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Age of Sail / Book Series / C Northcote Parkinson / Main Character / Nautical Fiction / Richard Delancey / Royal Navy

The Fireship, by C. Northcote Parkinson

This is a book in a nautical fiction series by Cyril Northcote Parkinson, who pursued a distinguished academic career. He first became famous for “Parkinson’s Law” – that work expands to fill the time allotted to it. He also wrote a number of books on British politics and economics. And on “the side” he wrote an interesting series of historical navy fiction as well! The main character is Richard Delancey.

Richard Delancey becomes the second lieutenant aboard the Glatton, a 50 gunship fitted with an experimental armament of all large-caliber carronades when she is taken over by mutineers in the mutiny at the Nore. Towards the end of the mutiny, he is witness to a fellow officer shooting one of the ring leaders. In the subsequent court-martial, Acting First Lieutenant Richard Delancey acts as a defense council for his fellow officer and very smartly devises an original legal defense to help free him.

A little later he misses the general promotion of all in his rank after the victory at Camperdown when his captain bypasses him for the man he replaced. Delancey is very bitter but receives command of a fireship. Even in this state of mind, he recognizes that he must make the most of this opportunity, and goes on to research the history of fireships and their uses in naval warfare.

During an attempted French invasion of Ireland, and French ship of the line runs aground, and Delancey finds himself with a unique opportunity to use his fireship the way she was intended to be used.

The story in The Fireship is very well researched and provides a detailed and very interesting look at the British navy and the life of a lieutenant. It is told in a quiet, factual form, and contains lots of action. I liked it very much. The series about Richard Delancey is more or less a “must-read” for fans of historical fiction!