Of all the fictional characters in literature, only a handful have been compelling enough to be appropriated directly into stories by writers other than their original creators. Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes is one such character. C. S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower is another. This work by C. Northcote Parkinson is just such a continuation story, but with a twist. Instead of an historical novel, Parkinson writes the book as if it were an actual biography complete with illustrated plates, footnote citations to other (probably fictional) sources, and extended quotes from letters supposedly written by the characters. The Hornblower enthusiast will appreciate the few extra episodes wedged into the chronology created by the original author, as well as a detailed account of Hornblower's ancestry, boyhood, and forty years of life after the period of active service originally chronicled by Forester. But the purist might take exception to one or two new characters that Parkinson takes the liberty of introducing. Parkinson is also quite knowledgeable about the period, and does an excellent job of framing a life such as Hornblower's within the society (both civilian and naval) in which the character is supposed to have lived.
Although written as a serious biography, the author is clearly a Hornblower fan having a bit of fun as his retirement project. Parkinson is best known as the originator of "Parkinson's Law" (work expands to occupy available time) and the author of a popular series of humorous but pointed commentaries on management practices written in the 1950's and 1960's. In these books, he often feigns being a sociologist discovering universal principles of human behavior. So it is no surprise that he should follow up with this story in which he pretends to be an historian researching an actual person. The same tongue in cheek humor is at work.