The Nathaniel Drinkwater series, by Richard Woodman

Richard Woodman is a wonderful writer – a craftsman with words. His series of nautical fiction books featuring Nathaniel Drinkwater is one of the very best series in this genre. It may not be quite up there with C. S. Forester’s series about Horatio Hornblower or Patrick O’Brian’s series about Jack Aubrey, but it is fairly close. It is, for sure, fairly close in terms of realism, entertainment and skillful descriptions of life in the Royal Navy, along with other series like Alexander Kent’s Bolitho series, Dudley Pope’s series about Lord Ramage, and Dewey Lambdin’s Alan Lewrie series. Richard Woodman, like these writers, can create suspense and describe battle scenes incredibly well. He's also very knowledgeable and writes in a realistic fashion.

So far Richard Woodman has written 14 books about Nathaniel Drinkwater. In addition, he has written shorter series about James Dunbar and William Kite, some other nautical fiction books, and several factual (non-fiction) books about 18th century and WW2 history.

Nathaniel Drinkwater is a somewhat reluctant hero. He has the skills and the courage as well as the intelligence, but he lacks mentors to promote his career. In many ways he seem more human than some of the other heroes of nautical fiction novels – Drinkwater is a real man that makes mistakes, sometimes handles situations badly, has regrets as well as successes, is subject to temptations, suffering, worries, bullying, and much more. His vulnerability adds realism to Woodman’s books. As a character he is probably the "darkest" of the heroes of the historical naval fiction literature.

The series is also characterized by really outstanding descriptions of life in the ships – both below decks and on the quarterdeck, as well as a thorough understanding of the operation of naval ships and the navy. It is a wonderful series for friends of nautical fiction!

Praise for Richard Woodman:

There will not be a better novel of naval warfare until Richard Woodman's next book appears." --Times Literary Supplement

"There is no doubt that Nathaniel Drinkwater rates up there with the best of the nautical world." --Midwest Book Review

An Eye of the Fleet, by Richard Woodman

This is the first story in the Nathaniel Drinkwater saga. The starting point in time is 1780 to 1782, the time of the American Revolution. Nathaniel Drinkwater's life at sea begins in the HMS Cyclops,An Eye of the Fleet, by Richard Woodman which is assigned to deal with American privateers endangering British trade. This is a hard duty with tough fighting. If anything, the Royal Navy finds their American enemies to be tougher and more difficult to fight than other opponents.

There is a lot of action here, both aboard the ship itself and in the form of naval action against enemies. Drinkwater is assigned duty in a prize crew where the prisoners recapture the boat and is taken prisoner. As well, he is sent on special service to the swamps of South Carolina. He is given ample opportunity to show initiative and courage, and does so.

The Nathaniel Drinkwater series is a more realistic series than most of the other nautical fiction series. Among other things, in An Eye of the Fleet Drinkwater faces the threat of buggery and is harassed by a higher ranking midshipman. Evil within the navy makes its presence very much felt in this book. Justice is rough in the Royal Navy, and young Nathaniel Drinkwater has to find his own way to deal with that. He somehow manages to learn and cope with the various challenges, and gradually matures into a capable sailor.

An Eye of the Fleet is an excellent first book in the series, which sets high standards for the books to follow. It is hard and perhaps at times even grim, but even so very exciting and entertaining. Great nautical fiction!


A King’s Cutter, by Richard Woodman

Ten years have passed since we last met Nathaniel Drinkwater. He is now married, but he has not been promoted, A King's Cutter, by Richard Woodman and his career seems to be heading nowhere. Then suddenly a commission in a clandestine operation on a speedy cutter is offered to him by his old shipmate Lord Dungarth. The first mission actually, in a series of missions, initiated by the mysterious and enigmatic Lord. We also meet again in this book seaman Tregembo.

Thus Nathaniel Drinkwater returns to the Royal Navy with an appointment to the twelve-gun cutter Kestrel commanded by the old and inscrutable Madoc Griffiths. Together they undertake a series of secret missions into France, now under the shadow of the French Revolution.

And as war thickens of the European continent, Kestrel is drawn into the struggle for the Channel, and Drinkwater for the first time encounters his arch enemy, the sinister and extremely devious French Captain Edourd Santhonax. He is, as usual, engaged in activities that attracts a lot of attention from the British government.

Eventually Drinkwater, to some extent by accident, uncovers a grand intrigue which results in mutiny in the Royal Navy, and which then, subsequently, permits the extremely bloody confrontation between the English and Dutch navies at Camperdown, one of the larger battles in Navy history.

In The King's Cutter, we meet a Drinkwater that is older, smarter, and better equipped for a career in the Royal Navy. Even so, Richard Woodman does not allow his hero to be promoted nearly as fast as some of the other heroes in nautical fiction series.

This book is definitely among the best of the books in the Drinkwater series. A King’s Cutter sees Drinkwater doing duty as an acting lieutenant and sailing master in the years 1792 - 1797. It is very well researched, and excellently written. The stories are great, and very interesting to read.