Note: I published this under the first omnibus as well. I could not bear that it has a 1-star rating (the reviewer had not yet read the book).
I find it impossible to review Distant Gunfire as a stand alone volume of sea stories. The Nathaniel Drinkwater series is an extraordinary story broken into fourteen volumes, with two short stories, and completed with Richard Woodman's parting comments, "On Nathaniel Drinkwater: A valedictory essay".
The Nathaniel Drinkwater saga is the best seafaring series I have encountered. The author, Richard Woodman, is a seafarer first and an author second who has had a lifelong love of history, especially naval history. These attributes of the author bring an authenticity to the plot events, shipboard interactions and tensions, and ever present challenges of weather and tide. Above all, however, this is the biography of one British seaman in particular, the fictional Nathaniel Drinkwater. In his closing essay Woodman describes Drinkwater beautifully as, "a modest, unsung mover and shaker" from a "respectable" rather than from a genteel, or aristocratic background. Nothing comes easily for him. He is loyal, kind, highly responsible, restless, intuitive, energetic, and forever torn between his love for the sea and love for his wife and family.
I feel quite sad that I have finished this story. It has not, however, been a depressing story--as many of the seafaring stories are. It is set during wartime; there are dear friends lost along the way, but they are not forgotten. Drinkwater takes chances on people. His home gradually includes a cook who is the wife of his coxswain, a handyman who lost both legs in action, and others. Out of compassion he takes on a desperate former lieutenant when has the opportunity. He is an estimable man. He loves his wife though they don't really know each other very well until they've been married thirty years.
Nathaniel Drinkwater is fictional, but he is real. I am glad to have shared his journey.