C S Forester

Over the past few weeks I have been reading the Kindle editions of some of my favourite non-HORNBLOWER books by C S Forester. This is not to say that I don’t like the HORNBLOWER stories – which I do – but that it is sometimes easy to forget that he wrote a lot of other excellent books.

The books that I have now finished reading are:

  • Death to the French (written in 1932)
  • The Gun (written in 1933)
  • The African Queen (written in 1935)
  • The General (written in 1936)
  • The Ship (written in 1943)

Over the next few days I will be writing reviews about each of these books, and I hope my regular blog readers who have not yet read them might – as a result – be tempted to do so.

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32 Comments on “C S Forester”

  1. I've never read any Forester, I have to admit…

  2. Conrad Kinch says:

    I've read the first two and enjoyed them. He was a fairly bleak sort was Forrester. I've always enjoyed the writing, but I don't think I'd fancy a pint with him.

  3. Legatus Hedlius,

    I would certainly recommend giving him a try … possibly starting with THE AFRICAN QUEEN.

    All the best,

    Bob

  4. Conrad Kinch,

    I am surprised to read that you have not read THE AFRICAN QUEEN! I think that it is one of his best books.

    Do you really think that he has a bleak outlook? I must admit that I don't find that … but then I do enjoy Scandinavian noire and probably measure the bleakness of other authors against that!

    All the best,

    Bob

  5. My dad was a big fan of the hornblower ones especially and had bought the books as they were first published. I enjoyed one or two as a teenager.I really must give them ago.

  6. Chris says:

    Bob,

    I read The General many years ago–really good, especially his depiction of 1st Ypres in 1914, but the ending is very, very strange. Sort of left me up in the air. But a great read until then.

    Best regards,

    Chris

  7. Tradgardmastare,

    I would certainly recommend them. Forester seemed to be able to write about naval warfare during the Napoleonic era in a way that I think remains unsurpassed.

    All the best,

    Bob

  8. Chris,

    I agree that on first reading the ending of THE GENERAL is a little odd, but when I read it a second time I realised that the point of the book was to describe how someone who was basically a sound, brave, and competent (but not very bright) officer could end up doing the wrong things for the right reasons … and having his career cut short by his desire to act as a leader when everything went wrong. Once his professional career was over, there was no more story to tell.

    All the best,

    Bob

  9. Prufrock says:

    The Kindle is a great way to churn through books, that's for sure. I did the whole Aubrey/Maturin series two years ago, and almost shed a tear when it was all over. Must look into Hornblower as well as I haven't read anything of his. Thanks for the reminder!

  10. Martin says:

    Hello Bob,

    “Rifleman Dodd”, the original “Sharpe”, didn't make the cut?! I always found Forester to be an author at the top of his game. Stories that are well told and hold the interest of the reader right up to the last page.

    Cheers,

    Martin

  11. Rifleman Dood is actually ~Death to the French”, so on Bob's list. ~Brown on Resolution” is worth adding and he wrote some excelent crime novels too – Payment Deferred is a classic but not mentioned much these days.

  12. How do you rate him to Patrick O'Brian or are they so different that they should not be compared?
    Alan

  13. Prufrock,

    I now have close to 200 books on my Kindle … and almost all the fiction ones are in sets or series written by an author.

    I don't know where I would be without it, although I do also buy hardbacks as well.

    I would certainly recommend reading the Hornblower books.

    All the best,

    Bob

  14. Martin,

    As Vintage Wargaming has already pointed out, RIFLEMAN DODD is the alternative name for DEATH TO THE FRENCH.

    Forester was a great author, and stands up well as a storyteller when compared with many modern writers.

    All the best,

    Bob

  15. Vintage Wargaming,

    I tried to get BROWN ON RESOLUTION for my Kindle, but it does not appear to be available in that format as yet.

    I agree about Forester's other books. They are much under-rated and under-appreciated by many modern readers.

    All the best,

    Bob

  16. Tradgardmastare (Alan),

    They are different in style and therefore a comparison would – in my opinion – be unfair. I like both … but would personally score the Hornblower books slightly higher overall.

    All the best,

    Bob

  17. Gonsalvo says:

    I have and have read (several times) all of his Hornblower books. Indeed, after seeing the excellent series starring Ian Gryffd, my younger daughter read them, and liked them so much that she bought her own set (mine are 40 year old paperbacks).

    I have and enjoyed all the Aubrey/Maturin series by O'Brian, and they are excellent as well, specially if you have side interests in natural history and Medicine (which I do, being a physician myself). Slower pace than Hornblower for sure, but still excellent. I thought they did a fairly poor job with the movie “Master and Commander”, especially when compared to the Hornblower series adaptations.

    I have not read any of his (Forester's) other writings, which I see I will have to rectify. I look forward to your reviews!

