The very first Alan Lewrie naval adventure in this classic series is now back in print!
1780: Seventeen-year-old Alan Lewrie is a brash, rebellious young libertine. So much so that his callous father believes a bit of navy discipline will turn the boy around. Fresh aboard the tall-masted Ariadne, Midshipman Lewrie heads for the war-torn Americas, findingrather unexpectedlythat he is a born sailor, equally at home with the randy pleasures of the port and the raging battles on the high seas. But in a hail of cannonballs comes a bawdy surprise. . . .
About the Author
Dewey Lambdin, a self-described navy brat, has been a sailor since 1976, with a special taste for cruising the Gulf of Mexico in his sloop. He is the author of seven Alan Lewrie novels: The King's Coat, The French Admiral, The King's Commission, The King's Privateer, The Gun Ketch, H.M.S. Cockerel, and A King's Commander. A member of the Naval Institute, Dewey Lambdin makes his home in Nashville, Tennessee.
Read an Excerpt
The King's Coat
The Naval Adventures of Alan Lewrie
By Dewey Lambdin
Fawcett BookCopyright © 2014 Dewey Lambdin
All rights reserved.
A sullen, icy wind blew across the King's Stairs in the city of Portsmouth as Midshipman Alan Lewrie waited for the boat to fetch him out to his ship, the sixty-four-gun 3rd Rate Ariadne. Many naval vessels tossed and gyrated on the heaving grey green harbor waters, and Alan swallowed hard, and became a touch ill just watching them. He was also still in a mild form of shock over his fall from grace, and his sudden banishment. From one moment of being a buck of the first head and caterwauling with his friends all over London, chasing women, eating and drinking his fill, gambling and playing, and with little thought for the morrow, to this seaborne exile was just too hellish a wrench.
The trip down had been rough; bad roads and bad company, with both Bell and Bevan eyeing him like hawks. Even a bath and a shave at the inn had not revived his spirits. There had been no chance to escape. To listen to Bevan, it wasn't that bad a fate to go to sea, and over the past few days, the terror of it had slipped away. He would be a midshipman, not a common sailor, a junior petty officer with authority, carried on the ship's books as a gentleman, berthed with others of his kind, with servants and stewards to care for his clothing and his table.
Bevan had told him about prize money, and how some ships' crews had become rich beyond measure, and how midshipmen took a larger share; of how fellows much like himself had gone on to fame and fortune and had set themselves up as great men once they came home.
And during the process of buying his kit, Alan had reveled in a form of revenge on Sir Hugo. Bevan had a letter of credit from his father — he did not strike Alan as the sort one would trust with a full purse — and since it wasn't Bevan's money, they ended as confederates in spending it properly. Six full uniforms, three of them the best the town could boast, more silk and linen shirts than anyone could need, silk and cotton stockings, breeches and working rig slop trousers, personal stores of extra fine biscuit, jam, tea, paper, and the proper set of books, such as the latest edition of Falconer's Marine Dictionary.
Alan was sure that even a royal bastard could not make a finer showing, and secretly, he thought he looked especially handsome in the uniform, even if it was on the plain side. There had been a saucy dark-haired chambermaid at the inn that had thought so, too, his last evening ashore. After a dinner that had filled him to bursting, two bottles of claret and several brandies, he had gone to his room to discover her ready to turn his bed down for the evening and fetch a warming pan. When he suggested she warm it instead, she was out of her sack and stays in a heartbeat. Thankfully, Bell relented and stood guard on the door, and not in the room with him, showing some mercy to him on his last free night. He had no civilian clothing anymore, so he could not have run away. Like a condemned man, he had eaten a hearty meal, and had bulled her all over the room until the sky was grey.
Both Bell and Bevan had been tactfully silent after he had washed up and joined them for breakfast, much like executioners who had the good grace not to crack jokes at the wrong time. The girl's send-off, all the drink, and little sleep had damned near killed him, and a cold breakfast had almost finished the job ... and still gave notice of trying.
"I am in no shape to do this," he said to Bell, who took no notice. And there was the boat from his ship, approaching fast.
"Here, you," Bell said behind him to a waiting bargee. "Help the gemmun with his chest."
The sense of shock was gone, also the hope of escape, and Alan's passing interest in prize money and uniforms and little revenge faded as reality approached. Here was the end of one life and the beginning of another that felt much like penal servitude. Had he not heard or read somewhere that the Navy was like a prison, in which one had the chance to drown?
"Bell, I have money," he said, turning to the coxswain.
"Tuppence'll do for the bargee, sir."
