SCOUNDREL Bernard Cornwell 1992
I have for a long time, personally believed, that Cornwell's sailing adventures are some of his best writing. Historical novels are my main interest in fiction and I am not normally that keen on modern period thrillers, I am happy to make an exception to the rule for Cornwell's five sailing tales, (and those of Sam Llewellyn), particularly as they are set in the decades of my own serious yachting days and therefore have a very familiar nostalgia. I must admit that I was genuinely disappointed when no further novels of the same ilk were forthcoming after the five were published.
I believe that Scoundrel is probably my favourite of Cornwell's five sailing thrillers.
The central character is Paul Shanahan, a shady arms dealer selling his wares to the IRA and Palestinian terrorist groups, who is, I believe, Cornwell's best and most memorable anti-hero. The story is a maze of twists and turns, is full of action, and has enough red herrings to keep the first time reader guessing until the end. The characters are all well developed and believable, and Cornwell uses his first hand knowledge of boats, sailing and his time in Belfast as a journalist to the best effect.
Every couple of years I take down my spare, battered, paperback copies of these five novels and they accompany me on holiday. I am not sure how many times I have re-read them in the past twenty years but despite knowing the stories intimately I never tire of them.