A Watch-dog of the North Sea (Review)

A Watch-dog of the North Sea (Review)

eading lists sometimes work in strange ways.

Was at work waiting for one of those stupid lunchtime meetings (I hate when people do these for the dedicated-facetime theater of it) which got cancelled. And, no, I didn’t bring a book (violating my own rule that the weight of a book is not nearly as heavy as the weight of time without it). So I didn’t have my book with me for lunchtime. But I did have my work laptop and access to Project Gutenberg. So, before heading out to lunch, I poked around for something to read. Found something curious and followed the link to download it, but either because of a miss-link or fat fingers, I pulled down something entirely different. And yet, it wasn’t all that bad.

A watch-dog of the North Sea is a nautical sailor book written by Percy Westerman in 1916 (while the English are stewing for something like the Battle of Jutland to happen, which didn’t give them quite the justifying victory they’d anticipated). We follow a couple of young naval officers as they ready their battlecruiser for sea, doing their best and waiting for the Hun (more on this) to leave his fortified ports and fight honest and fair.

But of course, the Hun is everywhere. A saboteur sinks their first ship (and it was open-boat day, with women and children on the decks, begad!). And then there are lurking Uboats, lofting Zeppelins, spies in every cottage and along every dark road. You don’t have to go very many pages at all without some German poking his nose into the plot. And, in 1916, the author is hardly sympathetic, referring to them as “degenerate descendants of Attila”. Honestly, airships and submarines, marginal side-show weapons at best, become fantastic weapons of dominance, ringing (and shadowing) the British Isle in a death grip.

It’s a yarn, no doubt, but a fun yard. The heroes are heroic, the women plucky, the Germans snarling and villainous, the battles chock full of shot and shell. I did rather enjoy this one, and was sad to see it end. Further, it did turn into a handy reference tool for me – I need to introduce a battleship in Tubitz and Mergenstein (my current literary effort). A lot of what I read in Watch-dog will fit nicely here. There was a lot of period flare here, a solid book of yesteryear.

If there was one thing I didn’t like, it was Westerman’s method of naming chapters – if you title a chapter “A German spy meets his end” then what happens doesn’t come as a surprise. This occurred several times, the chapters giving clear indication of who was about to be capture (or escape), sunk or savaged. It was almost as if his chapter headings were spoilers, a period device, of course, but a frustrating one.

Anyway, you can pick up this dusty gem HERE for free. Like, what’s stopping you?