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Swashbucklers and Pulp-Style Adventures

For discussions of historical fiction. Threads that do not relate to historical fiction should be started in the Chat forum or elsewhere on the forum, depending on the topic.
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Compulsive Reader
Location: Israel

Postby Volgadon » Fri September 12th, 2008, 5:36 am

Interesting that nobody has mentiuoned Jeffery Farnol yet. He had some great opening lines, and his books are the classic definition of a swashbuckler. That said, give me Sabatini any day of the week.


Postby annis » Fri September 12th, 2008, 6:12 am

After our discussion on the old HFF about Charlemagne, Volgadon mentioned Harold Lamb, and I managed to track down a copy of his novel "Durandal". I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my venture into nostalgia territory- it was a real breath of fresh air to read a classic Boy's Own adventure written in a more innocent age (in historical fiction terms, anyway).

A young Crusader and his comrades are betrayed by the Byzantinian emperor and most are killed. Sir Hugh seeks redress, and has many adventures as he tries to avoid death at the hands of Imperial agents, including one which leaves him entrusted with Roland's legendary sword.
Honor and the comradeship of brothers-in-arms are of great importance, and though there's plenty of smiting and hewing, the violence is not dwelt on in graphic detail. There is romance, but again, it's of an idealised variety. It still had plenty of action and I loved it - and I did enjoy those line drawings- they were definitely cool!

If anyone else is interested in reading it, look for the 1931 ed., which has the two original stories, "Durandal' and "sea of Ravens" linked into one complete novel by means of some shorter tales.
"Durandal" and "Sea of Ravens" were reprinted in the '80s, but the additional bits are missing.

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Compulsive Reader
Location: Israel

Postby Volgadon » Fri September 12th, 2008, 3:11 pm

OOh, I forgot about Lamb. His Cossack stories are great swash.


Postby annis » Fri September 12th, 2008, 11:05 pm

Harold Lamb's Cossack stories are amongst those still in print, I think. Lamb obviously had an interest in Asia and Eurasia. Quite a bit of "Durandal" takes place amongst the conquering hordes of Genghis Khan. The hero, Sir Hugh, becomes one of Genghis Khan's warriors.

Has anyone read Louis L'Amour's "Walking Drum'? It's definitely written in the high adventure tradition. I hadn't heard of it until Margaret mentioned it on her Historical Novels info site, but it's a really good read, and particularly interesting in that it's set largely in the Muslim world. L'Amour intended it to be the first in a trilogy, but unfortunately died before he got to the next two books.

I feel that there was a bit of a revival in the epic swahbuckling genre in the '80s- I'm thinking of books like Michael Ennis' novel about Harald Hardrada, "Byzantium" and Gary Jennings' one about Marco Polo, "Journeyer".

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sat September 13th, 2008, 3:10 am

I read the Walking Drum. Lots of fun, and a typical undefeatable hero. I sure would hate to be one of his women, though -- they get picked up and dumped/killed off with such astonishing regularity it is really amazing.
The second time I tried to read it, all the author's philosophizing via the character wore a little thin. Maybe because I know so much about Islamic history now, and it was apparent that L'amour didn't. And the man was really a late-20th-century mindset in medieval fancy-dress. Completely skeptical and endlessly creative. I kept expecting him to invent the rifle.

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Location: London, UK

Postby sweetpotatoboy » Mon September 15th, 2008, 10:48 am

"annis" wrote:Has anyone read Louis L'Amour's "Walking Drum'?

I read Walking Drum earlier this year and, personally, found it to be disappointing. It wasn't without its fun elements but I found the plot and characterisation heavy-handed and implausible. I agree with MLE that the author's attempts to push philosophy and his own purported knowledge and learning through his protagonist were somewhat off-putting.

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Interest in HF: I can't answer this in 100 characters. Sorry.
Favorite HF book: Checkmate, the final novel in the Lymond series
Preferred HF: Literary novels. Late medieval and Renaissance.
Location: Catskill, New York, USA


Postby Margaret » Wed September 17th, 2008, 11:50 pm

Annis, our Queen of Swash and Buckle, has just reviewed another great one: Harold Lamb's 1931 classic, Durandal. The review is at http://www.HistoricalNovels.info/Durandal.html. Not only does it sound like a really fun novel that is also based on sound historical research, the 1981 and 1983 editions have pictures!

Terri, do tell us more about UTM.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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Kveto from Prague
Compulsive Reader
Location: Prague, Bohemia

Captain Alatriste

Postby Kveto from Prague » Fri September 26th, 2008, 9:41 pm

a spanish mate of mine knew i like historical fiction and bought me the captain Alatriste novels by perez-reverte. he said they are all the rage in spain at the moment. swashbuckle with a lot of 1620s Spanish politico thrown in.

highly recommended

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Location: Canada

Postby Spitfire » Sat September 27th, 2008, 2:45 am

I dont know if you would group the Horatio Hornblower series by CS Forester in this group, but I really enjoyed them.
Only the pure of heart can make good soup. - Beethoven


Postby annis » Sun September 28th, 2008, 5:27 am

Perez-Reverte took Alexandre Dumas as his inspiration and the "Captain Alatriste" novels are definitely in the swahbuckler category. There's a "Captain Alastriste" movie out as well, starring Viggo Mortensen as Alastriste. The original version is in Spanish ( the versatile Viggo speaks Spanish fluently), but there is an English language version available as well.

Spitfire, I'd say that CS Forester's "Hornblower" books were probably inspired by one of the nineteenth century authors of high adventure stories, Frederick Marryat, who wrote classics like "The Naval Officer" and "Mr Midshipman Easy".

Did someone mention Errol Flynn in relation to george MacDonald Fraser? I've always thought that EF would have made a perfect movie Flashman!

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