Pope, Dudley. Ramage’s Mutiny.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 1977.

Throughout this excellent series of Napoleonic naval adventures, the author never makes the tactical mistake of trying to cram too many plot lines between the covers of each volume. He generally sticks to two or perhaps three main narrative threads, and that’s the case here. Having essentially captured a French merchant fleet with only his own frigate and a couple of smaller French vessels which he had captured earlier, Capt. Lord Nicholas Ramage, the youngest post captain in the Royal Navy, has developed quite a reputation and has been gazetted several times in rapid succession — all of which isn’t making him many friends among his superior officers, actually.

But he has a way of interpreting his orders to do what he wants (or thinks he needs) to do anyway. This one starts with the court martial (described in great detail) of a handful of recaptured mutineers who had taken over the frigate Jocasta two years before and turned her over to the Spanish. They were morally justified, probably, because of the psychopathic cruelty of their captain — though mutiny is never justified in the navy’s eyes, for very good reasons, even though the members of the court are appalled at the testimony of the accused. (All this is based on the true tragedy of the Hermione, whose company mutinied for much the same reasons.) But then Ramage receives orders to cut out and recover the Jocasta from one of the most secure ports on the Spanish Main, following a recent failed attempt by the commanding admiral’s favorite, and whom he intends to protect by sacrificing Ramage. Ramage, of course, has every intention of carrying out his hopeless task successfully, relying on surprise and originality of tactics and taking full advantage of whatever tools unexpectedly come his way. He’ll worry about the details when he gets there. (On the voyage, he even gets to show off his uncanny meteorological sixth sense.) Frankly, though, Pope is going to have to arrange for his hero to fail at something, else he’ll be on a logical course to replace Nelson before the series even reaches Trafalgar.

Published in: on 11 November 2010 at 11:03 am  Leave a Comment  
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