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Patrick O’Brian November 20, 2006

Posted by gregquill in Uncategorized.


Patrick O’Brian, Author

The playwright David Mamet wrote an appreciation of Patrick O’Brian in 2000 in the NY Times:


The Humble Genre Novel, Sometimes Full of Genius

For the past 30 years the greatest novelists writing in English have been genre writers: John le Carré, George Higgins and Patrick O’Brian….

Recently I put down O’Brian’s sea novel “The Ionian Mission” and said to my wife, “This fellow has created characters and stories that are part of my life.”

She said: “Write him a letter. He’s in his 80’s. Write him and thank him. And when you go to England, look him up, go tell him.

“How wonderful,” she said, “to be alive, when he is still alive. Imagine living in the 1890’s and being able to converse with Conan Doyle.”…

Well, I saw myself talking with Patrick O’Brian. “Sir,” I would have said, “what a blow, the death of Barret Bonden.” (Bonden, the coxswain, half-carries the wounded Captain Aubrey from the deck of a sinking privateer: “We’d best get back to the barky, sir, as this ship’s going to Kingdom Come,” the closing sentence of the novel.)

“Sir,” I would have said, “I’ve read your Aubrey-Maturin series three or four times. When I was young I scoffed at stories of the Victorians who lived for the next issue of the Strand and the next tale of Sherlock Holmes; and I scoffed at the grown women and men who plagued Conan Doyle to rescind Holmes’s death at the Reichenbach Falls. But I am blessed in having, in my generation, an equally thrilling set of heroes, and your characters have become a part of my life.

“Your minor characters,” I would have said, “are especially dear to me: the mad Awkward Davis; Mrs. Fielding, the inexpert spy; old Mr. Herapath, the cowardly Boston loyalist; Christy-Palliere, the gallant French sea captain; and, of course, Barret Bonden, Captain Aubrey’s coxswain.” And I will not say I cried at his death, but I will not say I did not….

The perfect medium for such, of course, is not the meeting, but the concise note.

So I sat at the breakfast table composing my note, and leafed through the newspaper and read of Patrick O’Brian’s death.


The books:

Master and Commander (1970)
Post Captain (1972)
HMS Surprise (1973)
The Mauritius Command (1977)
Desolation Island (1978)
The Fortune of War (1979)
The Surgeon’s Mate (1980)
The Ionian Mission (1981)
Treason’s Harbour (1983)
The Far Side of the World (1984)
The Reverse of the Medal (1986)
The Letter of Marque (1988)
The Thirteen-Gun Salute (1989)
The Nutmeg of Consolation (1991)
Clarissa Oakes (1993)
(The Truelove in the USA)
The Wine-Dark Sea (1993)
The Commodore (1995)
The Yellow Admiral (1996)
The Hundred Days (1998)
Blue at the Mizzen (1999)
The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey (2004)

Read one – any one – and, like me, you’ll be hooked.



1. Stew Magoo - November 25, 2006

Thanks for the tips, I’m going to start reading. This is perfect timing because I’m re-reading now. Can’t get into anything new it seems.

Also, I’m pretty sure that “The Nutmeg of Consolation” was about a previous flame of mine…

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