The French called it La Forteresse Maudite, the Cursed Fortress. Louisbourg stood at the mouth of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, massive and impregnable, a permanent provocation to the British colonies. It was Canada’s first line of defence, guarding the approaches to Quebec, from where all New France lay open to invasion. It had to fall before a British fleet could be sent up the St. Lawrence. Otherwise, there would be no resupply and no line of retreat; Canada would become the graveyard of George II’s navy. A failed attempt on Louisbourg in 1757 had only stiffened the government’s resolve; the Cursed Fortress must fall in 1758. Captain Carlisle’s frigate joins the blockade of Louisbourg before winter’s icy grip has eased. Battling fog, hail, rain, frost and snow, suffering scurvy and fevers, and with a constant worry about the wife he left behind in Virginia, Carlisle will face his greatest test of leadership and character yet. The Cursed Fortress is the fifth of the Carlisle & Holbrooke naval adventures. The series follows the two men through the Seven Years War and into the period of turbulent relations between Britain and her American colonies in the 1760s.
Chris Durbin grew up in the seaside town of Porthcawl in South Wales. His first experience of sailing was as a sea cadet in the treacherous tideway of the Bristol Channel, and at the age of sixteen, he spent a week in a topsail schooner in the Southwest Approaches. He was a crew member on the Porthcawl lifeboat before joining the navy.
Chris spent twenty-four years as a warfare officer in the Royal Navy, serving in all classes of ship from aircraft carriers through destroyers and frigates to the smallest minesweepers. He took part in operational campaigns in the Falkland Islands, the Middle East and the Adriatic. As a personnel exchange officer, he spent two years teaching tactics at a US Navy training centre in San Diego.
On his retirement from the Royal Navy, Chris joined a large American company and spent eighteen years in the aerospace, defence and security industry, including two years on the design team for the Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers.
Chris is a graduate of the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth, the British Army Command and Staff College, the United States Navy War College (where he gained a postgraduate diploma in national security decision-making) and Cambridge University (where he was awarded an MPhil in International Relations).
With a lifelong interest in naval history and a long-standing ambition to write historical fiction, Chris has embarked upon creating the Carlisle & Holbrooke series, in which a colonial Virginian commands a British navy frigate during the middle years of the eighteenth century.
The series will follow its principal characters through the Seven Years War and into the period of turbulent relations between Britain and her American Colonies in the 1760s. They’ll negotiate some thought-provoking loyalty issues when British policy and colonial restlessness lead inexorably to the American Revolution.
Chris now lives on the south coast of England, surrounded by hundreds of years of naval history. His three children are all busy growing their own families and careers while Chris and his wife (US Navy, retired) of thirty-seven years enjoy sailing their classic dayboat.
I have read many of the various Age of Fighting Sail series in their totality and look forward to the continuing saga of Capts Carlisle and Holbrooke. Mr. Durbin has completely drawn me in to this world. I really appreciate his developing of characters on all decks as well as his delving into the thought processes and calculations of his actors, even some that only pass briefly through the story. The tale doesn't get excessively bogged down in the minutiae the long passages at sea or en route to a cutting out. The action is brief but exciting and the maneuvoring descriptions and the maps (the maps are a very welcome; I have frequently lamented the lack of maps/charts while trying to imagine the chase and battle tactics.) really help me to follow the action better than my experience with most other series.
Finally, the 7 Years War time period is decades earlier than all the others I have read, and the Royal Navy is here only beginning to develop into the maritime/naval jugernaut it already was during the late 18th and early 19th height of the Age of Fighting Sail, when most of the other series occur. It's been interesting to see the early phases of development of many later traditions and standards of the service which are taken for granted (signalling, for example) or otherwise well established in the later period. Additionally, the building of the series around two different talented Captains will allow for more stories (I hope), and I particularly am appreciative of the calculations and contemplations of both Captains to overcome their usually stigmatized backgrounds and lack of patronage in a system built around 'who you know', with talent and initiative, and while building their own band of loyal followers.
If you enjoy Historical Fiction in the Age of Fighting Sail, come on cruise with Captains Carlisle and Holbrooke!
This is a worthy successor to Hornblower novels for those who crave an authentic tale of naval action and are willing to go further back than the Napoleonic era where most of the literature is set. Details of ship handling and life on board seem word perfect, and since the author sticks closely to the history the plot is pretty much how it happened so we can’t complain events seem unlikely. Furthermore, the story unreels at an even pace that allows blow by blow treatment of the battles almost like C S Forester. This is definitely the best of the series so far. I’m looking forward to volume 6.
