Gentleman Captain

by J. D. Davies

The first in a brilliant new series of nautical adventure novels featuring Matthew Quinton, a Restoration-era 'gentleman captain' fighting for King Charles II.

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780547577418
  • ISBN-10: 0547577419
  • Pages: 336
  • Publication Date: 02/08/2012
  • Carton Quantity: 24
About the Book
About the Author
  • About the Book
    “A beautifully written and masterfully told story full of wicked intrigue, gripping suspense, stirring action, deft plot twists, and incredibly rich and compelling characters … destined to be a classic series of nautical adventure.” —Eric Jay Dolin, author of Leviathan and Fur, Fortune, and Empire

    Having sunk the first ship he commanded off the coast of Ireland, Captain Matthew Quinton is determined to complete his second mission without loss of life or honor. Rebellion is stirring in the Scottish Isles, and King Charles II needs loyal officers to sail north and face the threat. But aboard His Majesty’s Ship the Jupiter, the young “gentleman captain” leads a resentful crew and has but few on whom he can rely. As they approach the wild coast of Scotland, Quinton begins to learn the ropes and win the respect of his fellow officers and sailors.

    But he has other worries: a suspicion that the previous captain of the Jupiter was murdered, a feeling that several among his crew have something to hide, and a growing conviction that betrayal lies closer to home than he had thought.

    “A delightful tale.” —Kirkus Reviews

    “As fascinating an account of Restoration politics as it is of the Restoration Navy.” —Seth Hunter, author of The Winds of Folly

