Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Book Review of At Drake's Command by David Wesley Hill

At Drake's Command
Book Review of At Drake's Command by David Wesley Hill


"About the Book

It was as fine a day to be whipped as any he'd ever seen but the good weather didn't make Peregrine James any happier with the situation he was in. Unfairly convicted of a crime he had not committed, the young cook was strung from the whipping post on the Plymouth quayside when he caught the eye of the charismatic sea captain Francis Drake, who agreed to accept Perry among his crew despite the stripes of a thief on his back.
Soon England was receding in their wake and Perry was serving an unsavory collection of sea dogs as the small fleet of fragile wood ships sailed across the deep brine. Their destination was secret, known to Drake alone. Few sailors believed the public avowal that the expedition was headed for Alexandria to trade in currants. Some men suspected Drake planned a raid across Panama to attack the Spanish in the Pacific. Others were sure the real plan was to round the Cape of Storms to break the Portuguese monopoly of the spice trade. The only thing Perry knew for certain was that they were bound for danger and that he must live by his wits if he were to survive serving at Drake's command.

About the Author

David Wesley Hill, author of At Drake's Command David Wesley Hill is an award-winning fiction writer with more than thirty stories published in the U.S. and internationally. In 1997 he was presented with the Golden Bridge award at the International Conference on Science Fiction in Beijing, and in 1999 he placed second in the Writers of the Future contest. In 2007, 2009, and 2011 Mr. Hill was awarded residencies at the Blue Mountain Center, a writers and artists retreat in the Adirondacks. He studied under Joseph Heller and Jack Cady and received a Masters in creative writing from the City University of New York, as well as the De Jur Award, the school's highest literary honor."
Leona's Review:
I was send a complimentary e-book copy of At Drake's Command by the author, David Wesley Hill. I had it on the back burner and had forgotten about the book and so began reading the book only to find I had read some it. The only benefit in waiting to read such a good book is that I do not have to wait as long for the next book, Desperate Bankrupts. The opinions are my own.
The book begins with the main character, Peregrine James (Perry), receiving a whipping for a crime he did not commit in Plymouth, England. Perry asks to join Francis Drake as an assistant cook on the Pelican because he heard rumors that Drake is heading for Alexandria. Perry, who is a fictional character, narrates the book.
David Hill knows his seafaring terms and I was glad I had this book on my Kindle because there is the dictionary which was a great help to me. He is also knowledgeable on the geography of the areas. Since I have visited some of these places, I liked the history of the times. At Drake's Command begins November 15, 1577 and the book ends February 4, 1578.
A good read for readers interested in nautical history and an interest in the early sailing days. America, England, Spain, Portugal, Africa, Strait of Gibraltar, Cape Verde, and coast of Barbary are just some destinations in the book.
A couple of songs or shanties are in the book.
"This allowed me to join in confidently as pressed our shoulders to the handspikes and sang the famous chorus".
"Hooray-ray, way-hey,
Heave-ho and up she rises,
Heave-ho and up she rises,
Early in the morning!"
The author knows the culinary terms also and what different cultures eat. "Then I released Selim and with a rude shove set him to kneading dough for the flat bread Moors favored". Another one: "The meal that evening consisted of ham and peas and the aforementioned barley, along with bread and butter, cheese, and cider. This was the menu I served the sailors and petty officers."
I was surprised to read about the hatred the English had for the Spanish and Portuguese and their religion and the same to the English. " Lutheran pirates, he spat in passable English. "God send you to hell and show you no mercy while you suffer".". ""The Papist may see fit to profit on human misery but we should not follow their example," warned Fletcher, mopping his pate carefully with a handkerchief so as not to disturb the arrangement of the few hairs he had left".
The Queen of England was also defended in the book. "I was, of course, personally ignorant of the queen's private character but I could not remain silent while she was slandered. "no, sir, that's a lie. I answered. "A dammed lie, mate!" John Frye put in with equal heat."

The author uses other languages in the book but does translate the words. Perry's mother was a "Spanish lady" so he knew some Portuguese. Perry was born in Plymouth, England.

There is also some sexual language in words that I had to find in my built in dictionary and because I was unfamiliar with the words, it made the reading more comfortable for me.
I will give this a 5 star even though I did not really care for the abrupt end of the book.
Leona Olson

1 comment:

David Wesley Hill said...

Thanks for your review of At Drake's Command. I appreciate it!

Should you be interested in learning more about the relationship between Francis Drake and Thomas Doughty, I have an essay on the subject on-line here:

Also on-line is an out-of-sequence excerpt from the sequel to ADC, Desperate Bankrupts, which is available here:

Thank you again.