  18. arthur1815 says:

    Bob,

    It's perhaps significant that Forester had Rifleman Dodd cut off from his unit so he can have adventures with guerrilleros &c., rather than be restricted to the discipline and procedures of the skirmish line, just as Cornwell has frequently sent Sharpe and his Chosen Men off on missions that resemble Special Forces operations rather than everyday campaigning for regular soldiers in the Peninsula.

    I think there was an interesting novel to be written illuminating the social and finacial problems facing officers promoted from the ranks – one of whom pleaded to revert to being a serjeant again because he was ostracised by his 'fellow' officers – but Cornwell abandoned that for male fantasy escapism, in which Sharpe and Harper are both strapping six-footers who are crack shots, great brawlers, devils with women &c &c.

    Rifleman Benjamin Harris of the 95th(actually an illiterate Dorset shepherd who later dictated his memoirs to Captain Henry Curling; for some reason – an in-joke? – Cornwell portrays him as a well-read 'gentleman ranker' who loves a good book) commented that during the retreat of the Light Brigade to Vigo in 1808/9 it was the tall, lanky men who fell out on the march; shorter fellows like him (c5'6″) kept in the ranks to the bitter end. A sentiment of which I heartily approve!

    I enjoy both Hornblower and Aubrey & Maturin, but the latter have far greater period atmosphere – although this may be a clever illusion created by the author's 'Austenesque' dialogue.

    Regards,
    Arthur

  19. Have you read his “Good Shepherd” set on a US Navy escort during the Battle of the Atlantic? Worth reading. My favourite non-Hornblower was “The Gun”. I remember being so disappointed by that awful attempt at a film version “The Pride and the Passion”. His “The Captain from Connecticut” makes up for Hornblower NOT serving in the war of 1812!

  20. Gonsalvo,

    I agree with you that the HORNBLOWER TV series was excellent.

    I think that it is difficult to compare Forester and O'Brian's books because the former has a single main character whilst the latter has two, and this must affect the pace and style of the storytelling.

    I would urge you to read some of Forester's other books, and I hope that my forthcoming reviews will help you to see why.

    All the best,

    Bob

  21. Arthur1815,

    Rifleman Dodd may have been a prototype Sharpe/Harper figure, but I think that his adventures were more believable. Cornwall's stories seemed to get rather far-fetched and formulaic as time went on, and although I watched the TV series, I found the books rather less enjoyable.

    I never realised that Rifleman Harris was illiterate … but that seems to be more believable than him being a gentleman ranker.

    You comment about smaller soldiers having more stamina on the march is interesting. I have met a couple of modern SF soldiers, and they were both of average height and had a slim but muscular (but not overdeveloped) physiques.

    I had never thought of it until you pointed it out, but you are right about the style of dialogue in the O'Brian books. It does have an 'Austenesque' style about it.

    All the best,

    Bob

  22. David Bradley,

    I read THE GOOD SHEPHERD and THE CAPTAIN FROM CONNETICUT many years ago … and I really should read them again.

    I will reserve my comments about THE GUN until my review comes out in a few days … but like you I found the film version very disappointing … and quite hilariously bad in places.

    All the best,

    Bob

  23. joppy says:

    You might enjoy, if you can find a copy, “The Hornblower Companion” by his nobs CSF. The first half is some 30 odd maps of the campaigns and actions from the books, so you can follow the twists and turns of the engagements as you read. The second half is a treatise on how the books came about, why they were written in the order they were, and how the plots were constructed, very educational. There was also a biography of Hornblower by C.Northcote-Parkinson, that took him into old age.

  24. Joppy,

    I have the biography of Hornblower but had not heard about the Companion before. It sounds like it is a book that I should have in my collection … I hopefully I will do soon! Thanks very much for telling me about it.

    All the best,

    Bob

  25. Edwin King says:

    I went through a major Forrester phase is my late teens, reading all the Hornblower and most of the other books.

    For the life of me though I can't remember how The General ends. Time to re-read!

  26. I'm definitely going to try The African Queen!

  27. Edwin King,

    I won't spoil the ending for you … but it is certainly worth reading again.

    All the best,

    Bob

  28. Legatus Hedlius,

    I don't think that you will be disappointed.

    All the best,

    Bob

  29. The only one of these titles I haven't read is 'The African Queen'. Of these, 'The General' is way the best in my view. I have, of course, a copy of that, and all the Hornblower books including 'Hornblower and the Crisis' in paperback.

  30. Archduke Piccolo,

    I most strongly urge you to read THE AFRICAN QUEEN, which I think is one of Forester's best books. My personal opinion that it is even better than THE GENERAL.

    All the best,

    Bob

  31. Bob,

    Thanks for bringing CS Forester back to the head of the queue. I've read all his books many times, except The General.

    For me, Forester is the gold standard for historical fiction. Maybe because his books were the fist ones I read back in the '60s but others seem to be less satisfying. I can smell the salt and hear the rigging sing when reading the Hornblower series.

  32. William Stewart,

    I totally agree with your remarks about Forester's historical fiction; frequently imitatated but seldom surpassed!

    All the best,

    Bob


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