How Men of Quality Resolve Differences

How Men of Quality Resolve Differences
Poodle attacks - an ugly but inevitable part of any 17th C. British Civil War, "Oh! The Shame of it All!"

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Review: "Turncoat's Drum" by Nicholas Carter

While I do like to encourage anyone to write any fiction about the ECW, I find myself struggling to like Nicholas Carter or his writing.

There aren't loads of novels set in the English Civil War, altho there are a bunch around, including some famous authors like Daphne du Maurier.  A shame since it is such a fascinating clash - a classic struggle of those who think a single or few people governing is better than "the many" governing.  And in the end realizing that both are equally prone to fall into evil.

Yes, Charles I was a mediocre to bad king.  But what parliament replaced him with was even worse - chaos and then Bloody Cromwell.  A hard choice between two unappealing ends.

History aside, a novel set in this struggle should be rich with passionate people who truly care about which side they put their lives on the line for, and take advantage of the many interesting characters that populate the history of this war.  Yet Nicholas Carter leaves us wanting.

His style of  prose leads one to the conclusion that he himself thinks little of his characters - who are his own creation.  It's the words that he chooses, the traits he emphasizes.  Nearly none have redeeming qualities or are even balanced people.  Who Carter brings forward as characters are not representative of the war's participants, they are the mediocrities of the lot.  Small, mean, churlish and often described with in negative terms regarding their thoughts, character, physical traits, etc.

What kind of author dwells on the negative qualities of their own creations?

In any event, this book is a disheartening read.  You have little or no reason to like anyone, in even small ways.  While their commonality should be enjoyable (this isn't a story about Lords and Ladies) and something to relate to, one doesn't really have much interest.  Unlike life itself, which has a an interesting mix of likable and unlikable people, nearly none of Carter's characters are endearing.   As very few people have NO endearing qualities, one realizes after a time that this is Carter's view of humanity - contemptible.  Since he doesn't present them as worthy of acquaintance, neither should we find his characters worthy - we should pity them and their cruel creator.

I recommend you give this and all his books a pass, and read Rosemary Sutcliffe, Jacqueline Lawrence, or Daphne Du Maurier's books on the ECW instead.  They at least have love for their own people.


  1. Thank you for this review. I have had "Turncoat's Drum" on my list of books to think about getting . . . but your review has allowed me to scratch it off. Thanks.

    -- Jeff

  2. I think one should give this a go through the library first. You may have different feelings about it from me. I've tried twice to read it through, but couldn't make it. Defoe, Lawrence and Sutcliffe by contrast are quite engrossing for me.

  3. A good review. I vaguely know the author (we were in the Sealed Knot together) and I still can't bring myself to like these books, in fact, I hate them!. There doesn't seem to be any decent ECW or TYW fiction out there. If you want good Elizabethan/Armada campaign books the trilogy by Patricia Finney are excellent and she really does know her stuff(Firedrake's Eye, Unicorn's Blood and Gloriana's Torch).