Age of Sail / Book Review / Book Series / Dudley Pope / Lord Ramage / Royal Navy

Drumbeat, by Dudley Pope

Lord Ramage is an interesting and likable character. Unlike most of the heroes of the naval fiction about the age of sail, as for example Richard Bolitho, Alan Lewrie, and Jack Aubrey, the fictional character Ramage has an upper-class background and is a lord. He is Lord Nicholas Ramage, eldest son of the Tenth Earl of Blazey, Admiral of the White, and was born in 1775 at Blazey Hall, St. Kew, Cornwall. He entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman in 1788, at the age of thirteen.

Drumbeat is the second book in the series about Lord Ramage, and it is perhaps even better than the first. It is a very entertaining book. There are many good things to be said about it. Probably what impressed me the most was how innovative Pope is in his writing!

The action in Drumbeat is often far from the usual action in books about naval warfare in the Age of Sails. Rather than letting Ramage simply engage in the “usual” artillery slug-fests, where ships line up against one another and shoot till one of them has had it, Ramage uses both unusual and very creative tactics during the battles. In this sense, the Ramage books – both this book an several of the others – are very “innovative” and intelligent books.

In this book, Ramage falls in with frigates, both Spanish and British, has an onshore diversion spying on the enemy, has a run-in with a Levanter, and returns to save the day for the fleet and his beloved Commodore Nelson. The final battle in this book, essentially the Battle of St. Vincent, is magnificently described in this book.

The book is also fairly well-written, even though the Pope may not be a Patrick O’Brian or Alexander Kent in terms of quality prose. As well, Pope is extremely knowledgeable about sailing and the Age of Sail and it shows! A great read!