Dudley Pope,
Ramage & the Dido
(Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd., 1989;
McBooks, 2002)

Nicholas Ramage finally gets promoted to the command of a 74-gun ship of the line.

While long-time readers of the series by Dudley Pope are accustomed to Ramage's command of the frigate Calypso, it's about time he gets bumped up the ladder. Of course, the admiralty bends the rules a bit and allows Ramage to take his entire crew, including the officers, along with him to his new ship -- an unusual move, designed solely, I'm sure, so that Pope could continue writing about the same cast of supporting characters.

It's a flimsy device and, while it's nice to see some recurring characters stay with us, it somewhat disrupts the suspension of disbelief.

His new ship, the Dido, is sent to the Caribbean, where Ramage immediately sets about using it as a high-powered frigate to disrupt enemy shipping and capture plenty of vessels so his men become ever richer on prize money. That's not really how ships of the line were used, but the story might have been duller otherwise.

As I read this book, however, I became aware of a growing sense of unease. I checked my suspicions and realized I was right: This is the final volume in the Ramage series. (And, since Pope died many years ago, we can't expect more.)

Ramage is one of my favorite fictional nautical captains, and I am sorry to see his final adventure end. I'm also not sure Pope realized the series was done at the time, since it doesn't end with a satisfying conclusion that wraps up Ramage's life of service.

Then again, perhaps that's best. While some fictional captains have been sent ashore to enjoy their retirement, Ramage will keep sailing forever. That isn't a bad way to go.

book review by
Tom Knapp

2 September 2017

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