Dewey Lambdin's lovable but incorrigible rogue, Captain Alan Lewrie, Royal Navy, is back to cut a wide and wicked swatch through the war-torn Caribbean in Havoc's Sword, an entirely new high seas adventure.
It's 1798, and Lewrie and his crew of the Proteus frigate have their work cut out for them. First, he has rashly vowed to uphold a friend's honor in a duel to the death. Second, he faces the horridly unwelcome arrival of HM Government's Foreign Office agents (out to use him as their cat's-paw in impossibly vaunting schemes against the French). And last, he must engineer the showdown with his arch foe and nemesis, the hideous ogre of the French Revolution's Terror, that clever fiend Guillaume Choundas!
We know Lewrie can fight, but can he be a diplomat, too? He must deal with the newly reborn United States Navy, that uneasy, unofficial "ally," and the stunning, life-altering surprise they bring. For good or ill, Lewrie's in the "quag" up to his neck this time. Can sword, pistol, and broadsides avail, or will words, low cunning, and Lewrie's irrepressible wit be the key to his victory and survival, as even the seas cry "Havoc"?
About the Author
Dewey Lambdin is the author of ten previous Alan Lewrie novels and an omnibus volume, For King and Country. A member of the U.S. Naval Institute and a Friend of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, he spends his free time working and sailing on a rather tatty old sloop, Wind Dancer. He makes his home in Nashville, Tennessee, but would much prefer Margaritaville or Murrell's Inlet.
Read an Excerpt
By Dewey Lambdin
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2003 Dewey Lambdin
All rights reserved.
"Sah?" a voice intruded on his dreams, interrupting a matter of great import, the fate of the ship, of England ... something that, at that instant, was but seconds from its penultimate deciding, for good or ill. "Sah, time t'wake, sah."
"Grr ... ack!" the dreamer exclaimed, which could have stood for "Ease your helm" or "All Hands to the braces" — to him, anyway, as the "deck" rocked and shuddered alarmingly. "Whazzuh?" he queried.
"Be almos' four o' de mornin', sah," Coxswain Andrews insisted, using his weight upon a knee to jounce the soft, civilian mattress. A hand was pent in indecision above the hero, as he pondered laying hands on a gentleman ... or dashing a ladle of cool water from the laving bowl on his head, then run and blame it on a house-servant!
"But ...!" Captain Alan Lewrie, RN, commanding officer of HMS Proteus, Fifth Rate frigate, managed in reply, heavily smacking his lips and creaking one eye open to peruse the ceiling, one which he did not in any wise recognise. Too many damn' cherubs, and such!
"G'mornin', sah," Andrews said.
"Aarrr ..." Lewrie commented. It had been such a vivid dream, one which might have been mere seconds from revealing or concluding or fulfilling ... something. Whatever it had been, it had left him with a cock-stand worthy of a marlingspike. "Time, is it?"
"Aye, sah," Andrews replied, stepping away from the bed. "Dey be coffee belowstairs, black an' hot, Cap'm. Mistah Cashman, he's up already, an' 'is coachman's gettin' de 'quipage hitched."
"Right, then," Lewrie said with a sigh and a yawn, chiding himself for sharing that third bottle of wine with his host, "Kit," after supper. He should have known better, should have kept a soberer head, and ...
Damn that ceiling! Lewrie thought, scowling as he sat up in bed: Eros and arrows, bare-titted shepherd girls, and clouds ... thought I was gone over to Heaven for a second or two!
He flung back the single sheet that covered him, swung his legs out to plant his bare feet on the naked wood floor ... swayed a bit as the last of the wine fumes rose with him, and belched.
"Bloody hell," he gravelled, massaging his eyes with the heels of his palms. "Why can't people shoot each other at reasonable hours? Is it light yet, Andrews?"
"Just a tad o' false dawn, sah," Andrews said from the bureau, where he was brushing Lewrie's dress coat. Sure enough, the scene in the tall French doors leading to the upper balcony was night-dark with only a hint of darker trees swaying against skies just barely brushed with grey. "Touch o' fog'r mist, too, sah," Andrews said, frowning.
"Ummph," Lewrie commented, bracing his hands on the bed to get himself upright. With one eye still shut and the other squinted, he shambled to the wash-hand stand and laving bowl, to the ewer full of cool well-water, 'coz God, was he thirsty!
"Mind d'ose ..." Andrews cautioned, too late.