"No, I mean ..." Lewrie hinted, tipping a wink.
"Best do it like a man." Bell scowled. "Sir."
Alan shrugged and tramped down to the boat at the foot of the stairs. One man held it to shore with a boat hook while eight more sat with their oars held aloft like lances. There was a boy by the tiller, a midshipman of perhaps fifteen.
"Hurry it up, will you?" he called. "Our first lieutenant's watching. Well, get in the goddamned boat. We won't bite you ... yet."
Alan stumbled across the gunwale and sat in the boat at the stern by the boy who had addressed him, while two of the oarsmen took hold of his chest and placed it in the bottom of the boat with a loud thump. Alan flipped a coin to the waiting bargee.
"Shove off, bowman," the boy at the tiller said. "Out oars. Backwater, larboard ... give us some way, starboard."
Alan looked up at Bell, who spat in the water as he waved him a sardonic farewell. Alan sighed and turned to look at the men in the boat with him. The nearest oarsmen were both tanned a dark brown, with skin as wrinkled as a discarded pair of gloves. They also sported impressive scars which stood out like chalk marks on their arms and faces.
"Give way all," the boy called. "Stroke, damn yer eyes, or I'll see someone's back laid open for shirking."
That could cheer me up, Alan told himself; not like a hanging but possibly entertaining.
He turned to look at the tillerman of his version of Charon's Ferry and marked him down for a brutal little git of a type he was familiar with from Harrow (and sundry other schools from which he had been expelled), a right bastard made even worse with power over fags and new boys. At least once he was aboard ship, he would have the same power, as if he had been made prefect over a whole shipload of fags. But the men in the boat didn't look like the pink-cheeked little victims he had bullied in the past. Neither did they look like the popular illustrations of Jolly Jacks and True Blue Hearts of Oak. In fact, they resembled more last session's dock at the Assizes, surly, uncouth and dangerous brutes, the gutter sweepings from the worst parts of the city, cutthroats and cutpurses he normally wouldn't give way for, unless they were the pimps he knew. These men looked like the sort who would do him in for a little light entertainment. And that brought him full-circle to the dicey situation in his belly.
"God, it can't be sick already," the tiller boy crowed.
"Oh, hold your tongue," Alan snapped, making sure to keep his own mouth as tightly sealed as possible.
"So that's the way you'll be, milord," the boy said with a cruel laugh. "Well, you'll sing a different tune when we're at sea, that I promise you. I said row, you damned sluggards."
Within minutes, they were close to Ariadne and steering for its starboard side. It seemed immense to Alan's eyes, much like a country house on a large estate. Unfortunately, a country house that seemed to bob and roll with a life of its own. The bowman grappled them to the side with his boat hook by the mainmast chains.
"Up you go, my booby," the boy said.
"Up there? How?" Lewrie gawped.
"Jump onto the battens, grab hold of the man-ropes, and climb to the entry port."
Alan perceived a ladder of sorts, made of wooden strips set into the hull much like a set of shelves, with red baize-covered rope strung through the outer ends to make a most shallow sort of banister rail. This led upwards from the waterline, following the broad curve of the hull along the tumble-home to an ornate open gate cut into the ship's side, very far overhead.
"Can't they drop a chair or something?" Alan asked. God, I'll be killed if I try to climb that. I'll bet this is some kind of nautical humbug they pull on the newlies.
"You in the boat. Get a move on," a voice shouted down through a brass speaking trumpet which appeared over the rail, then withdrew.
Alan realized there was nothing for it but to go. He got to his feet shakily as the boat rocked and rolled and bumped against the heaving ship hellish-lively, which made him swoon. He was also not a swimmer and feared the grey water. A seaman offered a hand and shoulder to steady him as he put a foot on the gunwale of the boat. He waited for the two craft to get in harmony, then leaped for the ladder. But his foot pushed the gunwale down and the ship rolled to starboard as he fought madly for a grip on the sodden man-ropes and slick battens. Clinging in terror, he was dunked chest-deep in the freezing water and screeched an obscenity, also catching a solid whack in his back from the side of the rowing boat. As the ship rolled back upright, Alan scrambled for his very life, and arrived through the entry port with his teeth chattering. There was a hearty general round of laughter at his arrival which didn't do his composure much good, either.
"Well?" a person who appeared to be some sort of officer demanded, hands on his hips and his chin out almost in Alan's face.
"Sorry about that. Must have misjudged my timing," Alan said. "Is there a place I could change? It's devilish cold."
