The three greatest sailors who never lived are, arguably, Horatio Hornblower, Jack Aubrey, and Richard Bolitho. Their combined exploits at sea have entertained readers since the 1930s and inspired an armada of imitators. The world of maritime fiction is literally framed and planked upwards from their keel. Of these magnificent storytellers, Bolitho’s creator, author Alexander Kent, is the only one still living. (Forester began his series in 1937 and died in 1966; O’Brian, who died in 2000, started his series in 1970.)

Alexander Kent, whose real name is Douglas Reeman, has been producing novels regularly since 1968 and has sold more than 22 million books in 16 languages. His newest book, Band of Brothers, is a long-overdue novel dealing with Bolitho’s early career as a midshipman.

Kent’s series documents the fictional adventures and battles (and loves) of Richard Bolitho and his young nephew, Adam, at sea during the Napoleonic-era aboard England’s great fleet of wooden ships. The series has thrived and now, 27 books and 35 years later, Alexander Kent has finally answered the question, “What happened to Midshipman Martyn Dancer?”

The prolific author skipped a chapter way back in 1972. He probably didn’t think much of it at the time. But his readers were relentless. They have nagged him for 30 years to solve the mystery of Martyn Dancer ‘s disappearance from the series. In Band of Brothers Alexander Kent mollifies his readers on two accounts. He answers the question of Dancer’s fate, but, more importantly, he clearly demonstrates to readers that he is still alive, in fine writing form, and continues to document the fictional lives of the sailing Bolithos.

Band of Brothers by Alexander Kent (Random House;2005; 130 pages)