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"Should I Start With Sharpe?" Topic

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781 hits since 11 Mar 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Gone Fishing11 Mar 2019 5:39 p.m. PST

Hello Gents,

Still plugging my way through the Hornblower series and am finding I'd like to move on to what happened on land. I would love to find some good fiction, preferably from a British point of view, that will help introduce me to the era.

The Sharpe series is probably the easiest place to start, I know. The only niggle is I have mixed feelings about Cornwell I've read several of his Medieval novels (the ones set during the HYW), and while I liked them, I guess, they didn't exactly set my world on fire. So, while I'm not writing off the Sharpes series at all, are there any others I might take a look at?

Death to the French! (Gotta love that title!) by Forester sounds like it would be perfect, but seems to get rather cool reviews.

Then there are the classics: War and Peace, The Count of Monte Cristo, Charterhouse, etc., but I'm afraid these might be a little heavy, both literally and figuratively, for what I'm looking for. Some of this reading may happen on a Hawaiian beach, you understand…

I know, I know, it should probably be Sharpe, but…any other suggestions?

Many thanks!

Ed von HesseFedora Supporting Member of TMP11 Mar 2019 6:00 p.m. PST

Try Adrian Goldsworthy link

or Peter Youds. link

. Both better than Sharpe.

Ed von HesseFedora Supporting Member of TMP11 Mar 2019 6:01 p.m. PST

Or Martin McDowell


Ed von HesseFedora Supporting Member of TMP11 Mar 2019 6:02 p.m. PST

To be honest, though, I really enjoyed the first Sharpe novel published, Sharpe's Eagle.

Dynaman878911 Mar 2019 6:08 p.m. PST

Pick up one of the Sharpe novels, after you read one you have read them all – and I read and enjoyed most of them so that is not a negative as such but the novels are repetitive. Amazon almost certainly has a kindle teaser for each one so you can read a bit before deciding to purchase or not.

d88mm1940 Supporting Member of TMP11 Mar 2019 7:38 p.m. PST

A nice sideways view of the Sharpe's series is to read the 2 volume series "The Sharpe Companion", by Mark Adkin.
There is detailed information on uniforms, units, maps, summaries of each novel and where in history they fit in.
Every bit if info you could want.

Irish Marine Supporting Member of TMP11 Mar 2019 7:42 p.m. PST

I love the Sharpe novels I probably read the whole series about every 18 months I never get tired of them. Plus they got me to game Napoleonics using Sharpe Practice.

Arteis0211 Mar 2019 8:26 p.m. PST

I'm a Sharpe fan. I've read lots of Napoleonic novels by other authors. Some are written by guys who obviously know more about the period than Cornwell, but don't have his ability to tell a story or to develop such wonderfully eccentric characters. And others are written as great fiction, but within a few pages you realise they have no idea about the period.

Cornwell, IMHO, gets the mix between fact and fiction, between story and history, just right.

My Napoleonic gaming started around Sharpe: link

Here are my Sharpes and Harpers in two scales!


Footslogger12 Mar 2019 2:07 a.m. PST

A second shout for Goldsworthy's heroes of the 106th Foot.

Arcane Steve Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2019 5:37 a.m. PST

I am a great fan of the Sharpe series and I have just started re reading the series, this time in Historical chronological order, rather than the order in which they were written. I actually cheered at the end of Sharpes Tiger – brilliant stuff!

I would also give a shout out for the Peter Youds 'Ties of Blood' series. We have just played out a scenario based on the action at Foz d'Arouce as described in Peters novel, the Hardest fight. Unfortunately, in our battle, one of the characters came to a sticky end. I've posted the link to battle report up on TMP but here it is again, if you are interested;



Gone Fishing12 Mar 2019 6:29 a.m. PST

Well, I must say that reading most of your comments on Sharpe has made me give myself a good slap, accompanied by a snarled order to suck it up, man, and just give them a try!

Now, because I'm more interested in his European escapades at this point, I might give the Indian stuff a miss (having no self control whatsoever, I don't want to get lured into another project!), so where would you all recommend I begin? Sharpe's Eagle seems to be wildly popular should I start there?

