For devotees of James L. Nelson, heir apparent to Patrick O’Brian’s
sea-going fiction legacy, there is good news online. Several of his stories, some unpublished in print, are available on his site, www.jameslnelson.com. One of the stories is a riveting account of the burning of the city of Falmouth (now Portland), Maine. As Nelson explains on his site, some stories that he writes that may have been originally intended for insertion into a novel, in the end don’t quite fit. Such it is with the account of the attack on Falmouth, which was originally slated for inclusion in The Continental Risque, one of the Revolution at Sea trilogy.
Nelson creates a cast of fictional characters whose lives are made to intertwine in historic events, whether the American Revolution or the War of Spanish Succession. In his chapter, The Burning of Falmouth (on his site via the Cutting Room Floor button) one reads about a duty-bound British admiral who decides to bombard and burn the city with the use of his fleet’s cannon. We are made aware, as the fleet closes on Casco Bay from sea, of Adm. Samuel Graves’ inner torment: He is both thrilled and appalled at the power he has over the unsuspecting, helpless Maine citizens. After giving the people a few hours’ warning, Graves, who at first cannot decide whether he is a sensitive, reasonable admiral who must follow orders or a possible coward, eventually resolves to unleash a torrent of shot. The city burns to the ground.
A sampling of his forthcoming book The Pirate Round, book three of his Brethren of the Coast series, which is set in late 17th-, early 18th-century America, will be published online soon, according to Nelson.