"Oww! Shit-fire! Mmmm! Dammit t' hell!"
He'd stubbed his toes on a dark leather chest, just one of many in the room, as Kit Cashman packed up his household for his removal from Jamaica in the next few weeks.
Two tumblers of water, a quick slosh and scrub on his face and neck, a cursory sponge-down against the humid cool of a tropic morning, and he was primed to part the flaps of his thin cotton underdrawers for a long "tinkle" into the night-jar. Feeling some more human, at last, he sat on a spindly side-chair to don his white silk hose and bind them behind his knees, pull on a fresh pair of light sailcloth breeches, and slip into his new-blacked Hessian boots. Andrews stood by patiently, offering him a clean silk shirt with a moderately ruffled breast inset and cuffs, helped him bind on his neck-stock, then held out a cotton waist-coat so he could slip into it. His slim sword baldric looped atop that, from right shoulder to left hip, with a gleaming oval brass breastplate at the centre of his chest. Then came the kerseymere wool coat, the full-dress version with the gilt-lace buttonholes, buttons and pocket detailings, and the single fringed gold epaulet of a captain of less than three years' seniority that rode on his right shoulder.
Lewrie turned to the mirror above the wash-hand stand, to drag both hands through his hair to "Welsh" comb it with his fingers; back above his ears on the sides, where thick and slightly wiry hair of mid-brown, almost light-brown, and further gilt by harsh sunlight off seas innumerable by then, curled over ears and temples almost like the bust of a long-gone Roman, gathered in a fashionable swirl low on his forehead. Andrew plucked at his collar to tug his short, spriggish queue of hair to lie outside the tall-collared coat and fiddled with the narrow band and bow of black silk which bound it.
Lewrie had shaved the morning before, so that wouldn't delay him. He rubbed his stubble, adjudging his "phyz." Firm skin, a lean face, a long-passage sailor's permanent tan ... the upright puckered line of a sword-cut on his left cheek, from a foolish duel of his own long ago. Permanent squint-lines round his eyes, now, though merry-lookin' ...? Frown lines, or grin lines at the corners of his mouth ... and eyes of startling colour, light grey or blue, by temper. They looked a trifle grey, this bloody pre-morning ... and a touch of "bleary" and red-shot, too, he speculated. But, altogether, not a bad phyz.
"Yah hat, sah," Andrews said, handing him the best one from a thin wooden box, Gilt cords and tassels just so, cockade and the dog-vane, loop, and button gleaming, the gold lacing round the edges bright and buttery-yellow, instead of verdigrised by sea-air like his oldest one.
"Well, then ... coffee, didje say?"
Blam! From the lower porch, the front veranda, a pistol firing as loud and terrier-bark-sharp as a four-pounder, making them both jump!
"Bloody man!" Lewrie snapped, reclaiming his calm. "What need of more practice? Went through a pound o' powder, yesterday and last night! Tell cook I'll want some toast and jam with my coffee, too."
"Aye, sah," Andrews replied as Lewrie strode to the door, with at least the outward appearance of firm-minded purpose, and sober control of himself. At least he avoided the various boxes and chests.
Blam! "That'd be de lef' hand, I reckon," Andrews muttered.
"Morning, Nimrod," Lewrie bade his host, standing bare-headed by a whitewashed column on the veranda, balancing cup and saucer, and savouring his second refill of coffee, heavily laced with local-made brown sugar, and thick cream fresh-stripped from the teat. The smell of burned gunpowder lay heavy on the air, and a small cumulus cloud of nitres and exploded sulfurs mingled with the predawn fog.
"Ah, good morning, Alan me old," Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Cashman answered right gaily for such an ungodly hour, turning to face him as his man-servant quickly reloaded the pair of duelling pistols. A scarecrow figure of straw stuffed into white nankeen slop-trousers and loose shirt, already holed with long practice, stood beyond the shell-and-sand drive, the requisite fifteen paces from Cashman's line in the sand, and the rickety folding field-table that bore his arsenal.
"Sleep well?" Lewrie enquired as he lifted a thick slice of hot, toasted bread, slathered with fresh butter and mango jam, to his lips.
"As peaceful, and as undisturbed, as a babe," Cashman boasted, with a chuckle and a wide grin, and Lewrie had to admit that he seemed in fine fettle, clear-eyed and "tail's-up" with gleeful anticipation, not dread, of facing another man's levelled pistol not an hour hence. "Not Nimrod, though ... that's huntin'. Nay, rather I fancy meself an Achilles this mornin'. Ready to slay my Hector and be done."