"You'll doff your hat to me." The officer was within an inch of his nose, "you'll say sir to me, and report yourself aboard this ship properly, or I'll shove your ignorant arse back for the fish to gawk at, you simple fucking farmer!"
Alan stared at him for a second, shocked to his core that anyone could yell at him in such a manner, and with such filthy language! Not that he was above using it himself, and prided himself on being a true Englishman when occasion demanded harsh words. But to be the recipient was much like his recent cold bath. His lips trembled as he desperately tried to remember what Captain Bevan had instructed him to say.
"M ... mid ... midshipman Alan Lewrie," he finally said. "Come aboard to join, sir." He raised and doffed the cocked hat he wore.
"You are a young one, ain't you, now," the officer said. "What a cod's-head. You'll never shit a seaman's turd."
"Is that required?" Alan stammered, instantly regretting it.
The officer stared at him with eyes as blared as a first-saddled colt, unable to believe what he had heard. "Bosun. A round dozen of yer best for this idiot."
"I believe, Mister Harm, that if the midshipman has just come aboard to join, then he is not on ship's books, and is not yet subject to punishment," another officer said after stifling his laughter.
Thank bloody Christ, Alan thought wildly; that dozen of the best didn't sound like a round of drinks!
"Goddamn you, you'll get your ass flayed raw before the day's out, if I've any say in it," the officer so appropriately named Harm said. "I've my eye on you from here on out, little man."
"Yes, sir," Alan replied, galled to give this screeching parrot any sort of courtesy, but thinking it might mollify him.
"That's aye aye, sir," Harm said, but sauntered off.
"Sufferin' Jesus," Alan whispered sadly, still standing at a loose sort of attention and doffing his hat.
"You are a bit old to be joining, aren't you?" the second officer asked. "Why, you must be all of eighteen."
"S ... seventeen, sir," Alan said between chattering teeth.
"What were your parents thinking of, to wait so late?"
"My father ... he did not agree with my choice, sir," Alan said, thinking his reception could get worse if they knew his real reason for being there; or the fact that if he could get a good knockdown price, he would sell the ship for his freedom, and care less if the crew was carried off in a Turk's galley.
"Newlies usually go to the gun room, but you're too old for that. Might be the orlop for you, with the older midshipmen."
"The ... orlop," Alan replied, trying the new word on for size. He peeked about the deck to see if he could spot one.
"God's teeth, what a prize booby you are. I cannot wait until Captain Bales sees his latest acquisition. You'll need dry clothing. Mister Rolston?"
"Aye aye, sir," said the grinning imp who had ferried him out to the ship.
"Show Mister Lewrie below to the gun room and see he gets into dry things. And the proper hat. Soon as you're presentable, Lewrie, get back up to the quarterdeck and we'll take you to the first lieutenant, Mister Swift, so you can be properly entered in ship's books. By the way, I am Lieutenant Kenyon, the second officer."
"How do you do, sir," Lewrie asked, offering a civilian hand.
"Oh, God," Kenyon said as Alan dropped his hand and doffed his hat once more. "Yes, I expect you shall be most entertaining for us. Now get below."
He allowed himself to be led below from the gangway to the waist of the ship while a pigtailed seaman named Fowles staggered along behind with his chest, suffering in silence. He staggered down a steep double set of stairs to the lower gun deck, a dank and dimly lit and groaning place full of guns, mess tables, stools, thick supporting beams and the columnlike masts. Glims in paper holders shed light on hundreds of men and doxies and quite a few children scampering about. It was more like a debtor's prison than a ship. Rolston led him aft to an area which was screened off from the rest of the gun deck by half-partitions, and filled with chests and tables.
"This is the gun room," Rolston told him. "The master gunner Mister Tencher and his mates berth here, along with the junior midshipmen. You can stow your chest along one of the screens and it'll be your seat. And you'll sleep in a hammock, instead of your soft little feather bed. I trust it will be up to milord's usual standards."
The smell of cooking grease, some foul egestion wafting aloft from the bilges, the fug of damp wool and unwashed bodies was fit to make him gag, but he forbore manfully. "It is not St. James's," Alan drawled acidly, turning to look Rolston up and down, "but good enough for some, I shouldn't wonder."
"You'll not last long in this ship with your snotty damned City ways, Lewrie. Just you wait 'til —"
His tirade was interrupted by the arrival of Fowles with the heavy sea chest. But as the ship groaned and creaked into another roll, Fowles staggered and performed a shaky dance to waddle past them, bump Rolston and crash to the deck atop the chest, almost on Rolston's shoes.
