I have been following the adventures of Richard Cutler since 2007 when the first of a projected seven-book series of novels was published. A Matter of Honor and For Love of Country, the first two novels in the series, were marvelously written and brought history alive in a most cogent and entertaining fashion. Book three in the series, The Power and the Glory, picks up where Book two leaves off. It does not disappoint.
A Matter of Honor takes place during the Revolutionary War. For Love of Country is set during the first decade after the war, when the infant republic and the Cutler family are forced to confront the attacks of Barbary pirates off the coast of North Africa and the outbreak of the French Revolution.
In the third novel in the series, Richard Cutler’s generation has married, watched their children grow older, gained business and political experience, and is playing an ever expanding role in the political and social events of the day. It is the late 1790s. War breaks out between the United States and France. It is a war fought without Congressional approval and entirely at sea in the West Indies. The newly minted U.S. Navy takes center stage with two of her first and finest “super frigates” seeing action against the French Navy at sea and against an island refuge for French privateers.
In The Power & The Glory, Richard Cutler serves as a lieutenant on the USS Constellation during her epic sea battles against French frigates L’Insurgente (depicted in the book’s jacket) and Le Volontaire. He also serves a brief stint on the USS Constitution, rubbing elbows there and elsewhere with such real-life naval heroes as Thomas Truxtun, Silas Talbot, Andrew Sterrett, Isaac Hull, and John Dent.
Bill Hammond’s characters, both fiction and non-fiction, are all three-dimensional and based on exhaustive research. His depictions of life at sea are compelling to lubber and mariner alike. But he does not stop there. At the core of all his novels is the great love affair between Richard Cutler and his English-born wife Katherine, a love nurtured by the children and family and friends they foster together.
Before I finished the first book, the central characters had become people near and dear to my heart. They are my friends and neighbors. They are people I care deeply about.
I highly recommend this historical fiction series. It’s as good as the novels of Patrick O’Brian. Start with the first book and read all three — then wait, as I must, with great anticipation for the release of Book four and other novels in the series. Bill Hammond is a master writer of nautical fiction whose literary gifts are yours to enjoy.
The Power & the Glory By William Hammond (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2011; 256 Pages)