Dudley Pope,
Ramage's Diamond
(Martin Secker & Warburg, 1976; McBooks, 2001)

Everything hinges on a rock.

Ramage's Diamond, the seventh book in the Dudley Pope series, finds Nicholas Ramage newly made post-captain and assigned to the Juno, a frigate whose previous captain was drummed out of the service in disgrace. Ramage reports to find the first lieutenant drunk, the crew unruly and the ship in disarray, but with a few new officers, his longtime sailing master Southwick and a handful of men from his previous command, he manages to get the ship in good order en route to his new assignment in the West Indies.

There, Ramage is given the unglamorous assignment of blockading a French port in Martinique. Fortunately, Ramage is not one to sit idly by, tacking back and forth and waiting for something to happen. There is, very quickly, a lot of ship-to-ship action, including a dramatic cutting-out action involving an enemy frigate, a bit of cat-and-mouse with a pair of privateer sloops and the interception of a well-defended merchant convoy.

Ramage, as always, relies heavily on good luck to see his way through a series of potential misadventures. But he also knows his way around a plan, too, and this one involves Diamond Rock, an otherwise useless lump in the water that he puts to clever use.

Read the book to learn how. (If you know your naval history, you might have a pretty good idea, as this is based on actual events.)

Luck aside, Ramage's adventures are a pleasure to read because of Pope's enthusiasm for and thorough knowledge of his subject. In fact, perhaps because his protagonist has finally ascended to captain's rank, Pope here takes more time than before to educate readers about the ways and means of preparing and sailing a ship. It's never a dull textbook, though; I, at least, enjoyed the education immensely.

book review by
Tom Knapp

3 May 2014

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