Cover image for A fine boy for killing
A fine boy for killing
Needle, Jan.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Ithaca, N.Y. : McBooks Press, 2000.

Physical Description:
320 pages ; 22 cm.
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X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Under sealed orders for a long, arduous voyage, Captain Daniel Swift dispenses shipboard law with an iron fist to forge an efficient crew from a ragged group of unwilling, inexperienced "volunteers."

Author Notes

Jan Needle , a native of Portsmouth, England, has had a lifelong interest in naval history. He is the author of four acclaimed novels under the pseudonym Frank Kippax, and also has a highly successful career as a TV scriptwriter and, under his own name, as a writer of award-winning children's fiction.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

A promising first installment in a series of historical sea adventures by British writer Needle introduces readers to 14-year-old officer William Bentley and life aboard the ill-fated frigate Welfare during the Napoleonic Wars. The ship is helmed by Daniel Swift, a notoriously ruthless captain who instructs young BentleyDhis nephew and favoriteDin the best ways to fill the ship's complement of sailors. Forced pressing into service is illegal, but in an attempt to please his uncle, Bentley adds two crewmen through trickery and kidnapping; a young farm boy named Thomas Fox and a smuggler named Jesse Broad. Broad and Fox form a relationship that parallels Swift and Bentley's as Broad assumes a quiet role of leadership among the increasingly unhappy crew. The abusive atmosphere aboard the Welfare is thick and immediate, as is the struggle for power over the ship. Swift exerts his power strategically and sadistically, while Bentley, whose youth makes his attempts at discipline ineffectual, tries to justify his uncle's increasingly cruel actions. Floggings occur daily for the slightest offenses, and living quarters are squalid. When the inevitable mutiny occurs, it is a spontaneous eruption, liberating the crew from royal command but leaving them vulnerable to anarchic elements within their ranks. Bentley, the only officer left on board, bears witness to the mutiny's aftermath, completing a personal transformation that makes the book a bildungsroman as well as a sea story. Such tales can easily fall prey to convention, but in Needle's hands the Welfare comes alive with rich, compelling characters and vivid imagery. There are no white knights here and no one-dimensional villains; as much as one hates Swift, he is a refreshingly unpredictable character in an invigorating story. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved