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Ramage Series - Entertaining, despite flaws

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Re: Ramage Series - Entertaining, despite flaws

Post by 80 Winters on Tue 04 Nov 2014, 16:09

As I'm 're-reading' Ramage for the 1st time in 16 years (this time on audiobook), I'm taken by so many of the 'themes' and 'threads' within this series that have shown up in HNF novels of later years and authors.

For example, in Ranage and the Drumbeat, which is the 2nd book in the series, we find Ramage and his crew taking the cutter Kathlene into 'an attack maneuver that I'm sure I've seen used by another, and later author, during the same historic battle (it strikes me that it may have been Dewey Lambdin's "Ramcat" Lewrie).

While possibly not as 'polished' as some later HNF, nevertheless this is the foundation that so many later authors chose to 'build on' (and successfully).
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Re: Ramage Series - Entertaining, despite flaws

Post by reb01501 on Tue 04 Nov 2014, 22:43

I just recently went the audiobook route on this series and was reminded of how much I skimmed through the first time I read it. Pope was so repetitious.
"Wait, exactly how do I interpret Ramage's mood based on his scar? You just told me a few pages ago ... ah! now you're telling me again. thanks for that"

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Re: Ramage Series - Entertaining, despite flaws

Post by 80 Winters on Tue 04 Nov 2014, 23:52

Yes, you're right about 'Pope's repetition' when it comes to certain subjects (like Ramage's scar), though reading it again (audiobook) does make that even more apparent. Of course, by book 3, we're told that Ramage has "2 scars" in the same approximate vicinity, so I'll be watching that area closely !

As I listen while engaged on my "motorized quarterdeck" (6 % incline @ 3 mph) it does make time move as well. Now, that we're aboard the Triton brig I'm afraid that I'm along for the ride (repetition and all).
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Re: Ramage Series - Entertaining, despite flaws

Post by pauljm on Wed 05 Nov 2014, 21:41

I think Pope was better as a naval historian than as a writer of fiction...some of his historical works remain classics (for instance "The Black Ship" about the Hermione mutiny, and "Flag 4", about WWII motor torpedo boats).

The Ramage books are somewhat deficient in the small details that provide credibility, which is strange since Pope wrote several historical books about the period. As others have noted, they are repetitious and formulaic, with a cast of two-dimensional hangers-on, and nothing resembling a real character. Nevertheless, I too have a soft spot for them, perhaps because they seemed a lot more fun to read than Alexander Kent's doleful sagas, which began to published around the same time.
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Re: Ramage Series - Entertaining, despite flaws

Post by 80 Winters on Thu 06 Nov 2014, 18:05

I agree that The Black Ship, written before the Ramage series was a masterful work and among Pope's best writings. However, while undoubtedly 'repetitious' in areas, I'm left to wonder, if the Ramage series is 'formulaic', who developed 'the formula'? In modern era HNF, the major 'series' authors of the mid-20th century, that come to my mind, (Forester, Pope, Kent) only Pope wrote a series that began and continued 'chronologically' from start to end (which did come short of completion, unfortunately). Both Forester and Kent began their series with their protagonist as frigate captains and only later regressed to the chronological beginning of the saga. Woodman followed Pope's approach.
Dudley Pope began the Ramage series in 1965 as Forester's 'Hornblower' series was concluding and in the technical area of seamanship, I don't find them comparable. The Ramage series continued at a steady output for 25 years from start to finish and as such has provided "the foundation" (as I said before), for so many authors that followed.
Is/was Dudley Pope 'the best' of the HNF authors of the last century, probably not, by all measure, but with all 'perceived' flaws in his writing, still a 'mainstay of the HNF genre' (and we all know the importance of 'a mainstay').
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Re: Ramage Series - Entertaining, despite flaws

Post by pauljm on Thu 06 Nov 2014, 19:13

The formula I was referring to is that an impossibly handsome hero (thus devastating to all the beautiful women he is continually meeting) with his band of amusing sidekicks (each with a particular ethnic or personal quirk) take on and defeat hordes of enemy ships and men in book after book. As the blurb on the flyleaf of my copy of "Governor Ramage R.N." says "Half aristocratic man of action, half Heathcliffe, Ramage is gifted with with an astonishing ability to master every situation...". This does not sound to me like a real person, and the formula remains the same throughout the series, as the hero does not grow or change significantly as far as I can tell. Many popular genre novelists do this, establishing an appealing framework, and then telling essentially the same story with the same characters over and over.
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Re: Ramage Series - Entertaining, despite flaws

Post by Kade1301 on Fri 07 Nov 2014, 13:52

@Big Joe wrote:Interesting you speak about stretching credulity.

After having finished the first volume - which no doubt I enjoyed very much - I had the feeling that Ramage is too good to be true even for a fiction...  The 22 year old Lieutenant is mature, intelligent, cool headed in his first command as an experienced old Post Captain just a few days before hoisting his flag...

Funny, because when I read the first Ramage novel, the Lieutenant struck me as a perfect idiot, every time he's no longer directly dealing with naval matters. Contessa: "What happened on shore?" Ramage: "You are insulting my honor!" (x pages later he thinks himself 'Oh, she just wanted to know what happened on shore...') (These are not direct quotes, but what I remember about their attitudes.)

And incidentally, among all the series' Captains I've read about (Hornblower, Aubrey, Lewrie) Ramage is probably the one on whose ship I would least like to serve. Quite a number of his plans seem suicidal to me and only succeed due to luck. And I've only read the first two books... Wink

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Re: Ramage Series - Entertaining, despite flaws

Post by 80 Winters on Fri 14 Nov 2014, 17:38

Just finished book #3 ('the freebooters') in my audio trek down memory lane and am reminded of the opportunity I had recently to drive a car (same model) that I owned 50 years ago, which is about the same time that Dudley Pope began the Ramage series. While it still 'looked' great, compared with the technology I'd experienced in the interlude, it didn't seem to 'drive' as well as I remembered. That said, it harbored the beginnings of the car I enjoy today. Ramage still possesses both plots and themes used by later HNF authors.

As for Ramage's scar 'fixation', was OCB a popularly used term back then (or even 50 years ago). Hornblower seemed to have had a mild version of it, on occasion.  As a sidelight, we're told that it was C.S. Forester that urged Dudley Pope to write an HNF series.
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Re: Ramage Series - Entertaining, despite flaws

Post by 80 Winters on Fri 02 Jan 2015, 22:41

Well into Ramage's Mutiny (book 8 in the series) and while the narration (audiobook) isn't among my favorites, I'm most taken by author Dudley Pope's 'well fabricated storylines'. Again, we talking 50+ years ago when the possibilities of the 'action plot' in this genre hadn't been widely explored (and copied), so I'm giving author Pope an "A" for imagination and innovation in his HNF 'storytelling'.

And I'm only nearing the 'mid-point' of the Ramage series......wonder what might have been, if only.....
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Re: Ramage Series - Entertaining, despite flaws

Post by 80 Winters on Fri 23 Jan 2015, 18:05

Just finished The Ramage Touch (10th in the series) on my revisit of Dudley Pope's classic works of the late 20th century. Yes, there is Repetition in abundance, but also an abundance of Realism along with interesting historical, cultural and geographical information to hold the readers interest and attention. But I think it's time to 'take a break' and read (re-read) another HNF author for enjoyment (and a bit of comparison).
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