"You clumsy fool!" Rolston slapped the man on the arms and chest in anger. "You did that on purpose. I'll see you on charge for it. Laying hands on an officer, for starters."
"Beg pardon, sir," Fowles yelped. "Sorry, sir."
Alan saw real fear in the man, and was amazed that a grown man of nearly fourteen stone could be so bullied by a mere boy in a blue coat.
"It wasn't his fault," Lewrie said, wishing they would all go away and let him be as ill as he wished. "The ship rolled heavily."
"Thankee, sir," Fowles said, knuckling his forehead gratefully, "I were clumsy, sir, but meant no harm, sir."
"That's all, fellow. You may go," Alan told him.
Fowles ducked out like a shot, leaving Rolston blazing. "Goddamn you, Lewrie. Don't interfere like that again, or I'll make it hard on you."
"You," Alan said. "Buss my blind cheeks, turkey cock. Pigeons could sit on your shoulder and eat seeds out of your arse, hop-o'-my-thumb. Now go push on a rope, or whatever, before I decide to hurt you."
They faced each other for a moment, one frailer boy whose voice had not broken completely, arms akimbo and chin out like Lieutenant Harm; the other broader shouldered and man-sized, coolly amused, yet at the same time threatening.
Rolston was the one to finally give way. With a petulant noise he whirled about and fled the compartment, utterly frustrated. Once he was gone, Lewrie sank down onto the nearest sea chest and began to strip off his wet clothing. He unlocked his own and dug down for dry breeches and stockings, not forgetting to pack away his cocked hat in its japanned box and fetch out the boyish round hat he had hoped not to wear. Once dry and in fresh togs, he succumbed to misery, letting go a moan of despair and sickness. He clapped a hand to his mouth.
"What the hell are you, then?" a drink-graveled voice asked. "A new midshipman? Should have known ... look at yer chest, all on top an' nothin' handy. What's yer name, boy?"
"Lewrie," Alan said, ready to spew. "What are you?"
"Mister Tencher, Master Gunner. You'll say sir to me, or I'll have you kissin' the gunner's daughter before you're a day older."
Excerpted from The King's Coat by Dewey Lambdin. Copyright © 2014 Dewey Lambdin. Excerpted by permission of Fawcett Book.
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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have read Forrester and Patrick O'Bryan. Alan Lewrie is much more real and multidemensional. The fear of climbing to the masthead for the first time before safety lines, crash helmets and safety inspectors really effected me. Taking in a reef in a Gale will henceforward have more meaning. Alan's duel with cutlasses was very real. I am sure walking away would have been a better option today but not in 1781.
I'm about halfway through Lambdin's entire series, so I'm either enjoying it or I'm a glutton for punishment. Sometimes I'm not sure which... First of all, the sexual content is a bit too graphic for a series in this genre, enough so that the sex scenes are a little disconnected at times from the rest of the narrative. I'm not a prude, but if I want pizza I'll go to a pizza joint, if I want steak I'll go to a steakhouse. This is kind of like picking up a Hornblower novel and finding pages from "Penthouse forum" randomly inserted throughout the text. I don't think it works as literature as well as the author seems to think it does. Lambdin's other problem is that he tries to write regional dialects phonetically, with the result being that some of his characters are nearly incomprehensible in print form. Large portions of his dialogue are really difficult to decode, not so much in this first book but as the series progresses. Also, in trying to prove how "salty" he is, Lambdin uses so much sailor jargon in his descriptive passages that it's sometimes difficult to understand what exactly is going on. The above having been said, he tells a pretty good story and if you're looking for something in the fighting sail genre and have already finished Forester, Pope, Kent, and O'Brien, he may be worth a try. I would definitely not get this book for my middle-schooler, though.
Alan Lewrie is a bit of a rascal, but is a breath of fresh air is this genre. Anyone who likes Forster. O'brian or Kent should enjoy these.
I found that I had missed reading this the first book in the series. Shame on me. It is every bit as good as the others. If you like C.F.Foster and find O'Brian as boring as watching paint dry than Lambdon is the author you have been waiting for. If you have ever asked yourself WWLD (What Would Lewrie Do) and you are not in jail, then you did not follow his advise. Well worth your time and money to pick this one up.
An utterly loathsome protagonist, nonsensical plot, and juvenile writing skills. I'll keep looking for an author to supplement O'Brien in my library- this one certainly won't be in it.
Think of Hornblower, or Aubrey, with more sea battles, more historical involvement, and lots of womanizing. Very enjoyable!
Oh well, wussup?