Book Review / Book Series / Dudley Pope / Privateer

Corsair, by Dudley Pope

Dudley Pope’s Yorke-series consists of four books: Buccaneer (1981), Admiral (1982), Galleon (1986), and Corsair (1987). While I much prefer the Lord Ramage series by Pope, I enjoy the York series as well. It is an interesting naval fiction series in that it deals with privateers – those “barely legal” ships outfitted by private owners to benefit from the war by hunting down and seizing enemy ships (mostly civilian). It’s a part of history about which relatively little is written.

This fourth and final volume of the Yorke series is set at the time of the Restoration of King Charles II and takes place in Jamaica in the 1660s. The island was originally occupied by Spain but settled by the English and French. When Admiral of the Brethren, Ned Yorke, a brave, loyal Buccaneer (another term for “privateer”), learns that Spain is mounting a Caribbean fleet perhaps to protect the treasures of Spanish ships, or carry an army to Jamaica, he vows to find out the truth. To achieve this, Yorke launches audacious attacks.

Dudley B. E. Pope was born in 1925 into an ancient Cornish seafaring family. He joined the Merchant Navy at the age of sixteen and spent much of his early life at sea. He was torpedoed during the Second World War and his resulting spinal injuries plagued him for the rest of his life. Towards the end of the war, he turned to journalism, becoming the Naval and Defense Correspondent for the London Evening News. Encouraged by Hornblower creator CS Forester, he began writing fiction using his own experiences in the Navy and extensive historical research as a basis.

In 1965 Pope wrote Ramage, the first of his highly successful series of novels following the exploits of the heroic Lord Nicholas Ramage during the Napoleonic Wars. He continued to live aboard boats whenever possible and this was where he wrote the majority of his novels. Dudley Pope died in 1997, at the age of seventy-one. He’s writing style was bold and distinctive, and he still has lots of fans.

The fourth novel about the Admiral of the Brethren, Ned Yorke, and his deputy, Sir Thomas Whetstone, is every bit as interesting and entertaining as the previous volumes in the series. We follow them as they smartly move against the Spanish, gather information, and utilize it to strike where it hurts the most. A great ending to this wonderful series!

‘The first and still favourite rival to Hornblower’ – Daily Mirror