One Summer while I was living on an RAF base in Norfolk, fairly sure it was 1980, my father handed me a second hand book. Fox: The Press Gang.
He had picked up a few of these books recently and thought I’d enjoy them. We had similar tastes in fiction. He’d previously encouraged me to read broadly.
I was 12 in 1980, so I can’t imagine it was earlier than that year and we moved in July 1981 to Leeds, Yorkshire.
The first paragraph read:
Fox, second lieutenant of his Britannic Majesty’s twelve-pounder thirty two gun frigate Duchess, sprang up on the quarterdeck to deal with the emergency there in time to see a nine pounder shot take off Mr Midshipman’s head. The body still gripping the quarterdeck rail withwhitened fists as blood spurted upwards ten feet into the air.Fox saw four distinct dininishing pulses as the heart continued to beat. The wind caught the plume of blood and swepot it splatteringly across Fox’s uniform coat and white breeches.
Vivid description of visceral indiscriminate death. My attention was seized. For me this was also the day I realised my Father was saying ‘you are growing up’. He deemed this book suitable for me.
I read on and met George Abercrombie Fox. A man named for his Uncle, executed for being a Highwayman, who joined the Navy aged 10 in 1775. Promoted to Lieutenant at the age of 18 in 1793 at the beginning of war with France. The book was set in 1800 and the back of the book made it plain that despite 7 years of war Fox had not been promoted.
Well I had 8 books, Books 1 to 4 and 6 to 9, when my Father gave me all the books he had. I read them all more than once.
I knew there were more, not just Book 5, because at least one of the books was a repring and mentioned another book I didn’t have. My original copies are stored away so I can’t double check those details.
So sometime around 1986 I started searching for the missing books. Continue reading