Alexander Kent First Editions (II)

The following Richard and Adam Bolitho novels by Alexander Kent are listed in historical chronological order. Cover images and descriptions are from the dustwrappers of British hardcover first editions.


Hutchinson, 1972

Sloop Of WarThe appearance of a new Richard Bolitho novel is always an event. When the first, To Glory We Steer, appeared four years ago, Bolitho was immediately hailed as the new Hornblower — although reviewers were quick to recognise that Bolitho stood as a memorable character in his own right. Alexander Kent, with his succeeding novels, has clearly established himself as an author who has no equal today in writing stirring and authentic stories of the eighteenth-century Navy.

For the young Richard Bolitho the spring of 1778 marked a complete transformation for himself and his future. It was the year in which the American War of Independence changed to an all-out struggle for freedom from British rule — and the year when Bolitho took command of the Sparrow, a small, fast and well-armed sloop of war.

As the pace of war increased, the Sparrow was called from one crisis to another - and when the great fleets of Britain and France converged on the Chesapeake, Bolitho had to throw aside the early dreams of his first command to find maturity in a sea battle that might decide the fate of a whole continent.


Hutchinson, 1968

To Glory We SteerThis magnificent novel of the sea, set in the West Indies during the last years of the American Revolution, introduces an author new to historical fiction. But Alexander Kent’s forceful narration and command of dramatic incident show that at last a genuine contender has emerged for the throne left empty by C. S. Forester.

The time is January 1782, and British Captain Richard Bolitho is ordered to take the frigate Phalarope to the Caribbean, where the hard-pressed royal squadrons are fighting for their lives against the combined fleets of France and Spain and the upstart American privateers. It should have been a proud moment for so young and junior a captain — but the Phalarope has already been driven to near mutiny and she is regarded with shame and suspicion.

But Bolitho is no ordinary man. His determination is blended with humanity, and his efforts to give the ship back her pride mark him apart from his contemporaries. As the little frigate sails under the blazing sun and fights her inner battles as well as faces the bloody broadsides of the enemy, Bolitho spares neither himself nor his men - and in the final great battle of the Saintes the chance comes to prove what both he and the Phalarope can achieve.


Hutchinson, 1973

Command A Kings ShipAlexander Kent’s five previous Richard Bolitho novels have established him beyond dispute as today’s finest writer of historical naval fiction. The Sunday Times has acclaimed him as ‘Forester’s direct heir’ while the New York Times Book Review has said ‘C. S. Forester never wrote a more exciting novel than Alexander Kent’. In Command a King’s Ship Mr Kent takes up Bolitho's story at the point following the events covered by the immediately successful To Glory We Steer, his first published book.

In March 1784, at a time when most of the fleet was laid up, His Majesty’s frigate Undine weighed anchor at Spithead to begin a voyage to India and far beyond. As her new captain, Richard Bolitho was glad to go, despite the nature of his orders and the immensity of the voyage — for he was leaving an England still suffering from the aftermath of war. But he was to learn that signatures on proud documents did not necessarily make a lasting peace, and found himself involved in a conflict as ruthless as the one which had given him his first command during the war with France.

In an uneasy peace the expansion of trade and colonial development in little-known areas of the East Indies soon pushed aside the pretence and brought the guns' fury into the open. There was no set line of battle or declared cause to rally Undine’s small company. But the dangers and the endless demands had to be faced by the man who commanded the only King’s ship available.


Hutchinson, 1976

Passage To MutinyWith all the mastery of narrative, attention to historical background, and vitality of plot that have made the author an international bestseller — and Richard Bolitho the best-known eighteenth-century naval hero created by a contemporary novelist — Alexander Kent presents his ninth Bolitho story. Chronologically in Bolitho’s career it follows Command a King’s Ship, which The Sunday Times acclaimed as ‘authentic, inspiring, well characterised and, finally, moving’.

In October 1789, Captain Richard Bolitho, in command of the frigate Tempest, arrives at Sydney, capital of the infant colony of New South Wales. The ship has been in commission for two years and has been employed on isolated patrols, searching out pirates and protecting the great spread of trading concessions and their vulnerable supply routes. Instead of being ordered to England as he hopes, Bolitho is despatched to the outwardly idyllic islands of the Great South Sea where yet another trading concession has been claimed for the Crown. He hears of the Bounty mutiny in the same waters, and is aware of the many temptations to his own men, and to himself.

Unknown to him, the uneasy peace across Europe is relentlessly drawing to an end, and when news of the French Revolution eventually reaches Bolitho’s lonely command he finds danger and death among the islands, and an involvement which is both personal and tragic.


William Heinemann, 1988

With All DespatchIt is spring 1792 and England is enjoying a troubled peace, with her old enemy France still in the grip of the Terror. In harbours and estuaries around the country, the fleet has been left to rot, and thousands of officers and seamen have been thrown unwanted on the beach. Even a frigate captain as famous as Richard Bolitho is forced to swallow his pride and visit the Admiralty daily to plead for a ship. As the clouds of war begin to rise once more over the Channel, he has no choice but to accept an appointment to the Nore, and the thankless task of recruiting for the fleet.

For Bolitho, still suffering the after-affects of a fever caught in the Great South Sea, and haunted by the death there of the woman he had loved, even so humble a command is a welcome distraction. With his small flotilla of three topsail cutters he sets out to search the coast for seamen who have fled the harsh discipline of His Majesty’s Navy for the more tempting rewards of smuggling. As he is soon to discover, his opponents are no ordinary freetraders, but the most brutal gang of smugglers England has known, the Brotherhood — a gang with men of influence behind them and a secret, sinister trade in human misery. Treason is never far distant, murder commonplace, and when a King’s ransom is in peril, Bolitho is ordered to proceed ‘with all despatch’ to recover it. Trapped by the treachery and cunning of an old adversary, and under enemy fire, he needs all the loyalty and courage of his three gallant cutters if he is to fulfill his mission.

A magnificent new adventure in the Richard Bolitho series, With All Despatch follows in sequence Passage to Mutiny and immediately precedes Form Line of Battle!