Bernard Cornwell - Crackdown

May 21, 2004

Bernard Cornwell is a highly capable author of not very challenging fiction. That sounds like faint praise, but he is really quite good at a deceptively demanding field. Although he is most famous for his Sharpe series, Cornwell is at his best, I think, when he invokes the horror of violence - his gothic Arthurian sequence still gives me nightmares at times and I read it over four years ago.

Crackdown is only indirectly gothic. It is a novel about sailboats, and cocaine, and addiction, and fathers and sons. Cornwell digs into his bag of characters and comes up with his stock modern sailor - fit, former British marine, difficult family life, bumming around the Caribbean. He then writes a perfectly reasonable thriller.

Thinking back, he does manage to invoke aspects of the Gothic in this sunlit paradise - largely when one of the cocaine-addicted characters talks about pleasure so intense that it wipes out the brain's capacity to enjoy any pleasure other than the chemically induced rush. There is a horror there, and some of his characters do have their faces burst out in blood in fine Sherlock Holmes style.

That might be where Cornwell is best, at the gothic and at effectively conveying a sense of violence and of the horror that comes along with violence.

In any case, it made a fine light read.

Posted by Red Ted at May 21, 2004 03:33 PM
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