For more than twenty years, Richard Sharpe, the brave and dashing officer who rose from rags on the street to a commission in his majesty ' s army, has been thrilling audiences on both the page and on screen. Now the incomparable Bernard Cornwell ( ' the greatest writer of historical novels today ' *) returns with a thrilling new installment ' the first new Sharpe novel in more than two years.
The year is 1811. With the British army penned into a small part of Portugal, and all of Spain fallen to the invader except for the coastal city of C ' diz, the French appear to have won their war. Captain Richard Sharpe has no business being in C ' diz, but when an attack on a French ' held bridge goes disastrously wrong, Sharpe ' accompanied by Harper, his loyal Irish sergeant, and the obnoxious Brigadier Moon ' finds himself in a city under French siege. It is also a town riven by political rivalry. Some Spaniards believe their country ' s future would be best served if they broke their alliance with Britain and forged a friendship with Napol ' on ' s France; their cause is only strengthened when some letters written to a prostitute by the British ambassador fall into their possession. They resort to blackmail, and Sharpe, raised in the gutters of London and taught to fight, is released into the alleys of C ' diz to find the woman and retrieve the letters.
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September 05, 2006
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Excerpt from Sharpe's Fury by Bernard Cornwell
YOU WERE NEVER FAR from the sea in Cadiz. The smell of it was always there, almost as powerful as the stink of sewage. On the city's southern side, when the wind was high and from the south, the waves would shatter on the sea wall and spray would rattle on shuttered windows. After the battle of Trafalgar storms had battered the city for a week and the winds had carried the sea spray to the cathedral and torn down scaffolding about its unfinished dome. Waves had besieged Cadiz and pieces of broken ship had clattered on the stones, and then the corpses had come. But that had been almost six years ago and now Spain fought on the same side as Britain, though Cadiz was all that was left of Spain. The rest of the country was either ruled by France or had no government at all. Guerrilleros haunted the hills, poverty ruled the streets, and Spain was sullen.
February 1811. Nighttime. Another storm beat at the city and monstrous waves shattered white against the sea wall. In the dark the watching man could see the explosions of foam and they reminded him of the powder smoke blasted from cannons. There was the same uncertainty about the violence. Just when he thought the waves had done their worst, another two or three would explode in sudden bursts, the white water would bloom above the wall like smoke, and the spray would be driven by the wind to spatter against the city's white walls like grapeshot.
The man was a priest. Father Salvador Montseny was dressed in a cassock, a cloak, and a wide black hat that he needed to hold against the wind's buffeting. He was a tall man, in his thirties, a fierce preacher of saturnine good looks, who now waited in the small shelter of an archway. He was a long way from home. Home was in the north where he had grown up as the unloved son of a widower lawyer who had sent Salvador to a church school. He had become a priest because he did not know what else he should be, but now he wished he had been a soldier. He thought he would have been a good soldier, but fate had made him a sailor instead. He had been a chaplain on board a Spanish ship captured at Trafalgar and in the darkness above him the sound of battle crashed again. The sound was the boom and snap of the great canvas sheets that protected the cathedral's half-built dome, but the wind made the huge tarpaulins sound like cannons. The canvas, he knew, had once been the sails of Spain's battle fleet, but after Trafalgar the sails had been stripped from the few ships that had limped home. Father Salvador Montseny had been in England then. Most Spanish prisoners had been put ashore swiftly, but Montseny was chaplain to an admiral and he had accompanied his master to the damp country house in Hampshire where he had watched the rain fall and the snow cover the pastures, and where he had learned to hate.
And he had also learned patience. He was being patient now. His hat and cloak were soaked through and he was cold, but he did not stir. He just waited. He had a pistol in his belt, but he reckoned the priming powder would be sodden. It did not matter. He had a knife. He touched the hilt, leaned on the wall, saw another wave break at the street's end, saw the spray dash past the dim light from an unshuttered window, and then heard the footsteps.