He was dressed for it, of a certainty, with the care and forethought required of a man who'd shortly "blaze." Silk shirts were de rigueur, more easily drawn, in whole patches, from bullet wounds. Kit wore white cotton breeches, freshly boiled in lye soap, thoroughly rinsed in clean well-water and air-dried on a line strung on the upper balcony, above the miasmas and smuts of the daily traffic to the house, and the risk of tropical "infusions" that came from damp soils. Tall black-and-brown-topped riding boots completed his ensemble; thick'uns, almost proof against a stray ball, or a snakebite, too.
"And I'm ...?" Lewrie asked with a small, approving laugh, never the greatest of Greek scholars.
"My Ulysses, Alan ... ever the crafty bastard, haha!"
"Didn't he make off with most of the loot in the end?" Lewrie wondered aloud.
"Lost it all by shipwreck, then went home to his wife, at the last," Cashman said, picking up a newly loaded pistol and taking his stance, side-on to the target, to present the slimmest right profile to a return ball, pistol cocked and his forearm vertical, the long barrel in perfect alignment with his forearm, mortally intent ...
Bloody bastard! Lewrie cringed; just had t'remind me o' bein' on the outs with the wife back home! He rather doubted that Caroline was pining away and spinning wool as faithfully as ... Penelope, was it? Not that Caroline, a paragon of virtue to his "crow-cock" Corinthian nature, would ever cuckold him ... would she?
Down went the right arm, hinging like a heavy gate beam, and the pistol and forearm were as straight and steady as a sword blade, and, Bang! Another .63 calibre lead ball plumbed the red wool Valentine's heart pinned to the straw man, now almost punched or clipped into the form of a many-layered cockade, or a rose blossom.
"Steady, is it? There's a wonder ... after last night," Alan said, thinking that even one as cocksure as Cashman could use a little encouraging toadying, that hour of the morning.
"Three shared bottles, and a brandy night-cap? Mere piffle," Cashman scoffed. "Nought t'fuddle a soldier's constitution. Though you look a tad 'foxed,' still. Thought sailors could hold their wine, b'God! Game enough for't, I trust?"
"Oh, I'll toe up proper, Kit, no worries," Lewrie answered, an angry second from a harsher retort. Cashman was not the same man he'd been over supper. Today, he had his "battle-face" on, and friendship, or another's feelings, could be go-to-hell. He had a foe to kill, and consideration had little to do with it. Now, did he survive, and succeed, he'd be puffed full of relief and joy, and breakfast would be a nigh-hysterically blissful explosion of high-cockalorum. But that was for later.
Lewrie polished off his toast and took a sip of his coffee, as Cashman snatched up the second pistol of a sudden, back to the target, pistol and forearm vertical again but close to his chest, to quickly spin on the balls of his feet, take stance, and fire. Another cloud of gun-smoke wreathed him, but he was smiling. His snap-shot had hit.
"Awake enough now, are ye?" Cashman snapped. "Let's be about it, then. Here comes the coach. And God help Ledyard Beauman!"CHAPTER 2
Cashman's feud, his almost Corsican vendetta versus ex-Colonel Ledyard Beauman had been going on for months, Lewrie sourly thought as the coach-and-four jounced and rumbled over the irregularities in the sand-and-shell road, with both pairs of pistols in boxes in his lap. He sat facing aft, while Cashman took the rear seat facing forward, arms folded across his chest, chin down, and his face made of ruddy granite, centred on the rear bench with no need of support from the coach's padded sides or window sills. Lewrie was crammed into the fore-left corner, more than willing to wilt against leather and an open window sill. Not a word had passed between them in the quarter-hour since they'd entered the coach.
End o' my relations with the Beaumans, root an' branch, Lewrie told himself in the uncomfortable silence; and by God but they're rich and influential! Should've begged off, but. ... a friend's a friend, a promise is a promise.
