This week, whilst lolling in the crow’s nest (the 17th century naval equivalent of surfing the internet for things of interest), I spotted an interesting mast appear over the horizon, in the form of Arturo Perez-Reverte.
Snr Perez-Reverte is a Spanish journalist, writer and war correspondent who has written a splendid series of Dumasesque novels about the ‘golden age’ of Spanish imperialism.
My introduction to this collection came in the form of Pirates of the Levant.
Set in the 1620s, the story takes the main character (Captain Alatriste), his page (Inigo Balboa) and assorted, picturesque cut-throat types on a sea voyage to North Africa and beyond.
Their bloodthirsty encounters with Turks, English pirates and Moorish tribes is told realistically, but not so graphically that you wish you hadn’t bothered (I have a super low tolerance for violence and I got to the end).
Life in the Spanish outpost of Oran, for example, where Spain sends soldiers, but conveniently forgets to care, relieve or pay them, is well described. The heady mix of heat, boredom and flies, topped off with a fear of bloody reprisals from the locals leaves you thankful for 21st century life. And keeps the pages turning. Historical facts pop up here and there, but are skilfully, and lightly, woven into the story.
I can’t wait to read about the rest of Captain Alatriste’s military career.
[Picture credit ??? If this picture is yours, please contact me and I will remove or credit appropriately.]