with dialogue; one of the reasons, I like them. I think Smalley got it right.

** I think this is an interesting point, so will open a separate disccussion on the subject.


Quote:
There are no sea battles.


... set in the mid/late 1780's, what battles were there to take part in? I saw the book as an exploration type naval adventure, along the lines of Cook.

Quote:
I did some research and, as far as I can tell, the back-story that drives the novel is pure fiction. I know, I know..... it's a fictional book..... but I normally like a book a little more if it has a historical setting as background.


....that is possibly so. I can find no reference to the major incident in the plot, but nevertheless, it sound authentic enough to set you searching. :lol:




Quote:
A minor irritation is the poor proof-reading by Century Books, part of Random House. Example: they incorrectly calculate the number of guns in the 36 gun frigate (page 42). Some typos are simple, page 276 says "My" Symington instead of "Mr." Symington and, on page 335 "and act of war" instead of "an act of war." The most irritating example is the spelling of Pacifick and Atlantick. Both these words appear in written documents reproduced in this book and the extra "K" is probably very typical of the period (Samuel Johnson's dictionary being not commonly available). However, to make the document spellings appear, all the other uses of these words are misspelled too. This was like hitting speed bumps to me. Since the action in the novel involves a voyage to the Pacific, the misspellings appear often in dialog and descriptions.


I checked this out in The Times. The spelling of Pacifick and Atlantick was quite authentic at the time, so why not have the characters use that spelling in their speech, too?

I, too, look forward to Peter Smalley's next novel and I hope to be able to make contact with him to tell him so.

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Thu Jul 07, 2005 12:00 pm
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Mary actually I agree in general with you on dialog. O'Brian was a genius when it came to this and I really enjoyed the extra information about the era that he imparted to the reader. It forced me to do a lot of extra reading and really increased my understanding of the world he was writing about. Smalley has a number of canceled meetings and actual meetings where no information is imparted, either about the era or the story itself. I know he is trying to set up a mystery but please.... I say that as a fan of both Charles Dickens and James Michner -- both of whom could take a nap and get half a chapter out of it. :D

Every time the captain and the carpenter or master had an argument, I cringed -- just not very realistic. It was rare for captains of that era to allow even his officers to take such liberties. Even some of the disagreements between the captain and the first Lieutenant seemed, to me, artificial.

We also agree that the spelling of Pacifick and Atlantic are perfectly correct when they appear in documents (I also did some checking) but if the author intended for that style of spelling to appear in the rest of the book why didn't he use other quaintly spelled words rather than just the two. I think the spelling checker was in error -- maybe software instead of a person. It would be interesting to ask the author why this happened -- intentional or mistake. Mary, if this is one of the authors that you have contact with, you might check when you are discussing something more important than spelling with him.

I did not say that I did not enjoy the story line, just that no sea battles took place - a fact. I bet you (and I also) would have enjoyed the book even more had it actually been a true voyage of discovery -- rather than a fake, a cover story for the real reason for the trip. I am also a fan of Cook and I just ordered "Joseph Banks: A Life" by, who else, Patrick O'Brian.

I would probably give this about a 5 or 6 out of 10 and you would certainly rate it higher. It will be interesting to hear the opinions of others who have read this. Thank goodness we don't all think alike or like the same things. :wink:

Congrats on the Olympics!

Don


Thu Jul 07, 2005 12:46 pm
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This sounds like an interesting book, especially since it involves a journey to the Pacific. :) As much as I like the dash of the fighting officers, I find that the explorers appeal to me more. So, I'm not particularly bothered if there are no battles.

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susan


Wed Jul 13, 2005 12:22 am
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p.s.

I have Smalley's next, Port Royal, awaiting me at the library, which can wait a little longer til I finish reading Mildmay.

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Mon May 08, 2006 4:33 pm
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