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 Jon Williams -- "The Privateer" possible Spoilers 
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Post Jon Williams -- "The Privateer" possible Spoilers
Possible Spoilers below!

I just finished a novel by Jon Williams titled "The Privateer" aka "To Glory Arise."

Williams is an experienced author in a number of different genres and his writing talent shines though in this book. He created a complex story about three brothers who are American privateers during the 1776-1778 period of the Revolutionary War against the British Navy.

The primary character is Malachi Markham, the youngest brother, but Josiah & Jehu play important roles too (note the period names). I was very impressed with Williams sail and ship handling descriptions and the story had enough twists and turns to completely hold my attention. There are plenty of sea battles.

Lady Georgina, a decidedly gothic romance type figure, plays Malachi’s love interest. I liked the fact that some characters, like Ruitenbeek, Trowbridge, and father and son Crichton appear and re-appear creating a symmetry in the story lines. I always like that technique.

There were a few anachronisms like battleship and sky pilot (minister) but overall the references were period specific. For example, the use of the name Beau Didapper as a description was a reference to a character in Henry Fielding’s novel "Joseph Andrews" which was published in 1742.

The song "Yankee Doodle" (see its own thread) appears in a number of scenes. In fact, period music plays a nice role in the story.

This is the first book in his Privateers & Gentlemen series that follows the fortunes of the Markham family over several generations. The remainder of the series are:

"The Yankee" aka "The Tern Schooner"
"The Raider" aka "Brig of War"
"The Macedonian"
"Cat Island"

I could not find out much information about the last four books but I noticed that Ron Wanttaja commented on this series in another thread. Ron, could you comment further? Has anyone else read the series?

Don


Sat Nov 05, 2005 3:12 am
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Post Re: Jon Williams -- "The Privateer" possible Spoil
timoneer wrote:

"The Yankee" aka "The Tern Schooner"
"The Raider" aka "Brig of War"
"The Macedonian"
"Cat Island"

I could not find out much information about the last four books but I noticed that Ron Wanttaja commented on this series in another thread. Ron, could you comment further? Has anyone else read the series?

Don


The other four books involve the War of 1812 (vs. the Revolutionary period of "The Privateer," and center around activities of two sons of two of the men featured in "The Privateer." One is a US Navy officer, Favian Markham, who starts out in "The Raider" as Stephen Decatur's first lieutenant during the battle with Macedonian. He is promoted into the brig Experiment for his own cruise. The book is basically a depiction of the last cruise of the USS Argus, except Markham makes the *right* decisions.

The second main character is his cousin, Gideon Markham, who is the main character of "The Yankee" and continues the family privateering tradition. The two cousins basically join forces at New Orleans in the final book, "Cat Island."

The sea action and the battles are well-presented and the plots are inventive (but realistic), but I think Williams truly excells in characterization. The strengths and failings of the two men are well-presented, and the plotlines naturally put them in situations that provide them the most conflict.

For instance, Gideon, the privateer, is a classic fundamentalist Christian. It is not a characterization that I would normally be sympathetic with, but Williams shows well how his beliefs make him a better sea officer (e.g, it strengthens his sense of duty, and while he bans alcohol aboard his ships he ensures the men have cocoa and other alternatives). But when Gideon falls in love with a woman with a checkered past, you see his beliefs hindering him (and her) from happiness.

Favian is another example. From the outside, he looks like a typical Naval officer. But inside, he believes joining the Navy had been a mistake. He does his duty, and tries to drive away his depression with visits to a higher class of "sporting houses"....which are not depicted voyeuristically, but are both brittle and melancholic. Favian is somewhat Hornblowerian, except his self-doubts center on his life choices, not his abilities.

The secondary characters are great, and aren't just stick figures. For example, fundamentalist Gideon is stuck with Finch Martin for a first officer. Martin, one of the few carryovers from "The Privateer," has the foulest, most blasphemous mouth on Earth.

A lesser author would have these two in continuous conflict, but not Williams. A deep well of mutual respect allows these two to work together effectively.

Finally, the books show nice touches of humor.

I rate Williams' books very high in the Age of Sail pantheon. Fully equal to the earliest Bolitho books, though not as melodramatic. Not as detailed and lush as Aubrey/Maturin, they mix the insights of the Hornblower series with the fun of the Lewrie books.

The only drawback is that there are only five books....

Ron Wanttaja


Sat Nov 05, 2005 6:08 pm
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Post Re: Jon Williams -- "The Privateer" possible Spoil
Ron Wanttaja wrote:
The sea action and the battles are well-presented and the plots are inventive (but realistic), but I think Williams truly excells in characterization.


Ron, many thanks. I think I will try to track down the remaining books since they sound as good as the first one.

I concur with your comment about characterization. A good example for me was your mention of sailing master Finch Martin. When I was reading his obscenities, I was reminded of a line in the very funny movie "A Christmas Story" staring Darren McGavin and Peter Billingsley. Ralphie, speaking of his father’s frequent use of obscenities, said that his dad worked with obscenities like Rembrandt worked in paint. :D Martin certainly has the foulest mouth I have ever read in an Age of Sail novel.... so bad that it was comic.

Don


Sat Nov 05, 2005 8:21 pm
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Please note...I moved the posts about The Yankee into a new thread.

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