FOX: SAILOR’S BLOOD by Adam Hardy
Every so often, I find myself trudging down memory lane. It happens when I see an old book on a shelf in a used book story, or I read through an article on popular writers and where they got their inspiration to write. Almost every time, I pick up that book or I go on an internet tour to rediscover those old loves I’ve packed away in cardboard boxes.
One of my favorite memories was of George Abercrombie Fox, the toughest British naval officer in Lord Admiral Nelson’s navy. At the time I first discovered those books, I was seventeen or eighteen years old. They were written by Kenneth Bulmer under the name Adam Hardy, though I didn’t know it at the same time. I was also reading the adventures of Dray Prescott under the name Alan Burt Akers, another Kenneth Bulmer pseudonym, though I didn’t know that either. So, looking back, it was easy to see how I gravitated to those novels and enjoyed them – without ever knowing they were written by the same person. Weird times back then.
The Fox series was being published by Pinnacle Books, which was publishing nearly all of the men’s action adventure books back in the ‘70s and ‘80s. They had some competition, but nobody in my opinion had the death grip on the market that Pinnacle did.
There ended up being fourteen books about Fox, and I only read three or four of them because they were hard to find. I recently found one at a Half Price Books store and picked it up, then decided I wanted to re-read the series more or less in order.
So I started with book five, Sailor’s Blood, called Powder Monkey in Britain. I don’t know why Bulmer/Hardy decided to go back in time and tell the early adventures of his hero, but I was glad he did because I had yet to discover Horatio Hornblower and I believe that early Fox book whetted my appetite for that series when I got to it.
Fox’s story is harsh and lively. Harsh because Bulmer/Hardy does a really good job of showing how rough the turn of the 19th century was, and how bloody war on the sea truly was. I loved the simple storytelling of Fox’s birth at his uncle’s hanging, his time spent on the marshes, and his eventual decision to go to sea. I studied history in college, got a double major in history and English, and had a gifted university professor that brought 18th and 19th century England to life in those classes. Between reading those Fox books and sitting through those classes, I was in another world and glad of it, because it was nothing like that small town I’d been raised up in.
Sailor’s Blood is a straightforward adventure tail with a good dollop of history thrown into the mix. Bulmer/Hardy wasn’t an artist when rendering his tales, but he was as fine a craftsman as you could hope for. I think these books hold up despite forty years having passed, the same way that C. S. Forester’s Hornblowers thrill audiences today as well.
The last three of the paperback series are horribly expensive, so I don’t know if I’ll get to those. I do wish someone would pub them in ebook versions. I’d gleefully buy them all.