Sharpe Companion: A Historical and Military Guide to Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe Novels 1777-1808: The Early Years (Richard Sharpe Series)


Named "the direct heir to Patrick O'Brian" by The Economist, Bernard Cornwell is the undisputed master of historical battle fi ction, and for more than twenty years, his Richard Sharpe series has thrilled millions of readers worldwide on both the page and on television.

Now author Mark Adkin, a major in the British army, has created this indispensable guide covering Sharpe's early career, from his beginnings as an illiterate private fighting on...

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Named "the direct heir to Patrick O'Brian" by The Economist, Bernard Cornwell is the undisputed master of historical battle fi ction, and for more than twenty years, his Richard Sharpe series has thrilled millions of readers worldwide on both the page and on television.

Now author Mark Adkin, a major in the British army, has created this indispensable guide covering Sharpe's early career, from his beginnings as an illiterate private fighting on the battlefields of India to his legendary command of the Light Company.

A treasure not only for fans of the series but also for anyone interested innineteenth-century warfare, The Sharpe Companion includes:

  • A chapter devoted to each Sharpe book
  • Glossary of characters, both real and fictional
  • Illustrations and photographs
  • Maps of every battle and skirmish

Full of fascinating historical details, thrilling contemporary accounts of actual battles, and impeccable research, The Sharpe Companion is a must for every student of military history and an essential addition to every Sharpe fan's library.

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Editorial Reviews

Wall Street Journal
“Richard Sharpe has the most astounding knack for finding himself where the action is…and adding considerably to it.”
Wall Street Journal
“Richard Sharpe has the most astounding knack for finding himself where the action is…and adding considerably to it.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060738143
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/10/2005
  • Series: Richard Sharpe Series
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 595,206
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Major Mark Adkin served in the British Army and is the author of several books on military history, including the first volume of The Sharpe Companion and The Waterloo Companion. He lives in Bedford, England.

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Read an Excerpt

The Sharpe Companion

The Early Years
By Mark Adkin

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Mark Adkin
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060738146

Chapter One



By the time he was thirty in 1807 Richard Sharpe had, seemingly, done exceptionally well in the army. He had been brought up, literally, in the London gutters. When he enlisted he was a filthy, thin, half-starved, illiterate youth -- still under sixteen. He was also a liar, a thief and on the run from the law for two murders; there would be no escaping the gibbet and the hangman's noose if caught. Fourteen years later, he was unrecognisable as the same person. Not only was he physically large -- 6 feet 1 inch tall, lean, muscular and weighing twelve stone -- but, most unbelievable of all, he was a commissioned army officer.

As a second lieutenant in the 95th Rifles, an elite fighting force, Sharpe wore their distinctive, stylish and much admired dark green uniform; he had a crimson sash around his waist and a sword hung at his belt. But on that sunny morning in late July 1807 Sharpe was a very, very unhappy man. He was back in London intent on selling his commission, quitting the army -- in fact, as his regiment knew nothing of his doings, he was intent on deserting. For an officer to desert was unthinkable, virtually unique. But Sharpe hated the army. Still deeply depressed by the loss of his mistress, Lady Grace, and their baby son a year earlier, he hated his job as quartermaster and he faced being left behind as his battalion embarked for Denmark. He had no friends, his fellow officers despised him and he was disastrously in debt. The combination of circumstances had mentally crushed him.

Nevertheless, fourteen years in the army had made Sharpe into a professional killer of considerable experience and ruthlessness. As he walked down Eastcheap towards the Army Agent's office, he had already killed thirty-one men. Unable to sell his commission, he was fortuitously given another special operations mission in Denmark and, within the space of five weeks, was to put another nine men in their graves prematurely, including one civilian.

Forty was an impressive score even for a soldier who had participated in six battles (including one at sea -- Trafalgar), four sieges, and been involved in four special operations. These were the known kills, the ones where it is certain his victim died at the time. There is no way of counting those he wounded who later died from their injuries. For example, at Trafalgar he had blasted the French crew of the Revenant with a seven-barrelled Nock gun as he led a boarding party of marines -- how many died then is impossible to know. Sharpe had used the musket, the pistol, the knife, the bayonet, the spear and the sword to despatch his opponents. He had also bludgeoned men to death; he had drowned one, forced one into a raging fire and broken a man's neck with his bare hands. Of the forty, he had killed two as a youth of fifteen, seven while a private soldier, six on virtually his last day as a sergeant and twenty-five as an officer. In every case except one, they had met their death in hand-to-hand combat or at so close a range as to be almost in touching distance of their killer.

This brutal life had left its mark on the man. Mentally, it had given him a thick outer shell of callousness, immunity from conscience in killing. He had all the outward attributes and skills of a professional hit man. The only people who could seemingly penetrate the hard, unyielding exterior were beautiful women or small children. We will never know how many casual encounters Sharpe had, but we can be certain that by thirty he had been emotionally involved with seven women. When in love or infatuated, Sharpe became a much softer, caring, more human individual. Physically, he was scarred for life, having received seven wounds. He had been stabbed in the side, ribs, and hip, slashed on the left shoulder, while his left cheek had been sliced open, leaving a long dark scar. Twice he had escaped death by an inch when his head had been hit glancing blows. But it was his back that was the real mess. Two hundred and two lashes had flayed the flesh beyond recovery. The skin had grown again but it was twisted, taut, mangled, a livid mixture of raised mauve and dark brown weals that contrasted starkly with the white of his sides and buttocks. It was not an attractive sight.

Sharpe had been pulled back from the brink of certain personal disaster by his inability to sell his commission and General Baird giving him a mission that excused his unauthorised absence from his duties at Brabourne Lees. Nevertheless, he was still seriously disgruntled when he stepped ashore at Yarmouth a few weeks later at the end of October 1807. As we now know, he still had at least another nine years of fighting ahead of him. They would take him to most battlefields in the Iberian Peninsula, and to history's famous fight at Waterloo, where the two military giants of the age, Napoleon and Wellington, met for the first and last time. As a middle-aged man he would take his sword as far afield as South America. But early 1808 is a suitable time to review this extraordinary soldier's career, to compare his experiences with others of his generation and to try to discover just how different -- if indeed it was that different -- his life had been from his contemporaries. His early life up to the age of thirty can be conveniently divided into four phases -- as a boy, as a private, as a sergeant and as an officer.


Excerpted from The Sharpe Companion by Mark Adkin Copyright © 2005 by Mark Adkin. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 22, 2008

    Extremely Interesting and Informative

    If you are a fan of the Richard Sharpe novels, this truly is an indispensible guide to have alongside while reading the books. The author has done his research and knows what he's talking about. It helps the reader to put the novels into their historical context and makes them come alive to an even greater extent. It is especially useful in terms of demystifying some of the very British terminology used by Cornwell. I only wish there were even more and larger diagrams and color pictures of some of the actual locations, weaponry, etc. Hopefully Mr. Adkin will write a follow up covering some of the later novels as well.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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