Sometimes, as a reader, you want to know exactly what you are going to get when you invest the time - a good four to eight hours of your life - into a book. Chris Durbin's Holbrooke and Carlisle naval adventures, set during the Seven Years' War, do exactly that: they provide solid, clear, well-crafted stories of derring-do backed up by the author's own extensive nautical knowledge (he served in the Navy himself for many years). Now into his fifth novel, Durbin's writing has achieved a wonderful clarity, like clear water, while creating characters that are almost as clear and wholesome as his writing. For some, this might seem like an indictment but for me, and I suspect many other readers, it is a welcome relief. Thank you, Mr Durbin. May Holbrooke and Carlisle sail on to further horizons.
Another very fine installment in the Carlisle & Holbrooke Series
To have ordered a ship from the Jamaica Station to Nova Scotia in winter was just cold. It was a neat device to get Carlisle’s wife to Williamsburg though and the action in the Louisbourg campaign was compelling.
As always the story was well researched and well written. Carlisle’s self analysis and level of self awareness is remarkable. The final scene is quite funny.
History comes alive in Chris Durbin's series of the Carlisle and Holbrooke maritime adventures. One has to respect the complications of war at sea with sails, wind, weather, tides and currents. These heroes are courageous and smart. Learning about the various roll each seaman contributes to the effort has been an education for this reader and the glossary has been extremely helpful.
As a big fan of naval historical fiction, I latch onto any good series and writer and devour the books when I find them Chris Durbin has wonderful credentials for interpreting, fuctionalizing. And writing about seafaring adventures in the age of sail. I'm ready for number 6 (7, 8, etc .) in the Carlisle series.
Having spent 40 odd years in aviation I have a perverse fascination with sail and Chris Durbin writes so well that I can see the action and it all feels correct. Carlisle and Holbrooke are developing well as characters and I sense a soft spot for young Whittle coming along. Looking forward to the next one Chris.
This is a story of Captain Carlisle’s and his frigate, HMS Medina’s, role in the British successful attack on The Fortress of Louisbourg in 1758. The fort, located in what is today Nova Scotia, was key to the French hold on New France. Before the British could attempt its attack on Quebec, it had to remove the French from the fortress.
Thoroughly enjoy the blend of history with the protagonist’s story. The interplay within the crew is particularly enlightening. I can see the years on Naval service in the interplay amongst key members of the crew.
Another thrilling page turner from Chris Durbin. Excellent stuff, exciting,dramatic and filled with believable characters. The tie in with the real historical facts at the end he Ps to put it in perspective.
In the third book of his "Carlisle and Holbrooke" series of naval fiction novels, Jamaica Station, Chris Durbin let the junior of the pair, George Holbrooke, make use of the personal and professional growth in which he'd been encouraged by his captain, Edward Carlisle. In the subsequent two volumes, Durbin has events take their course and separate the pair, as he spent book #4 on Holbrooke and now returns to Carlisle in #5, The Cursed Fortress.
Fully recovered from his injuries, Carlisle is sent north from Jamaica to rendezvous with British naval forces fighting the French on the northern end of the 13 colonies and into what will become Canada. The fearsome Louisberg fortress guards the St. Lawrence seaway and prevents seaborne resupply of soldiers fighting along what is in our day the US-Canadian border. French forces, allied with local native tribes, make a successful land-only siege of Louisberg difficult. Only if the Royal Navy can keep French supply and troopships from landing can Louisberg be taken, and the damp foggy cold of late spring will make that a sizable task.
Fortunately, Edward Carlisle is a first-rate strategist as well as fighting sea-captain, so he and the crew of the Medina should be able to handle the job.
Because of his orders and the need for the on-station fleet to to resupply -- as well as return to seaworthiness after surviving the winter -- Medina is the only ship which can both scout the unfamiliar waters, observe the French military positions and harass French shipping. Durbin ably spins out Carlisle's thinking through his different options, highlighting both how he sees many of the obstacles and benefits of different courses of action and how he will react as conditions change. He outlines Carlisle's initial mistrust and eventual embrace of his new first lieutenant and the internal back-and-forth that drives those moves. We can see clear distinction between his heroes: Holbrooke has an intuition that leads him to dare the risky yet correct bold stroke, while Carlisle swiftly plans and calculates before committing himself to the move that has the best chance of succeeding. Although we certainly want some stories with our heroes back together, Durbin gives himself the leeway to use several more battles from the Seven Years War as his backdrop by splitting them up and allows for several more novels set within that shorter time frame.
Some sections of the story need some more showing than telling -- Carlisle's reunion with his estranged father and brother is described more than related, and might have been stronger if we saw it unspool rather than hear Carlisle's post-meeting impressions. But Cursed Fortress puts another strong entry into this series and allows it fair winds as it navigates the crowded field of sail-navy fiction.
The latest in this series doesn’t disappoint, the author manages to place his character in the known history seamlessly and it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable read. Alongside the gunpowder and smoke you feel sympathy for the personal points of the story