by Julian Stockwin (Scribner)


(This column first appeared in the June 12, 2003 issue of ArtVoice of Buffalo.)


With his first novel, Kydd, and now with Artemis, Julian Stockwin introduces us to another Napoleonic War British sailor. His predecessors in this rich field of historical fiction Patrick O'Brian, C. S. Forester, Dudley Pope, C. Northcote Parkinson and still others have focused on the quarterdeck and wardroom and their chosen heroes Aubrey, Hornblower, Ramage and Delancey respectively are commanding officers. But Stockwin's hero, Thomas Kydd, is a below-decks sailor who began his career in the first novel as a hatmaker caught up by the press gang. By the time he joins the crew of the frigate Artemis he is already a topman, one of those sailors who ventures out on spars far above the narrow deck and surrounding ocean below. Stockwin is well qualified to write about the sea having attended a sea-training school and spent much of his life in the Far East, Antarctic and South Seas. Stockwin is already at work on a third adventure, Seaflower, and it will be interesting to follow Kydd's career through this interesting series. There were a few sailors -- Bligh was one, perhaps not a good example -- who became high-ranking officers; perhaps Kydd will join them.-- Gerry Rising