Odds were, Kit would blast Ledyard Beauman's heart clean out of his chest, drop him like a pole-axed heifer for veal, and the Beaumans would blame him, damn' em! for agreeing to be Cashman's second, whichever way it went. The father was retired back in England, the sort of huntin', shootin', tenantwhippin', crop-tramplin' fool of the squirearchy ... but with so much money to sling around, he appeared so much more civilised when he sat on his coin-purse, and surely was more than welcome round Whitehall, the Admiralty, Board of Trade, the Court, and Parliament, with half a dozen "bought" Members from his own Rotten Boroughs to do his bidding in Commons, mayhap even a "skint" peer dependent upon his largesse to look out for his interests in Lords, too!
One letter from his son Hugh, now in charge of their plantings and enterprises here in Jamaica, and they could ruin him! Not that he stood in particularly "good odour," already, for all his successes at sea. The longer the war against Revolutionary France and her unlikely ally Spain continued, the more "priggish" people were getting, he had noticed. Smallish peccadilloes and indiscretions so easily dismissed back in the '70s and '80s were now nearly the stuff of scandal.
Lewrie blamed the Wesley brothers, the Hannah Moores, and the William Wilberforces, and all their goose-eyed, slack-jawed tribe, for meddling, sermonising ... Reformers ... for mucking things up with all their "shalt-nots" and "viewing with alarm," their evangelising, their ... revival-ising! Why, did they keep their mass-crowd preaching up, not only would fox-hunting and steeple-chasing go by the board, there'd be an end to bear-baiting, dog or cock-fighting, boys beating the bounds every spring, morris dancing, and cricket, too!
And fucking and adultery would be right-out, of course.
It was a mortal pity. Here he was, a True Blue Heart of Oak, a bold Sea Officer of the Crown, and just because he'd kept a courtesan for a year or so, had an affair with a young widow who'd produced him a child on the wrong side of the blanket ... Even the two medals tinkling together on his chest for Saint Vincent and Camperdown meant nothing.
Without a career, without a commission or ship, he'd be back in England, permanently on half-pay, and facing a hostile wife, a clutch of estranged children, a too-fond amour with a bastard, so blissful she'd cry their "love" from the rooftops ... and another Beauman, his old love Lucy, more than ready to spite him and spread every sort of malicious rumour in the better reaches of English Society, from Land's End to John O' Groats!
If only Ledyard'd had a bit o' brains in his head! Lewrie sadly contemplated.
But, no, he hadn't. His older brother, Hugh, had funded a local regiment of volunteers, had urged their swaggerin'-handsome and capable neighbour, Christopher Cashman, the distinguished ex-soldier, to take charge and mould it into a creditable unit, with that jingle-brained, ne'er-do-well, indolent fop Ledyard taking the honourific office, with no real responsibility, as Colonel of the Regiment. All he had to do was show up once a month on Mess Night, be fawned over by the locally raised officers much like him — idle second or third planters' sons. And what harm could've come from that? So utterly useless, surely he could soldier for a spell ... or, pretend to!
But Ledyard had gotten it in his head that any damn fool with book-learnin' could be a military genius. Washington, Gage, and Green for examples in the recent past inspired him, accounts of Caesar's Gallic Wars, of Hannibal and Lake Trasimeno, Scipio Africanus who'd crushed Hannibal and Carthage; Marlborough, even that Puritan bastard Cromwell had quite turned his noggin. So, when the regiment had sailed to Saint Domingue to fight those ex-slave armies of Toussaint L'Ouverture (another self-educated general) Ledyard had taken command. In the smoke and confusion of their first battle near Port-au-Prince, he'd gotten a third of his men murdered or wounded or captured by those blood-thirsty rebel slaves, whose battle song was "Kill All the Whites" or something near-like it, had caused a general panic and rout of half the army, then had dashed off atop his blooded stallion with his cronies and toadies croaking in his wake, and had left poor Cashman to clean up the mess, and naturally it was not a bit of his fault, but Cashman's panic, or misunderstanding of orders!
Excerpted from Havoc's Sword by Dewey Lambdin. Copyright © 2003 Dewey Lambdin. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Not that it's not an enjoyable read, but in the end it's the least satisfying of the series, and perhaps the only novel of the series (thus far) that could not stand on its own as an independent work. Especially ironic as it's also one of the longest novels of the series. The last 50 pages simply rush to conclude.
In Havoc's Sword, Lambdin adds further depth to Captain Lewrie. Lewrie shows his compassionate side for his lost 'kin', while he ruthlessly hunts down the French.The story flows very well and keeps us up to date on his problems at home. The only draw back is that we are still left to wonder who it is who is writing the letters to his wife.