Captain Kilburnie

Written by William P. Mack
Review by John R. Vallely

Fergus Kilburnie is an unlikely candidate for officer rank in the Royal Navy of the time of the French Revolution. A Scottish farm boy who is forced to flee his home, Kilburnie enters a service which stubbornly refuses to promote common seamen and which further holds Scottish sailors in contempt.

Even though the title of the book fairly well gives the ending away, naval fiction buffs will nonetheless enjoy sailing with our redoubtable hero. The battle action is finely written. The description of life at sea is equally well done. Napoleon always asked if an officer was lucky before he decided to promote him. Kilburnie’s rapid rise from new recruit to captain may strike some as overly lucky, but the novel’s action and easygoing prose enable the reader to wink at circumstances relating to Kilburnie’s stunning rise to the top. Not O’Brian and not Forester, but readers will not be disappointed.