  • About the Author
  • Excerpts

    We would strike the rocks, the ship would break apart, and we would all
    drown. Of this, I was certain.
     His Majesty’s ship the Happy Restoration was beating up to Kinsale
    harbour, into the teeth of a hard northerly gale that had blown up with
    sudden, unforgiving fury. We had weathered the Old Head, somehow
    avoided smashing ourselves to pieces on Hake Head, and were now
    edging toward the chops of the harbour mouth itself. Vast seas drove
    the ship every way at once, the timbers screaming against the waters
    that sought to tear them apart.
     On the quarterdeck, we three men tried desperately to keep our feet,
    clinging to whatever stood fast, fighting the bitter and freezing Irish
    rain that drove straight into our faces. There was the ship’s master, John
    Aldred, splendidly confident in his ability to bring us safe to anchor, as
    drunk as Bacchus after a rough night in Southwark. There was the best
    of his master’s mates, Kit Farrell, my own age, watching the shore and
    the sails and the rigging with a strange dread in his eyes. And there stood
    I, or tried to stand, clinging desperately to a part of the ship I could
    scarce, in my fright and inexperience, have named if called upon to do
    so. Matthew Quinton, aged twenty-one, captain of his Majesty’s ship.
    Strange as it sounds, the prospect of my imminent demise was almost
    less dreadful to me than the prospect of surviving. Survival would mean
    having to report to my superiors that we had spectacularly missed our
    rendezvous with the Virginia and Barbados merchant fleets, which we
    were meant to escort to the Downs in that year of grace 1661. They
    were probably still out in the endless ocean, or sunk by the weather, or
    the French, or the Spanish, or the Dutch, or the corsairs, or the ghost
    of Barbarossa.
     A torrent of spray ended my aimless reflections in time for me to hear
    Aldred’s latest pronouncement. ‘Be not afraid, Captain! Plenty of sea
    room, if we tack but shortly. Th is breeze will die from the west as fast as
    it sprang up, as God is my judge.’
     Aldred’s eyes were glazed, not from the salt spray that stung us mercilessly,
    but from too much victualler’s ale and bad port wine. Kit Farrell
    moved behind him, braced himself against a huge wave, reached me and
    shouted above the roar of the sea, ‘Captain, he’s mistaken – if we try to
    tack now, we’ll strike on the rocks for certain – we shouldn’t have had so
    much sail still aloft, not even in the wind as it was . . .’
     But the tempest relented as he spoke, just a little, and a shout that
    Aldred would never have heard before now carried to his ears as clear as
    day. The old man turned and glowered at Farrell.
     ‘Damn, Master Farrell, and what do you know of it?’ he cried. ‘How
    many times have you brought ships home into Kinsale haven, in far worse
    than this?’ We would have the Prince Royal next, I feared. ‘Don’t you know
    I first went to sea on the Prince Royal, back in the year Thirteen, taking the
    Princess Elizabeth over to Holland for her marriage? Near fifty years ago,
    Mister Farrell!’ And next it would be Drake. ‘Don’t you know I learned my
    trade under men who’d sailed with Drake? Drake himself!’ And last would
    come the Armada: Aldred’s drunken litany of self-regard was almost as
    predictable as dusk succeeding dawn. ‘Blood of Christ, I’ve messed with
    men who were in the Armada fight. So damn me, Master Farrell, I know
    my business! I know the pilotage of Kinsale better than most men alive,
    I know how to bring us through a mere lively breeze like this, and God
    strike me down if I don’t!’ And as an afterthought, as the wind and the
    spray rose once more, he leaned over to me, gave me a full measure of
    beer-vapour breath, and said, ‘Begging your pardon, Captain Quinton.’
     I was too fearful to give any sort of pardon, or to remind Aldred
    yet again that my grandfather had also fought the Armada, and sailed
    with Drake to boot. Drake was the most vain and obnoxious man he
    ever knew, my grandfather said. After himself, that is, my mother would
    always add.
     The ever-strengthening wind struck us in full force once more,
    snatching a man off the cross-beam that those who knew of such things
    called the foretopsail yard. He flailed his arms against the mighty gale,
    and for the briefest of moments it looked as though he had fulfilled the
    dream of the ancients, and achieved flight. Then the wind drove him
    into the next great wave bearing down on us, and he was gone. All the
    while, Farrell and Aldred traded insults about reefs and courses, irons
    and stays, all of it the language of the Moon to my ears.
     Kit Farrell started to rage. ‘Damn yourself to hell, Aldred, you’ll kill
    us all!’ He turned to me. ‘Captain, for God’s sake, order him to bear
    away! We’ve too little sea room, for all of Aldred’s bluster. If we brade
    up close all our sails and lie at try with our main course, then we can
    run back into open sea, or make along the coast for the Cove of Cork or
    Milford. Easier harbours in a northerly, Captain!’
     Uncertainty covered me like a shroud. ‘Our orders are for Kinsale—’
     ‘Sir, not at the risk of endangering the ship!’
     Still I hesitated. Aldred began to snap his orders through a speaking
    trumpet. After eight months at sea, four of them in command of this
    ship, I was now vaguely aware of the theory and practice of tacking. I
    remembered Aldred’s tipsy and relatively patient explanation. No ship
    can sail right into the wind, Captain, nor more than six points on either side
    of it. To go towards the wind, you must sail on diagonals. Like a comb, sir,
    like the teeth of a comb. Make your way up the teeth to the head of the comb.
    I had seen it done often enough, but never in wind that came straight
    from the flatulence of hell’s own bowels.
     Kit Farrell watched the men on the masts and the yards as they
    battled equally with those few of our sails that were not yet reefed, as
    they said, and to preserve themselves from the fate of their shipmate,
    our Icarus. Between the huge waves that struck me and pulled me and
    blinded me and knocked the breath out of me, I looked on helplessly
    at the activity about the ship. I could see only sodden men taking in
    and letting out sodden canvas in a random fashion. Farrell, bred at
    sea since he was nine, saw a different scene. ‘Too slow, Captain – the
    wind’s come on too strong, and too fast – too many raw men, too
    much sail aloft even for a better crew to take in or reef in time – and
    the ship’s too old, too crank—’
     The spray and rain eased for a moment. I saw the black shore of
    County Cork, so much closer than it had been a minute before. Waves
    that were suddenly as high as our masts broke themselves on the rocks
    with a dreadful roaring. I ran my hand through my drenched and
    thinning hair, for both hat and periwig were long lost to the wind.
     Aldred was slurring a mixture of oaths and orders, the former rapidly
    outweighing the latter. Farrell turned to me again, his face red
    from whip-lashes of rain. ‘Captain, we’ll strike for sure – we can’t
    make the tack, not now – order him to bear away, sir, in the name of
    dear heaven—’
     I opened...

  • Reviews

    "The author does a creditable job of dramatizing life in Samuel Pepys's navy, and by the explosive climax, Quinton has developed into a hero worth rooting for and meeting again in further exploits."
    --Publishers Weekly

    "Davies, steeped in the language of the era, proceeds to depict the drama with confidence and verve, and he fashions a convincing crew of personalities and types... Along the way, Davies takes every opportunity to feed the reader some British dynastic history, but the writing is natural and well worth the instruction. A delightful tale."
    --Kirkus Reviews

    "Gentleman Captain is a beautifully written and masterfully told story full of wicked intrigue, gripping suspense, stirring action, deft plot twists, and incredibly rich and compelling characters. It so effortlessly transports the reader to another place and time, you won’t want to put it down until you have reached its thrilling conclusion. J. D. Davies promises this is just the first volume in the journals of Matthew Quinton. It is a brilliant beginning to what is destined to be a classic series of nautical adventure."
    --Eric Jay Dolin, author of Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America

    "J.D. Davies's depiction of Restoration England and the British navy is impeccable, his characters truly live and breathe, and the plot kept me in suspense. Gentleman Captain is one of the rare books that I have read with a smile on my face from cover to cover. I could not recommend it more."
    --Edward Chupack, author of Silver: My Own Tale as Written by Me with a Goodly Amount of Murder

    "A splendid addition to nautical adventure, and a grand story, to boot!"
    —Dewey Lambdin, author of The Baltic Gambit