Pope, Dudley. Ramage and the Rebels.

NY: Simon & Schuster, 1978.

Like many of the yarns in this first-rate series of sea stories set in the Napoleonic wars, the plot this time is based on a real incident: The surrender of the Dutch colony of Curaçao in 1800 to a Royal Navy frigate — which puts it slightly out of historical sequence with the rest of the series, but most readers probably won’t notice or care. The Netherlands had been invaded and occupied by revolutionary France, which renamed it the Batavian Republic, and the island’s reluctant governor had managed to avoid the guillotine and keep his job — though he was continually in danger from the young Jacobins among his own people.

More than that, Curaçao had become the favored harbor and marketplace for French privateers in the Caribbean, which put even more pressure on the local Dutch. Ramage, meanwhile, has a new admiral, a thoroughly venal character who doesn’t care how many officers and men he loses, as long as they bring in the prize money (of which the commander in chief gets one-eighth) so he can bribe his way into the peerage. Ramage has orders to capture those privateers; not to sink them, but to bring them back for sale. And he and his ship’s company are strongly motivated by their discovery of a bloody atrocity perpetrated by a privateering schooner. Ramage is startled to be asked to negotiate the island’s surrender — which he can’t do, legally, but he can “capture” the island — and then discovers that if he wants to keep Britain’s new prize he’s going to have to deal with the privateers and local revolutionaries, who are on the point of destroying the island. Ramage is a sailor, not a soldier, but with a little help from his Marine lieutenant, he manages, though the action bogs down a bit and one is apt to impatiently skip over some bits. And while there’s a lot of good stuff here, as always, I think Pope misses a couple of good bets in the way of plot twists. For instance, I would have had the captured brother of the main villain turn out to be the Bad Guy himself, who is lying his head off.

Published in: on 16 November 2010 at 11:57 am  Leave a Comment  
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