The Nemesis Man. Colin Farrington. 2023

The Nemesis Man. Colin Farrington. 2023

Farrington, Colin. 
The Nemesis Man.  
Vanguard Press. 
ISBN 978-1-80016-600-4. 
292 pages.

Once in a while a novel comes along that has a connection with Captain Cook.  If that connection is strong enough to be of interest to our readers, then the book is reviewed for Cook’s LogThe Nemesis Man is one such book.

The author is to be congratulated on his brilliant yet simple concept, in which a landlubber stowed away in Endeavour just before she left Plymouth in August 1768.  The stowaway was assimilated into the ship’s company, and, in the months that follow­ed, that inexperienced sailor was inadvertently the cause of several unfortunate incidents aboard the vessel.

These incidents did not have to be invented by the author.  They are known to have taken place, as they are recorded in the ship’s log and/or the journals of James Cook and his officers. 

We know the dates of the incidents, and, usually, the names of those involved.  The only thing that the author needed to do, was to weave the factual warp with the weft of his main character, the stowaway called Joseph Fleck.  The author achieves this very successfully, seamlessly incorporating Fleck into the narrative of the voyage.

It was Fleck’s involvement with these incidents that prompted the book’s title.  However, I think the title is a mistake, as Fleck is portrayed more as a Jonah than a devious, plotting Nemesis. 

The stage was all set for an enjoyable story, but sadly this was not to be, as I found this book a difficult read for a number of reasons.  The text would have been considerably better if it had been better proofed before printing.  This would have resolved the problems of punctuation and the occasional typos (e.g., Midshipman Bootie’s sur­name becomes Bootle).  It is ironic that the lack of punctuation is accompanied by the author’s love of obscure words.  His use of words such as misprision, acetabulum, illation, occipital and termagant, sent me diving for my dictionary, and interrupted the flow of my reading.

A further interruption was the author’s use of the modern literary fashion whereby two separate stories are told in alternating chapters.  In this case, the story of Joseph Fleck aboard Endeavour alternates with the story of his brother James Fleck at home in Plymouth.  Despite the above complaints, I found the tale of Joseph Fleck to be sufficiently gripping that I stopped reading about his brother.

For the majority of the book, Joseph Fleck is written about in the third person.  So, Chapter 21 came as a surprise when the author starts writing in the first person and readers find that they are being addressed by Joseph Fleck.  In the chapters that follow, the author alternates between the third and first persons in a disconcerting manner.

This book has many problems, some of which I have outlined above.  Despite these criticisms, I found Joseph Fleck’s voyage a fascinating read, and I suspect that Colin Farrington’s film rights might be worth a bob or two.

Cliff Thornton

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 26, volume 47, number 2 (2024).

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