How Dark the Night: A Novel

Written by William C. Hammond
Review by Audrey Braver

How Dark the Night is the fifth book in a series featuring the Cutler family, Boston merchant traders with their own shipping firm. This story begins in 1806, as Jefferson is President and Great Britain is engaged in a war with France. The new nation of the United States is still taking baby steps on the world’s political stage. To staff their ships, the British Navy is impressing American sailors. Britain doesn’t recognize American citizenship if these seamen were born in England. This not only affects the Cutlers’ shipping business, it also affects their family. Seth Cutler, from the Barbados branch of the family, is a midshipman serving on a British man-of-war that attacks a U.S. Navy frigate. All the while, life goes on for the Cutlers and their various families. There are visitations, weddings, births, and life-threatening illness.

Hammond uses his extensive naval knowledge to enhance the action. He peoples the story with cameo appearances by real historical figures, the most intriguing, perhaps, being the famous Caribbean pirate, Jean Lafitte. How Dark the Night reads in part like a textbook on naval history and partly as a family saga. The reader is quickly engaged in the story. The author has also provided a helpful nautical glossary.