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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

For whatever reason, perhaps because the summah heat has set in and my intellect is correspondingly evaporating, Ol’ Robbo has started whipping through Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe series again.

I may provoke some ire over the decanter and walnuts here, but I’m going to say it anyway: By golly, is this stuff trash.

So why do I read it?  Because I’m a (casual) student of the Napoleonic Wars and I enjoy what I believe to be Cornwell’s gift for accurately explaining and describing the purely military side of things, from strategic objectives to logistics to tactical maneuverings to the nitty-gritty of hand-to-hand combat.

But as for the rest? Aw, Jeez.  The characters are cardboard bordering on caricature, the dialogue is preposterous, Sharpe’s up-from-the-gutter story is clang, clang, clang, and the love interests come and go like Bond Girls.

For what it’s worth, I have nearly identical opinions – both good and bad – about the novels of Tom Clancy, which I also read from time to time, although I don’t really venture much beyond Clear and Present Danger.  Also Jeff Shaara, Derek Robinson and, for that matter, C.S. Forester and Charles Kingsley.

On the other hand, I have no such misgivings about reading and rereading similarly-themed works by the likes of Patrick O’Brian, George MacDonald Fraser, P.C. Wren, Erskine Childers, Conan Doyle, and Rider Haggard.  (Yes, I know one of you is going to mention John Buchan, but I still haven’t read him yet.  And of course, Kipling is beyond question. )  One of these days, I’ll put my mind to analyzing the differences.

Anyhoo, getting back to the Sharpe stories, I savor the battle scenes, cringe at the personal interest stuff, and feel vaguely ashamed about it all afterwards.  And yet, as I say, I keep coming back.

Who are some of your secret or not-so-secret favorite trash authors?

UPDATE: Of, I forgot.  The other evening as I was reading one of the Sharpe books, Eldest Gel came in the room and asked me about it.

“Oh,” I said, “It’s historickal fiction about the Napoleonic Wars.”

She looked at me cock-eyed and exclaimed, “Who on Earth else but you would read something like that?”

Kids these days.  Even mine.

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