Independent Action by Michael Winston

by Peter on January 15, 2013

Independent Action, Michael WinstonIndependent Action is the first book in a recent series of nautical fiction by American author Michael Winston. The novel, subtitled “Kinkaid in the North Atlantic,” introduces First Lieutenant Jonathan Kinkaid, who is an American and serves on the 32 gun American frigate Randolph during the American Revolution. In this book, we follow Kinkaid and his men during 1776 and 1777.

The author, Michael Winston, has written several historical fiction novels. He was born in Germany to a WWII American soldier. He has spent 18 years on various American Army bases in the U. S. and Europe, and served in US Navy. He has a BA from Ithaca College; and a MSW from Syracuse University.

The year just before the turn of the century were important years in American history, but the American Navy played only a minor role. However, while the literature on the early years of the British Navy is huge, the historical fiction literature on the early years of the American Navy is very limited. So this is a very welcome addition.

The Jonathan Kinkaid Series is a very well researched nautical fiction series. However, even though the book is based on actual events, for literary reasons, the author has slightly reinterpreted history here and there, and assigns the Randolph and her valiant crew a somewhat expanded role in events.

The Randolph manages to break out from the British blockade of Philadelphia and into the Atlantic. Soon, under orders to undertake “independent action”, she goes hunting for enemy ships en route from Europe to reinforce British troops. She is a new ship with a crew severely lacking in nautical skills. But the officers are good, and among them have some solid experience. Now they must quickly train the crew and turn the ship into an effective fighting machine. As it turns out, the ordeal facing them is tougher than they could imagine.

Independent Action is a very good, well written and interesting navy fiction novel. Michael Winston gives what seems to be a very realistic description of the huge variation in skills and leadership abilities among officers in the American Army and Navy at the time: Most were given command on the basis of connections, a few on the basis of merit. He is an author with an interesting story to tell and the ability to tell it. I liked Independent Action a lot. Very entertaining and enlightening. Kinkaid is a smart and resourceful leader and an interesting protagonist. I look forward to reading more about him!

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