The Napolianic wars between England and France at the end of the eighteenth century form the backdrop of one of my favorite genres of fiction.
These novels portray life aboard sailing ships of the British Navy during these dangerous times. The authors describe the hardships that sailors endured aboard these ships: cruel captains, poor rations, terrible storms, and raging gun battles.
Of course, the heroes of these tales are the intrepid captains. They are brave in the face of danger and are masters of sea battle strategy. They are fair and humane leaders of their crews, yet are often unlucky in love.
While there are many authors of nautical fiction, I have four favorite authors. Each author has written a series that follows their main character through their career from midshipman to captain.
Captain Horatio Hornblower
Hornblower is the classic original, against which all other captains are compared. He is a complex character who is plagued by self doubt, yet is admired by his fellow seamen.
Captain Richard Bolitho
Bolitho is tactically brilliant and is able to achieve victory in the face of impossible odds.
Captain Lord Nicholas Ramage
The son of an Earl, Ramage's career is tarnished by his father's court marshal. Yet he rises through the ranks due to his naval successes.
Captain Nathanial Drinkwater
Drinkwater is described as the most real of the fictional captains. He has courage and intelligence, but sometimes handles situations badly.