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 British based vs American based AOS Fiction 
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Post British based vs American based AOS Fiction
In thinking about naval fiction in general it has occurred to me that books that are about British characters (Hornblower, Bolitho, Lewrie, Aubrey, etc.) seem to be more successful stories than books that are about American characters (Peabody, Dalton, etc.). There being many well read members here at Sailing Navies I thought this would be a great place to solicit opinions on the subject.

Perhaps this is due to the fact that the Royal Navy was the preeminent navy during the time period the above mentioned characters are placed. I would be grateful for your comments on the topic.


Thu Oct 19, 2006 11:07 pm
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Post Re: British based vs American based AOS Fiction
Camouflage wrote:
... American characters (Peabody, Dalton, etc.).

Interesting question... but before I weigh in with any feeble comment, could you identify the two characters above with some more specific details. I haven't been reading AoS fiction for very long, so these characters are unknown to me.

Don


Thu Oct 19, 2006 11:35 pm
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Peabody is the main character in The Captain from Connecticut by CSF and Patrick Dalton is the character from Dan Parkinson's series. Both are American captains. I believe Matty Graves by Broos Campbell is an American as well. I have read your post concerning that book. I will obtain those Campbell books someday. :)

I might add that I think Captain from Connecticut and the Parkinson books are fine books but it seems to me that British based AOS is just more interesting than American based AOS.

I am exploring this concept as I intend to write some short stories and am debating whether to make the main character British or American.


Fri Oct 20, 2006 12:07 am
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I am mistaken about Patrick Dalton. He is an Irishman in the RN initially, has to flee to the other side because of an accusation of treason, and ends up in an American built ship fighting the British. Gee whiz talk about twists and turns. I have only read the first book of the series but I do have two other ones. My gosh the man might end up fighting for the French before it is all over with. My apologies for the confusion. :)


Fri Oct 20, 2006 12:52 am
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Camouflage wrote:
Peabody is the main character in The Captain from Connecticut by CSF... I believe Matty Graves by Broos Campbell is an American as well...
In addition to "No Quarter" by Broos Campbell, I have read (and posted about) "The Powder Monkey" by George J. Galloway fairly recently. In addition there are the books by William P. Mack (which have some problems). I've never read the book by Forester that you mentioned but I will try to track down a copy.

Camouflage wrote:
...but it seems to me that British based AOS is just more interesting than American based AOS.
I'm an American but I have to agree that British fiction set in the AoS is more interesting, at least to me. Part of that is that many of the British writers are just very talented. Part is the fact that British writers have a long, complex trapestry of naval history to draw upon. Our naval history was just beginning at a time when Nelson defeated the fleets of two powerful nations! The American navy was barely going and then steam showed up!

If an American author wanted to write a 20 book series set in the American AoS, I don't see how it could be done. The author would have to expand his view to include non-naval vessels like clipper ships to the Orient or gold rush trips to California. And if a long series were possible, who would buy it? UK readers may not be very interested and are there even enough American readers to make such fiction successful?

Don


Fri Oct 20, 2006 2:18 am
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timoneer wrote:

If an American author wanted to write a 20 book series set in the American AoS, I don't see how it could be done. The author would have to expand his view to include non-naval vessels like clipper ships to the Orient or gold rush trips to California. And if a long series were possible, who would buy it? UK readers may not be very interested and are there even enough American readers to make such fiction successful?

Don


Yes Sir! Your reply is most appreciated and makes perfect sense. I think you will find The Captain from Connecticut an interesting book. Written just after the beginning of WW2, during the London blitz days I believe, and just after the first Hornblower book or so, Forester's take on the AOS from an American POV, and I am pretty sure he was newly residing in the USA at the time. Maybe he was playing with the same idea I am presently and he concluded exactly what you just posted in reply. I implore you to read that one...it is the 'American Hornblower' if you will IMO and a very good book.

Jeff

PS He is a British author (one of the great AOS authors) who has wrote the story from both views...11 Hornblowers vs. 1 Peabody...I guess CSF felt that British AOS characters were 'better received' (more successful) than American AOS characters. Begs the question are there other British authors who have taken on the American point of view as well?


Fri Oct 20, 2006 3:58 am
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I'm sorry that I didn't catch this thread earlier. My only real interest in the AoS is in the American AoS and I think that it is entirely feasible to write about it. Though born in Great Britain, I've been in America since the age of three and find the history here more fascinating. Certainly, there is enough material available. I tend to read non-fiction a lot and, within my slender means, I've managed to obtain a small library of the American AoS. There is more available online; I just downloaded from Google Books the records of the court-martial of David Porter for his questionable activities in fighting pirates in the Caribbean in the early 1820s.
I don't know if someone could write a 20 volume series about the early American Navy, but I would question the premise. I'd be more interested in quality over quantity. Not every book in every series is of equal quality. Certainly, Marryat, Forester and O'Brian showed the way, but it doesn't preclude an American story. For these authors and others, it has always been a matter of how creative you can be with the material at hand.
PT


Fri Oct 20, 2006 12:38 pm
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As far as American AOS fiction, one cannot forget the Jon Williams "Privateers and Gentlemen" series, nor the two series by James Nelson ("Revolution at Sea" and "Bretheren of the Coast").

