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3.8 8
by Bernard Cornwell

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“A gifted storyteller and orchestrator of suspense.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

“Bernard Cornwell is to the yachting adventure novel what ex-jockey Dick Francis is to the racetrack thriller.”
Orlando Sentinel

The New York Times bestselling author of The Fort, the Saxon Tales, and the immensely


“A gifted storyteller and orchestrator of suspense.”
Philadelphia Inquirer

“Bernard Cornwell is to the yachting adventure novel what ex-jockey Dick Francis is to the racetrack thriller.”
Orlando Sentinel

The New York Times bestselling author of The Fort, the Saxon Tales, and the immensely popular Richard Sharpe novels, Bernard Cornwell has been called, “perhaps the greatest writer of historical adventure novels today” (Washington Post). He demonstrates another side of his extraordinary storytelling talents with Scoundrel, a contemporary tale of excitement and danger on high and treacherous seas. A gripping tale of an outlaw yacht captain who decides to cross the Irish Republican Army for a $5 million payday only to find himself pursued by intelligence agents, terrorists, and killers across perilous open waters, Scoundrel is a masterful thriller in the Tom Clancy vein—a masterwork of suspense from one of today’s most versatile and accomplished popular novelists.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.84(d)

Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

August 1, 1990 was my fortieth birthday. Sophie, my lover for the past three years, left me for a younger man, the cat fell sick, and the next morning Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

Welcome to the best years of my life.

Three weeks later Shafiq asked if I could deliver a boat from the Mediterranean to America. Hannah, my part-time secretary, had taken Shafiq's telephone call and late that afternoon she came to the fishing harbor to give me the day's news.

"Who called?" At first I thought I must have misheard her. I was working in a trawler's engine room with the motor going. "Who called?" I shouted up through the open hatch again.

"Shafiq." Hannah shrugged. "No other name, just Shafiq. He said you know him."

I knew him all right, knew him well enough to wonder just what the hell was coming next. Shafiq! For God's sake! "He wanted what?"

"He wants a boat delivered."


"He doesn't know."

"From where in the Mediterranean? France? Spain? Italy? Cyprus? Greece?"

"Just the Mediterranean. He said he couldn't be more specific."

"And I'm to deliver it where?"

Hannah smiled. "Just America."

I shut off the engine. I had been testing the trawler's hydraulic pumps, making sure that some scumbag hadn't lowered the pressure by half a ton to disguise a bad valve or a weak hose. I waited for the noise to die away, then looked up at Hannah. "What kind of boat?"

"He doesn't know." She laughed. Hannah had a nice laugh, but since Sophie had taken off every woman seemed to have a nice laugh. "I shall tell him no," she said, "yes?"

"Tell him yes, yes."


"Tell him yes."

Hannah adopted the patient look she used when she was trying to save me from myself. "Yes?"

"Yes, oui, ja, sí. That's what we're in business for." Or at least that was what my letterhead said: Nordsee Yacht Delivery, Services and Surveying, Sole Proprietor, Paul Shanahan, Nieuwpoort, Belgium; though in the last few years the servicing and surveying had taken over from the delivery.

"But, Paul! You don't know when or how or what or where! How can I commit you to something so stupid!"

"When he phones back, tell him the answer is yes."

Hannah uttered a very Flemish noise, a kind of glottal grunt which I had learned denoted a practical person's scorn for an impractical fool. She turned a page in her notebook. "And a woman called Kathleen Donovan called. An American. She wants to see you. She sounds nice."

Oh, Christ, I thought, but what is this? A man turns forty and suddenly his past comes back to haunt him, and I had a swift filthy image of Roisin's blood on the yellow stone, and I thought of betrayal and of unhappiness and of love, and I hoped to God that if Roisin's sister was looking for me that she never, ever found me. "Tell her no," I said.

"But she says -- "

"I don't care what she says. I've never heard of her and I don't want to see her." I could not explain any of it to Hannah who was so very practical and so very married to her plump policeman. "And tell Shafiq I want to know why."

"You want to know why?" Hannah frowned at me. "Why what?"

"Ask him why."

"But ... "

"Just why!"

"OK! I'll ask!" She threw up her hands, turned, and walked along the quay. "I think the cat has worms!" she called back.

"Give it a pill!"

"It's your cat!"

"Please give it a pill."

"OK!" She gave the finger, not to me, but to one of the fishermen who had whistled at her. Then she waved to me and walked out of sight.

I went back to work, surveying a trawler that was being sold across the North Sea to Scotland, but my mind was hardly on the boat's hull or its engine or its hydraulics, instead I was wondering why, out of nowhere and on the very same day, the ghosts of danger past and love betrayed had come back to haunt me. And, if I was honest, to excite me too. Life had become dull, predictable, placid, but now the ghosts had stirred.

I had waited four years for Shafiq to remember me, to summon me back to the darker paths. Four years. And I was ready.

"It has been four years, Paul! Four years!" Shafiq, indolent, thin, kind, sly and middle-aged, sat on a deep, cushion-rich sofa. He had taken a suite in the Georges V in Paris and wanted me to admire his opulence. He was also in an ebullient mood, and no wonder, for Shafiq loved Paris, loved France, and the more the French hated the Arabs, the more Shafiq approved of Gallic good taste. Shafiq was a Palestinian who lived in Libya where he worked for Colonel Qaddafi's Centre to Resist Imperialism, Racism, Backwardness and Fascism. At first I had refused to believe any such organization existed, but it did, and Shafiq was on its staff, which was doubtless why he had such a taste for European decadence.

"So what do you want?" I asked him sourly.

"I have never known Paris so hot! Thank God for the invention of air-conditioning." As usual we spoke in French. "Have a cake, please. The mille-feuille is exquisite."

"What do you want?"

Shafiq ignored the question, instead opening a small, brightly enamelled tin of cachous and slipping one under his tongue. "I am pretending to be a Greek. I have a diplomatic passport even, look!"

I ignored both the fake passport and Shafiq's delight in possessing it. Shafiq's contribution to resisting imperialism, racism, backwardness and fascism was to act as a messenger between Libya and whatever terrorist groups were the flavor of Colonel Qaddafi's month. At first sight he seemed an unlikely secret agent for he was too childlike, too flamboyant and too likeable ...

Scoundrel. Copyright © by Bernard Cornwell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

BERNARD CORNWELL is the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestselling Saxon Tales series, which includes The Last Kingdom, The Pale Horseman, Lords of the North, Sword Song, The Burning Land, Death of Kings, The Pagan Lord, and, most recently, The Empty Throne, and which serves as the basis for the hit television series The Last Kingdom. He lives with his wife on Cape Cod and in Charleston, South Carolina.

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Scoundrel 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having been a longtime fan of Bernard Cornwell's, I have always read his historical novels. But his nautical novels are also very entertaining. Even though it is 16 years old, it's very prescient with the ongoing war in iraq and war on terror.
mn22 More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed a lot of B. Cornwell's books, this one is right up there. Hard to imagine that this is nearly 20 yrs old, the plot plays like it is a current story, nice quick read.
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