Monday, September 26, 2011

Run out the guns!

Thorough research mixed with superior writing is the mark of Steve Maffeo. He has followed his non-fiction works, Most Secret and Confidential and Seize, Burn, or Sink with an informative and entertaining age-of-sail novel. The Perfect Wreck is an account of USS Constitution and HMS Java during the War of 1812. Maffeo used a considerable number of historical documents to ensure incredible accuracy, and includes a glossary that will respond to most anticipated queries. Most important is that The Perfect Wreck is a great read.

Maffeo’s style is reminiscent of both C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower series, and Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels. Like Forester, Maffeo’s discussion of the ships’ design, details of their outfitting, dramatization of the daily routine, and descriptions of their sailing techniques is educational, without becoming too dry. In a manner similar to Shaara, he takes the reader from officers and crew on Constitution to Java and back again, humanizing them, solidifying the reader’s understanding of the age, and effectively building tension as the battle approaches. To be sure, the conflict between Java and “Old Ironsides” is not the book’s only engagement: like any good age of sail novel, the guns are run out numerous times. Here Maffeo really excels, providing a taste of battle with a perspective from the topgallants to the surgeon’s cabin.

Any fan of the age of sail or historical fiction should add The Perfect Wreck to their collection. It should be mandatory reading for any bluejacket.

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