The reason for the preponderance of fiction from the British point of view is the broad scope of settings available. Someone setting an AOS story in the Royal Navy can set their stories from Drake to Cochrane, with foes from France, Holland, Spain, China, etc., with ships ranging from gunboats to first rates, with tactical situations ranging from one-on-one ship duels to sieges to complete fleet actions.

In contrast, of course, the American AOS period runs just 50 years or so. Primary foe was the British, with a short quasi-war against France. Other than that, it's primarily anti-pirate actions. Nothing larger than a 44-gun frigate, the only fleet engagements were a frigate or two with a bunch of light stuff in support.

The relative sizes of the navies themselves makes stories in the Royal Navy easier. One can slip a dashing frigate captain and a few competitors/antagonists into the RN with nary a bump, but adding a ship and captain to the American navy of the early 1800s means you have to juggle the impacts on what was truly a very small service. In my second young adult AOS novel ("The Price of Command"), for instance, my addition of a fictional brig at the Battle of Lake Erie meant I had to drop a critical element of the real-world American fleet to ensure the balance of power was about the same.

Finally, from the novelist's point of view, the Royal Navy provides a more fertile field for character drama. When one sets a tale in the RN, you can take a low-born commoner from ordinary seaman to Admiral of the Fleet, fighting his way past officers of naval families and/or and the nobility, desperately trying to arrange sufficient "interest" to help himself along. Certainly barriers existed in the USN, and advancement depended on who you knew, but the bar was certainly not set as high.

Ron Wanttaja


Fri Oct 20, 2006 2:34 pm
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PT wrote:
I'm sorry that I didn't catch this thread earlier. My only real interest in the AoS is in the American AoS and I think that it is entirely feasible to write about it. Though born in Great Britain, I've been in America since the age of three and find the history here more fascinating. Certainly, there is enough material available.
I cetainly think that it is feasible to write about American AoS, but there are not a lot of novels set in that genre to date. Many thanks to Ron in the last post who pointed out we forgot the series by Jon Williams and James L. Nelson (all of which I throughly enjoyed)... but even with those books added, the number is still tiny compared to British AoS. There must be a reason for that.

PT wrote:
I tend to read non-fiction a lot and, within my slender means, I've managed to obtain a small library of the American AoS. There is more available online; I just downloaded from Google Books the records of the court-martial of David Porter for his questionable activities in fighting pirates in the Caribbean in the early 1820s.
Since this thread is in the Fiction forum, I was only addressing novels. There are certainly interesting American historical events to explore as source material for a novelist just not as many as an author of British AoS has to work with.

PT wrote:
I don't know if someone could write a 20 volume series about the early American Navy, but I would question the premise. I'd be more interested in quality over quantity. Not every book in every series is of equal quality. Certainly, Marryat, Forester and O'Brian showed the way, but it doesn't preclude an American story. For these authors and others, it has always been a matter of how creative you can be with the material at hand.
I was not trying to say that the only way to write fiction set in American AoS was to construct a 20 book series... only, in my inept way, to suggest that the source material was limited. I think Ron expressed it much better in his last posting than I did.

Certainly I would welcome quality American AoS fiction in any format... single books, short series, or even a long series if some author could figure out the way to do that.

Don


Fri Oct 20, 2006 3:46 pm
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I don't wish to quibble so I'll just agree to disagree. I think there is enough material to spend many years investigating. I think some enterprising author ought to take a further look at it. Why hasn't it been done? That's a multi-faceted topic and probably would take a whole other thread to examine. To some extent, it has to deal with the mythology of America and Great Britain. England, being an island, had to look to its greatness and empire overseas whereas in the States we had a whole western continent to stake a claim on. My two cents.
PT


Fri Oct 20, 2006 4:56 pm
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Ron summarized things very well in his post.

As PT pointed out, there is quite a bit of information out there. There are definitely stories to be told.

To add to the American AoS fiction list, there are the books by Kenneth Roberts (Captain Caution and The Lively Lady) and John Jennings (The Salem Frigate and The Sea Eagles). I have these in my collection, but I haven't gotten around to reading them yet.

There is also Herman Melville's White Jacket (based on his own experiences), which I have read and enjoyed.

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Sat Oct 21, 2006 1:15 am
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PT wrote:
I don't wish to quibble so I'll just agree to disagree. I think there is enough material to spend many years investigating.


Certainly; it really depends on what kind of stories an author wants to write. There's plenty of drama associated with the US Navy during the age of sail period. The trouble is, if the writer wants to write thrilling battle sequences between two frigates, the time periods during which this can be realistically set are pretty slim.

Tales of whalers in the south seas, stories of traders fighting pirates off Chile would certainly be doable. But if you want your "Good Guy" to face off in his 44-gun frigate against a "Bad Guy" who has a ship at least as powerful, you're really limited in historical circumstances.

Sure, you could write a *single* book of a non-historical confrontation, such diplomatic incident turning into a brief shooting war ("The Bedford Incident," for example). But they're tough to turn into a series.

Ron Wanttaja


Sat Oct 21, 2006 3:08 am
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