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About Nathan Peake

By Seth Hunter  

from Chapter 1 of  Book 1: The Time of Terror...

January, 1793,  aboard the 16-gun Nereus, off the Sussex coast of England...

A black night and cold, even for the first month of the year with a chill wind whipping across the Channel from France.   A night to be indoors by a good fire with a mug of hot punch, not gadding about off the Sussex Downs in support of the Revenue service, fighting a futile war against the smugglers. 
Nathaniel Peake, master and commander of the brig sloop Nereus bent his bum against the nearest of her sixteen guns with his coat collar turned up and his chin thrust deep into his muffler and cast an anxious eye at the famliar hump of Seaford Head off the larboard bow.  Even on such a dirty night, with a scrap of a moon dodging in and out of ragged clouds, he could make out the line of surf at its foot.   He had the sailor's healthy respect for a lee shore and in his mind's eye he saw the rocks where in times past he had clambered with his shrimp net when the tide was out...

It was a coast Nathan knew well.   Beyond the headland was Cuckmere Haven where he had first set foot in salt water, bawling not in fear, as he was later told, but for his nanny to loose her hold on him so that he might venture further.   Here, too, he had sailed his first boat and set a course for America till a slack wind and a stern tutor recalled him to his responsibilities.   And one summer's night when the household thought him safe in bed he had crouched at the top of the cliff and watched the smugglers landing contraband; the fleet of small boats in the haven and the long line of ponies and tub-men straggling along the Cuckmere with their illicit booty.

from Chapter 1 of Book 6 The Spoils of Conquest...

August 1798, aboard the 74-gun Vanguard, in the mouth of the Nile...

On the broad platform of the flagship's maintop, some ninety feet above the tranquil waters of the bay, two men were having a picnic.   They had made themselves a nest of folded sails, and were shielded from the full force of the sun by a scrap of canvas strung between the futtock shrouds.   Beween them, on a pewter platter, were the bones of a dismembered fowl and next to it, a bottle of hock, now empty.
This indulgence apart, they seemed an odd couple to find aboard a British ship-of-war, even given the exigencies of a service that was obliged to cast its net far and wide in the recruitment of personnel to fight the war against revolutionary France.  One wore a blue uniform jacket with a worn epaulette at the left shoulder indicating the status of a post captain, but it was a shabby, ill-fitting affair, and he wore grubby canvas ducks instead of breeches, he had not shaved for several days, and his naturally dark complexion was further blackened by several months' exposure to the Mediterranean sun.   Moreover, he appeared startlingly young for one so senior in rank, though in point of fact he had turned thirty on his last birthday, on the very day of the recent battle, and had been reflecting ever since on his approaching senility.

Between these two descriptions lie five years of war for Nathan and six of writing for his creator, during which the hero's journey takes him from the storms of the English Channel to the catacombs of Paris at the time of the Terror, to the Caribbean and New Orleans in the Tide of War, to the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean in The Price of Glory, to the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Adriatic in The Winds of Folly,  the coast of Barbary in The Flag of Freedom, and the Indian Ocean in The Spoils of Conquest.   

Nathan Peake combines the role of naval officer and secret agent; he spends almost as much time on land as at sea.   His background is part English, part American with a dash of French Huguenot blood, his father a retired English admiral and country gentleman, his mother an American living in London who is drawn to radical, even revolutionary politics.   But this was a great age for the unconventional, even - perhaps especially - in the Royal Navy.   His role models are real-life characters of the time such as Sir Sydney Smith, John Wesley Wright and Philippe d'Auvergne who operated both as naval officers and spies, and whose lives were at least as adventurous, and eccentric, as any fictional nautical hero.      (And you can find all three as real-life characters in the latest Nathan Peake adventure 'The Sea of Silence'.) 

You can read more about Nathan Peake and his erratic origins in About Seth Hunter for I suppose I have to admit to some responsibility for him, but sometimes, quite honestly, I don't know where he came from, and I'm damned if I know where he's going!



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