I'll also take a look a Youds and Goldsworthy. Greatly appreciate the tips! Arteis, you Sharpe's characters look splendid. The painting fingers start quivering just looking at them! And Steve, that table is quite magnificent; a worthy setting for mighty deeds!

Irish Marine Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2019 6:31 a.m. PST

Like any story start at the beginning; Sharpe's Rifles. It sets up all the characters.

Korvessa12 Mar 2019 7:02 a.m. PST

For the French point of view.
I have an ancient book called "The Grenadier – Story of The Empire""
Older brother picked it up at a library sale about 50 years ago. I think it was written in early 1900s.

Read it as a pre-teen. Lead to a life long interest in Marshal Lannes. Some errors (imperial guard cuirassiers, dragoons with cuirasses – but maybe those were translator errors) – but a fun read for me.

Garde de Paris Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2019 7:34 a.m. PST

As a youngster, I enjoyed "Rifleman Dodd" by C S Forester, about a British rifleman – may have been 95th – caught behind the advance of the French. He worked to disrupt them, eventually setting fire to bridging equipment in Portugal to prevent a surprise attack on the lines of Torres Vedras. Wonderful irony, and the French suddenly decided to pull our of Portugal, and burn the bride themselves!

Also, there is "The Gun," again by Forester. Spanish guerrillas organizing a small army around an ancient 18pounder hidden away by retreating Spanish armies.


Dave Jackson Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2019 7:45 a.m. PST

Second those mentioned, but would also recommend "7 men of Gascony" by RF Delderfield, following a company of French soldiers during the Napoleonic wars.

"The Adventures of Brigadier Gerard", Arthur Conan Doyle

"The Battle" Patrick Rambaud

(When some one mentions "Rifleman Dodd", they should also read "Brown on Resolution", lone survivor from a British cruiser in WWI, stranded on Resolution Island, delays a German cruiser long enough…well….I won't finish it for you!)

GurKhan12 Mar 2019 10:11 a.m. PST

Another vote for Brigadier Gerard, available at Gutenberg:

BillyNM12 Mar 2019 11:31 a.m. PST

I don't know why Forester's 'Death to the French!' gets cool reviews – I enjoyed it and found it much more credible than any Sharpe. To be fair I quite liked 'Sharpe's Fury but it's over-egged like all Cornwell's stories, I think he writes great prose but the characters are all 1-dimensional stereotypes.

Huscarle12 Mar 2019 12:31 p.m. PST

Allan Mallinson's "A Close Run Thing"

Gone Fishing12 Mar 2019 1:06 p.m. PST

More great advice. Thank you all!

Billy, those reviews have me scratching my head also. I'm loving Hornblower (this is actually my second time through the series). Though of course, just because an author nails one book, or series, doesn't mean he will have a success with another. But still…

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2019 1:30 p.m. PST

My advice regarding the Sharpe novels is to read some of the first nine published. After that they start to get a bit 'same-y'!

The first eight(?) were written in chronological order. Subsequent books were set earlier or later or in gaps in the original sequence.

Trajanus12 Mar 2019 2:55 p.m. PST

I really enjoyed "A Close Run Thing" but then Mallinson shifted away from the Napoleonic Wars and I lost interest.

Are there any of his other books that are based in the Napoleonic Europe?

Sir Able Brush Supporting Member of TMP19 Mar 2019 2:34 p.m. PST

Mallinson is wonderfully well written – but the stories stray outside the Napoleonic wars

dibble Supporting Member of TMP19 Mar 2019 5:45 p.m. PST

A good un' Dave! let's not forget Seven Men of Gascony, by R.F.Delderfield

Paul :)

ConnaughtRanger20 Mar 2019 3:42 a.m. PST

Just finished Delderfield's "Too Few For Drums" – a story of a bunch of British stragglers cut off and trying to rejoin during the retreat to the Lines of Torres Vedras.
Richard Howard's six "Bonaparte's ….." novels are also a good read – albeit from a French perspective. They have all just been released on Kindle.

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