Audacity, Privateer Out of Portsmouth

Written by J.E. Fender
Review by Marcia K. Matthews

A seafaring yarn of the American Revolution, Audacity plunges into action and claps on sail. Geoffrey Frost, a bold and cunning privateersman, fights by force and stealth. We come in on episode 2 of the saga as Captain Frost returns to Portsmouth, leading four prize vessels after rescuing dozens of New England men from prison in Nova Scotia. His mute confidant Ming Tsun signals Frost not to push his luck, but he engages a British frigate. His motley crew includes a Native American, Caribbean blacks, a one-armed cook who manages to bake fresh bread on board, and a Newfoundland dog. They all serve him willingly. Frost is good to his men, doesn’t drink or curse, and worships several gods.

This prodigy spreads himself thin, not stopping to enjoy home and family or even to refit. Frost begins to seem one-dimensional because he never makes a mistake. Although he speaks several languages fluently, most of his dialog consists in shouting orders and being obeyed. He has no opponent worthy of him; only a hurricane proves a threat, and only the sea engages his emotions. Frost cares about his men, but given a chance to rescue a damsel in distress, he does only the decent thing. The psychic distance is zoomed-out. The dynamic is loud. Narrative structure is straight-ahead action. “Topmen flew aloft to hand and furl with a furious, determined efficiency as blocks sang, yards racked around, sheets slatted, and sails thrashed as they spilled the wind from one side, swung, and took the wind from another angle.”

Similar to Parkinson, author of So Near So Far (reviewed this issue), Fender uses an erudite tone and third person voice. He combines realism with the fantastic and leaves us in suspense for the next chapter.