Daily Archives: June 7, 2006

Flying Colours

I finish yet another Horatio book. I’m going through them too fast, and soon I’ll be through them all. What will I do then?

I guess I can go back and re-read them. I’ve ended up buying all of them so far, except for the first one, Mr. Midshipman Hornblower. I can probably spring for that one as well. And one of the things I’d like to do is get the Nelson’s Navy: Its Ships, Men, and Organization, 1793-1815 book that I’ve seen at Second Story Books. It’s a beautiful hardcover from the Naval Institute Press, and they describe it thus:

First published in 1990, this encyclopedic yet highly readable work gives an indepth description of the Royal Navy in Lord Nelson’s time. Filled with over four hundred illustrations, the book is divided into fourteen sections that deal with the design and construction of ships, the navy’s administration, and life at sea. Other topics include shiphandling and navigation, gunnery techniques and fighting tactics, and a discussion of foreign navies of the day. Nelson’s Navy is an important source book for the naval historian, a valuable reference for the enthusiast, and a revelation to the general reader.

The hardback is thirty dollars at Second Story Books, but I see a trade paperback available from Amazon for twenty-three and change. Interesting that the average customer review on Amazon is five out of five stars.

Anyway, I just kind of gloss over a lot of stuff in the Horatio books, mizzenmasts & quarterdecks and bomb-vessels & cutters and linstocks & bosun’s mates. I’d probably get a lot more out of it all if I knew more about what they were saying and doing. Although that’s not to say that Forester doesn’t explain so much of it to the modern civilian reader. A real navy hand might find the books ridiculously dumbed down, maybe. I don’t know. But I’m often just taking things in context as I go along.

And I’m going along because these are exciting adventure stories. I feel a little guilty at times, like when I’m sharing Horatio’s excitement as he’s going into battle, not wanting some ship to get away, wanting him to get around again for another broadside, while men are being maimed and killed all around. These are war stories. Awfully gritty stuff. Lots of shit blowing up, as my brother might say. And I’m usually Mr. Pacifist Anti-war Boy, but here I am all caught up in the excitement of these war stories. Oh, who knows why we like the things we do?

So I’m reading these now for the narrative, for the atmosphere, for the adventure. I can go back later and fill in more of the details, appreciate the aracana more then. But for now, it’s fun to live in Horatio’s world and find out what happens.

And in that vein, I finish Flying Colours. I am most definitely not happy about poor Maria. And I’ve been annoyed at Horatio and his pathetic mooning over Lady Barbara and his scandalous behavior with the Vicomtesse de Gra├žay. But I go trucking over to Borders Books on 14th Street to get the next book, Commodore Hornblower, because I’m dying to know what happens next anyway. The Borders website says that the store also has in stock the next book after that, Lord Hornblower, but it’s not on the shelf.