I always look for new books to read. I’m a fan of historical fiction and am on the constant lookout for the next stand alone or series that I can sink my teeth into. My favorite series over the last fifteen years has been by a little known author named Dewey Lambdin. The series is about a man named Alan Lewrie who starts out in the first book as a seventeen year old midshipman and moves (so far) through fifteen plus years of his life to a position of post-captain of a frigate in the English navy during the years of the American Revolution and through the Napoleonic Wars.
The larger story of this man’s life is epic. Each individual book is unique yet adds depth of character to Alan mine-arse-on-a-band-box Lewrie. And Lewrie is an imperfect soul with a temper for violence and lack of skill in decision-making when it comes to women and relationships. He makes mistakes and pays for them. He’s a rake. He does good sometimes selfishly, sometimes for profit, and sometimes without knowing it. And sometimes he is very, very bad. But he is always like-able – especially because of these character flaws. I have followed him over 18 books, one more or less a year per year, every year of both mine and his life. It is like reading one long novel about one human being whose life is painted large on canvas. It helps if you like nautical, bawdy (there is sex and violence a-plenty), funny, adventure stories.
I found the series browsing through the new mass market paperbacks in a Barnes & Noble, looking for something good to read. The first book, The King’s Coat grabbed me from the opening scene when Alan’s father catches him in bed with his step sister, steals his inheritance and railroads him into the navy. I’ve loved every minute of each book ever since.
Two novels especially stand out (some in the series are better than others but all add in some grand way to the larger story line). One, Havoc’s Sword spends the first third of the book detailing a duel with pistols in which Lewrie is one of the duelists seconds. It is a wonderful piece of writing and takes place all on dry land. Another is a The King’s Captain in which the last half of the book takes place at anchor during the mutinies at Spithead and Nore – something I knew nothing about and found absolutely fascinating.
And here’s the coolest part. We had the same agent once a long time ago for a short period of time (about two years). I’ve corresponded with him ever since and last year he wrote a blurb for my novel. He writes all correspondence on a typewriter and has replied to every letter I’ve sent. My dad reads his books too. Every February (when the next book generally comes out) we race to see who will find it on the shelves of a bookstore first. This is as it should be.
My son is already asking when he gets to start reading them. He’s going to have to wait.
They wrote me letters.
My friend Leslie handed me a stuffed white envelope filled with them. They run from quarter page to full-page, are written in black pen and blue, with some in pencil. Some say Dear Joseph and some say Dear Joe, some Mr. Lunievicz and some Joseph Lunievicz. They all thank me for coming to their class so I’ll only share a few over the next couple of posts. I hope you find them as fascinating and wonderful as I do.
I really like the first chapter you wrote and with more understanding of the reason why you wrote this book I can say that I understand the haunted feeling you went through. I’ve known what you meant by vision it’s day dreaming of the haunted feeling. I want to know how you finished your book. I’ve only wrote so short of my small moment but I’ve only been speaking English for six year. I’m an Arabian girl. I want to make sure that one day I can be as creative as you are. And write abou the war in the Arabian war. Thank you. I hope I get to read your book some day.
Thank you:- K.
I told them about my vision of a 72-year-old Cid Wymann (protagonist of Open Wounds) on the roof of the Chelsea hotel dueling with sharps with a man whose face I couldn’t see – the idea which consciously began the Cid Wymann story. I am always amazed at what people hear when I talk – what sticks with them as important. I love this letter.
Dear Joseph Lunievicz,
Thank you so much for coming to our school! I had a lot of fun with the read aloud and fun facts of fencing. I am a writer as well, and finally I know how to actually publish a book! I get compositions notebooks and write many stories. My friends G. and J. are me “editors” and they write stories in notebooks as well. Thank you, so much for coming to our school and I hope you come again.
Your Truly, R.
PS I suck at spelling too.
Okay. So I told them all how bad at spelling I am and at least one student heard that and took heart that she could be a writer in spite of being spelling-challenged. She’s even got an editorial pack already in place. I can’t wait to read one of her stories.
I thank you for coming to 161 and telling us a little about your life and your book “Open Wounds”. I’m going to read that when I’m done reading my “Vampire Prince” so I thank you for coming and may god Bless you.
Stick came out today, a new novel by Andrew Smith, the author of Ghost Medicine, In the Path of Falling Objects, and The Marbury Lens. These are three of my favorite books, each for different reasons but more than anything they are three books about the relationships young men have with each other, and more specifically, brothers. Stick is similar in that it explores this territory, Andrew Smith territory, but it is, like each of Andrew’s other books, different.
Synopsis from Amazon: Fourteen-year-old Stark McClellan (nicknamed Stick because he’s tall and thin) is bullied for being “deformed” – he was born with only one ear. His older brother Bosten is always there to defend Stick. But the boys can’t defend one another from their abusive parents. When Stick realizes Bosten is gay, he knows that to survive his father’s anger, Bosten must leave home. Stick has to find his brother, or he will never feel whole again. In his search, he will encounter good people, bad people, and people who are simply indifferent to kids from the wrong side of the tracks. But he never loses hope of finding love – and his brother.
This is a subtle book beautifully written, sensitive, and innocent. But what I like more than anything are two things Andrew does: 1) His uncanny ability to write from the perspective of fourteen-year-old Stick. It is his trademark as a writer – to be able to get inside the heads of these protagonists. There are no wrong turns in the story because Stick does what he needs to – nothing more and nothing less. This is an incredible feat of writing. The second thing that Andrew does that makes him stand out is write beautiful prose. Some writers write pretty words but you notice them because they write that way for the sake of writing that way. Andrew crafts every sentence and every sentence sings as part of a larger tapestry that is his novel. His prose seems effortless and his narrative flows without a hitch because of it. And this is not just the way he writes Stick’s thoughts, jumbled up sometimes and filled with holes another as if the words bang around inside and can’t exit – an ingenious technique he uses to show how Stick hears and perceives the world.
Here’s one of my favorites: “And none of what happened to us would ever make sense if I didn’t let the biggest monsters that swarm in my head come up and reveal their teeth there is no love in our house only rules.” When you read the context for this it will blow you away. In the land of realistic fiction for young adults, Andrew Smith is king.
Here’s an email from a young man, 15, who read Open Wounds.
Not sure if you remember me, but I met you at the Voracious Reader in Larchmont, New York. You told me to write to you how I enjoyed the book, so here it goes…
Open Wounds was an unbelievable, easy read that I couldn’t put down. The path of Cid’s fencing kind of reminded me of mine which is why I think I enjoyed it so much. I really enjoyed how Siggy and Tomic re-entered the book. I was really upset when they both left Cid in the beginning of the book. I thought the whole plot was really interesting and I really liked the characters in the book. I thought Cid’s fencing coach was a really interesting character because of his style of teaching. I also loved reading about how Cid and Lefty’s relationship grew in the book. Plus, Lefty’s relationship with Cid’s mom was a good twist. Overall, this book made me want to keep fencing and a good read during the summer.
Collin, I did remember you and Dude, you made my day. Thanks for the kinds words about my book and let’s keep in touch.