Dewey Lambdin - Sea of Grey

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Sea of Grey
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Dewey Lambdin - Sea of Grey

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Captain Alan Lewrie returns for his tenth roaring adventure on the high seas. This time, it's off to a failing British intervention on the ultra-rich French colony of Saint Domingue, wracked by an utterly cruel and bloodthirsty slave rebellion led by Toussaint L'Ouverture, the future father of Haitian independence. Beset and distracted though he might be, it will take all of Lewrie's pluck, daring, skill, and his usual tongue-in-cheek deviousness, to navigate all the perils in a sea of grey.

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Thanks also go to "Bosun" Bob Scappini and his rowdy crew up in Rhode Island, who wore themselves out re-enacting a Revolutionary War artillery unit 'til, after shifting battery eleven times one day under a broiling sun, they found one of my books and decided that becoming the "Landing Party" off the American Sloop of War Providence might just be a lot cooler, and not involve so much heavy lifting!

They also sent me a tape and lyric book they'd made of sailing chanteys and pulley-hauleys, from which the words to "Nottingham Ale" came. May the Ship's Company Landing Party "splice the mainbrace"! And beat the Middies from Annapolis, next long-boat race.

Thanks also, again, to Bob Endone for the year-long loan of a set of books about the Royal Navy and the era from his vast collection, and for attempts to dig up some information about Haiti and the slave revolt.

Haiti, or Saint Domingue… well. Ask three Haitians about it and you'll get five differing opinions, and a lot of shifty-eyed looks. Even now, it's an uneasy subject, how their ancestors founded the first independent Black nation anywhere in the world, and a poorly represented topic, too. I had to order research material, mostly reprinted in generic-bland trade paperback form, done by order from digitized storage, one of which was one of the worst "historical novels" I had ever read, and which shall remain nameless and authorless. A Brief History of The Caribbean by Jan Rogozinksi (Meridian Books) was very helpful, and explains the background, from Columbus 's arrival, the massacre of the Arawak and Carib Indians, the introduction of sugar cane and necessity of slavery, along with the resultant uprisings and revolts.

The Black Jacobins by C.L.R. James is one of the few informative texts I found about Haiti 's history, and the amazing Toussaint L'Ouverture, who would eventually be called the Black Napoleon for his military skill. It was written in 1938, and revised in 1963, and good luck finding one in a bookstore. (James was an admitted Communist who wished all Africa to emulate Haiti!) For those interested, it is from Vintage Books, a division of Random House.

The mutiny aboard HMS Hermione, wherein her captain Hugh Pigot (one of Admiral Sir Hyde Parker's favourites, which tells you a thing or two about Parker!) and all his officers, senior mates and most of his midshipmen were murdered, the deed done in part by his own "pets" he'd brought from a previous command, outraged the Royal Navy and all of British society, coming as it did so soon after the Spithead and Nore Mutinies. Pigot was a vengeful, petty, inconsistent, pain-loving beast who turned an adequate crew into maddened desperadoes. It took over twenty years, but about a third of the true culprits and leaders were hunted down with implacable, untiring zeal by the Royal Navy. I found The Black Ship by Dudley Pope most informative on this mattere.

Let's belabour the obvious-slavery sucks. As Christopher Cashman tells us, it brutalises both the victims, and the victimizer, in the end. Why it is still tolerated in Sudan and other African countries today is beyond me. Just 'cause it's Blacks enslaving Blacks, does that make it too Politically Correct to deal with? Would we be "dissing" some group, whom we must not only tolerate but embrace according to the rules of Diversity and Multiculturalism, if we spoke out against it? Heaven forfend!

Brutality down sooner or later engenders brutality up, as in a "comeuppance," and the record of horrors and atrocities commited during Haiti 's War of The Skin are a sickening litany of evil, no matter how

"modernists" wish to justify it by claiming that "extremism in the pursuit of (fill in the blank) is no vice," or that the White masters got what they deserved. Thinking like that merits only scorn and derision from rational and realistic people.

Let's also remember that L'Ouverture and Henri Christophe, his follower, reinstituted slavery to prop up a shattered economy and get the unskilled "Field Blacks" back on the land where they would not be a perpetually rebellious, unemployed and illiterate under-class, too "dark" to rub shoulders with the lighter-skinned upper-class leaders. Plantations in a broken economy were the only rewards they could give out… and what good's a plantation if you don't have people to work it and reap you a profit, hmmm?

Though L'Ouverture has kicked the British out after years of occupation, we're not done with Saint Domingue, yet, not by a long chalk. There's still General Rigaud and other dissidents vying for power, so the arms smuggling and piracy will continue. There's still the Frogs, who wish to conquer the place themselves and restore the old order of things. Once Napoleon Bonaparte became First Consul, then Emperor of The French, he sent one army after another to Haiti/Saint Domingue to subjugate the place, and L'Ouverture ended up betrayed and imprisoned in the icy Maritime Alps in Europe, there to perish from hunger and cold.

That, though, lies in the future, and for now, Saint Domingue is still a bug-a-bear for British interests in the Caribbean, a place to be blockaded before their revolution spreads, and that will keep our boy Alan Lewrie busy.

And dame, but don't he just have enough on his plate!

His happy marriage (relatively speaking', o' course!) has gone as tits-up as a dynamited bass, his sweet wife is out for blood and/or money- whichever comes first-and he still doesn't know whom to shoot who's sending all those "dear friend" letters! His "volunteer" crew is still a problem should anyone ever recognise them as runaway (stolen!) slaves. He did need 'em perishing'-bad, though!

And forgery, as any careful reader of the earlier books knows, does run in the family!

There's Cashman's duel to arrange, Ledyard Beauman's deserved bloody end to manage, if for no other reason than to remove him from the British gene pool so the Ministry of Silly Walks won't get funded 'til the 19у0s, and what'll be the up-shot o' that anent Lewrie and his relationships with the other Beaumans?

And, God above, there's Guillaume Choundas to face once more, a "right shower o' bastards" all by himself! Does he discover that he and Lewrie are in the same ocean (trust me, he will) then all sorts of mayhem could break loose. And trust me, such will!

Hey, I didn't nickname the series "Sex, Swords, and Sailing Ships" for nothing, don't ye know! Why, there's even Toulon 's love life that hasn't been touched upon, yet, and…

Oops. That'd be telling.

For now, in good ol' down-home Southern parlance, "We'll leave the latch-string out for ya", and, as Granny Clamped always said… "Ya'll come back now, ya hear?"

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