Author: C.C. Humphreys

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark (November 5, 2013)

ISBN-10: 1402282249

ISBN-13: 978-140228224

In his acknowledgements to The Blooding of Jack Absolute, C.C. Humphreys says any resemblance to his book and the classic Tom Jones by Henry Fielding "is entirely intentional." You don't need to read that credit to recognize the obvious influence. I was also reminded a bit of the "Flashman" novels by George MacDonald Fraser. Fraser took Harry Flashman, a minor character created by Thomas Hughes in Tom Brown's School Days (1857), and wrote a humorous series of adventures based on the drunken bully in Hughes' book. In a similar vein, Humphreys took a character first seen in Richard Brinsley Sheridan's 1775 play The Rivals, and has begun a series of adventures based on Sheridan's swashbuckling Captain Jack Absolute.

While Flashman and Absolute don't share many personal traits, they are both British soldiers who find themselves entwined in actual historical events. Blooding, the prequel to the previously published Jack Absolute in which Jack is a spy during the American Revolution, is the character's origin story. Set between 1752 and 1760, Blooding starts rather slowly with a young Jack in the care of his drunken Uncle Duncan and abusive cousin Craster. Suddenly, Jack is reunited with his parents who take him to London where his fortunes take a happy upturn. He runs around with a gang of lads who call themselves Mohawks who enjoy all manner of games, brawls, lassies, and drinking. After being caught in the act with one of those lassies, Jack is forced to join the army in John Burgoyne's 16th Light Dragoons. He's then off to North America where he's involved in the Battle of Quebec between the French under the Marquis de Montcalm and the British commanded by General Wolfe. Then he survives the St Francis raid by the American Rangers, becomes an Indian slave, and learns what real Mohawks are all about in a cave during a harsh winter with one of those Mohawks, a dead bear, and a copy of Hamlet. Then . . .

Throughout, Jack Absolute is clearly a figure destined for action, adventure, and the good graces of most of those he meets as well as those of us who read his story. Clearly, Humphreys has done his homework to not only provide complete believability in the settings and events but also breathe life into the cast of characters with both style and wit. I was delighted to know there's a second chapter of the saga already in print, and I'll now be able to keep up with the series in chronological order. If Jack Absolute has as long a life as Harry Flashman did, I'll have many good reads for years to come. I'm going to have to re-read The Rivals again to see where it all began.