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Thieves of Mercy: A Novel of the Civil War at Sea Hardcover – Mar 31 2005

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 463 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Canada / Fiction (March 31 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060199709
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060199708
  • Product Dimensions: 23.5 x 16.4 x 3.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 762 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #206,407 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

If not quite up to the standard of his best naval historicals, Nelson's second nautical adventure set during the Civil War (after 2003's Glory in the Name) offers a rousing plot and seafaring detail as authentic as any in the Hornblower or Aubrey/Maturin books. In Memphis in the spring of 1862, while Confederate Lt. Samuel Bowater awaits his new command (of an ironclad under construction), he attends to such matters as ghostwriting a dime novel, using the plot of Hamlet, for "Mississippi" Mike Sullivan, captain of the ram General Page, and later taking Sullivan's side when the captain thinks a troupe of Shakespearean actors has plagiarized his work. Meanwhile, Bowater's lover, Wendy Atkins, is trying to escape Norfolk, Va., before the city falls to the Yankees. In this effort, she has the help of her free-spirited Aunt Molly and the hindrance of Union Lt. Roger Newcomb. After making their way out of burning Norfolk, Wendy and Molly have an improbable if diverting meeting with Abraham Lincoln. Civil War buffs, particularly Southern sympathizers, will be well pleased.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“[Nelson] offers a rousing plot and seafaring detail as authentic as any in the Hornblower or Aubrey/Maturin books.” (—Publishers Weekly on Thieves of Mercy)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
His Best Yet!!! May 1 2005
By John R. Linnell - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the sequel to "Glory in the Name," James Nelson reintroduces us to Lt. Samuel Bowater of the Confederate Navy and his Chief Engineer, Hiernoymus Taylor. Bowater has not had the best of times since resigning his commission in the US Navy and joining the Navy of the Confederacy. His first two commands have been shot out from under him. As this story commences, he is about to put the torch to his third command, the ironclad Tennessee, which lies unfinished in a Memphis shipyard. She must not be allowed to fall into the hands of the advancing Yankees and thus she is sacrificed.

As this is happening, his lover, Wendy Atkins has listened long enough to the US guns advancing on Portsmouth, Va. and has decided to leave the comfort and relative safey of her Aunt Molly's home to find Samuel. She is halted in this hasty endeavor by her aunt who points out the dangers involved in her action as well as her lack of experience and understanding of such matters As she dissolves in tears at the realization of the futility of her quest, Wendy hears her aunt say, "We'll be alright. We'll find your sailor boy." WE? "We" indeed!

Thus begins the parallel stories of the travels and travails of Samuel and Wendy. Either story is probably sufficient for a novel, but placed together, Nelson shows that he is still the master of the art of story telling. Historical accuracy and technical precision are things we have come to expect from his writing. However, all of that is for naught without the talent to spin a yarn and in this one the spinning is pure gold.

We also meet a new and unforgettable character early on. As Nelson introduces him, "It was a month before the burning of the Tennessee and ten hours after he met the man, that Samuel Bowater first saw someone smash a chair over Mississipi Mike Sullivan's head."

Self described as "the hardest drivin, hardest drinkin, most dangerous son of a whore riverboat man on the Western Waters," Sullivan is the captain of the sidewheel ram, General Page, one of the odd lot of vessels that make up The River Defense Fleet. In need of passage to Memphis for his men and himself to take command of his ironclad, Bowater accepts Sullivan's offer to ferry them there.

This is the first of many adventures that they share, but in many respects they cannot hold a candle to the perils that Wendy and Molly encounter. Trust me, there is enough suspense, danger and adventure in these stories to satisy even the most jaded of readers.

Nelson has written numerous engaging stories of The Pirate Round and The Revolutionary War. I believe his Civil War novels are the best of a very good lot.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The Maine Patrick O'Brian? Dec 30 2005
By Marjorie Gilbert - Published on
Format: Hardcover
As a fan of anything Horatio Hornblower, Patrick O'Brian, and Bernard Cornwell (especially the Sharpe novels), I was delighted when I learned that there was a fellow Maine writer who was described as being the Maine Patrick O'Brian.

I was not disappointed.

The battle scenes in Thieves of Mercy were intense. It was easy to be transported in the treacherous engine room of the General Page, or on the hurricane deck, waiting in horrified anticipation for the Yankee ram to surge into the crippled boat's side.

This book makes me want to read more of the Nelson's Civil War series, and hope that more volumes will follow.

Marjorie Gilbert

Author of "The Return"

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Great read! June 1 2005
By Aaron Lipka - Published on
Format: Hardcover
James L. Nelson does it again. His Civil War at sea novels are a brilliant change of pace from all of the land-based Civil War books you might pick up. Instead, Nelson delves into an aspect of the war which receives little attention, since the Union naval forces were so overwhelming that at first glance one might not suspect much opportunity for drama. After all, Nelson's earlier experience has dealt with the earlier --and far more romantic-- notion surrounding ships of sail. Why change a good thing?

But Thieves of Mercy finds more than ample space for drama on the water, on two fronts; the Mississippi River, and Hampton Roads, VA. I was constantly surprised by historical fact interwoven with the narrative, which added a very satisfying dash to an already intense novel. Nelson can write a naval battle to surpass all others, and particularly sparkling are his descriptions of action in the boiler rooms which power most of his character's ships. Without realizing it, I learned alot about how sailors handled warfare at sea during that era. I was too busy turning pages to reflect on this until his historical note.

I subtract a star only because I ended up craving a larger view of several stategic situations which I didn't initally grasp. the CSS Virginia figures largely into the plot, but I wasn't precisely able to understand its importance to the war at large, particularly as a obstacle to the 1862 Peninsular Campaign. If anything, this will prompt me to read Nelson's nonfiction account, Reign of Iron, in the near future. But overall, this book and its sister Glory in the Name do great justice to the Civil war at sea.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
An Alternative View of the Confederacy July 1 2014
By marco - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This historical fiction novel from the point of view of a Confederate States naval officer, and its predecessor, "Glory in the Name", shed a different light on the naval battles between the Union and the Confederacy. Historically accurate, it describes several key battles in Hattaras, NC, Norfolk, New Orleans, and Memphis areas highlighting the difficult transitions from wooden sailing ships to wooden ships/river steamers back-fitted with iron casement plate, to full-up ironclads. The battle techniques are fascinating, and the stories of the characters who operated the various naval vessels makes for a very entertaining read. There is of course woven in a love stery which ties the stories together and mixes spying, romantic interludes, and adventure together. For engineering techies, the descriptions of maritime steam boiler and paddle wheel drive systems is both accurate, and deadly at the same time. Nelson doesn't spare the detail on the dangers posed by sailors on these naval vessels. He is also accurate in emphasizing the hopeless difference in industrial capacity between North and South. Highly recommended!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
good historical fiction May 4 2014
By J. Manvell - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is second in series of two, good story not often told. Just right amount of romance and action. Wish he would continue series.