Nautical-themed historical fiction at its best… and swashbuckling good fun too!
William C. Hammond’s “The Power and the Glory” is the third novel in an action-packed series focusing on the nautical adventures of a fictional New England family during the late 1790s and early 1800s. The Cutler family controlled a vast array of commercial enterprises and is closely connected with the fledgling US Navy in the decade following the American Revolution—when the United Kingdom and France swapped roles as enemy/ally of the US. Well-researched and well-written, Hammond’s work combines fast-paced fiction with history—masterfully weaving together real people, places and events with fictional characters to conjure up a totally immersive, detailed and believable yarn. Within the first couple of chapters, Hammond had me completely “reeled in.”
As I eagerly raced through the pages, I found myself comparing Hammond’s work to two other, well-known books: Patrick O’Brian’s “Master and Commander” and Michael Crichton’s “Pirate Latitudes.” I can honestly say that Hammond’s book merits the comparison… and comes out on top in many areas.
Like many others who watched the 2003 movie “Master and Commander” starring Russell Crowe, I picked up a copy of the first in author Patrick O’Brian’s 21-installment Aubrey-Maturin series of books—bearing the same title and upon which the movie was based. I must admit to being consistently challenged by the often impenetrable nautical jargon O’Brian sprinkled throughout the novel. Hammond, on the other hand, has struck the right balance of historical and lexicographical faithfulness while employing a writing style a bit less taxing for today’s reader.
At times “The Power and the Glory” is also evocative of Michael Crichton’s “Pirate Latitudes;” but seemed to hold together better than Crichton’s posthumously published work. Hammond’s narrative was extremely well crafted, much easier to follow, and benefited from a seemingly closer entwinement with historical fact. Noteworthy in this regard was Hammond’s descriptions of the behind-the-scenes political and diplomatic machinations amongst the various nations and their Navies as they struggled to control sea lanes, commerce and territory across the Atlantic and Caribbean. In this regard, the background he provides on the Haitian Independence struggle is particularly fascinating.
“The Power and the Glory” will appeal to a wide audience and is a quick and enjoyable read. My only regret is that I joined Lt. Richard Cutler (the novel’s main character) a bit late—starting off with Mr. Hammond’s third novel instead of his first!
Reviewed by: John Cathcart (December 2011)
This third novel in William C. Hammond's nautical fiction series is set in the late 1790s during the Quasi-War with France and offers readers a thrilling look at the new American Navy during the Age of Fighting Sail. Following in the wake of his previous novels, A Matter of Honor and For Love of Country, it features the adventures of the seafaring Cutler family of Hingham, Massachusetts, and an ever-expanding cast of characters some real, some fictional that includes Lt. Richard Cutler along with Capt. Thomas Truxtun, Capt. Silas Talbot, and other naval heroes personifying the best of American honor and courage as they confront French pirates off the coast of Nantucket and heavily armed French frigates in the Caribbean.
Hammond packs his book with electrifying sea battles and daring challenges to French colonial rule in Haiti and the West Indies. He also offers fascinating glimpses into everyday life of the era, from the bedroom of the Cutler clapboard home in Hingham, to the family's sugar cane plantation in Barbados, to Adm. Sir Hyde Parker's flagship in Jamaica. And at the center of all the excitement, passion and intrigue are two of the finest frigates ever constructed, USS Constellation and her sister ship, USS Constitution. Lauded for his careful research, attention to detail, and thorough knowledge of the ways of the sea, Hammond brings history alive while telling a rollicking good tale.