Patrick O'Brian

Patrick O'Brian is a pen name of Richard Patrick Russ (1914-2000) who was born in Chalfont St. Peter, Buckinghamshire. The eighth of nine children, he lost his mother at the age of four, and his biographers described a fairly isolated childhood, limited by poverty, with sporadic schooling and long intervals at home with his father and stepmother in Lewes, East Sussex.

His literary career began in his childhood with the publishing of his earliest works, including several short stories and his first novel at age 15. In 1934, he underwent a brief period of pilot training with the Royal Air Force, but this was not successful, and he left the RAF. Prior to that, his application to the Royal Navy had been rejected on health grounds and he worked in London throughout the Second World War though details are murky. He worked as an ambulance driver, and he stated that he worked in intelligence. Dean King has claimed that O'Brian was actively involved in intelligence work and perhaps special operations overseas. After the war he retired to Cwm Croesor, a remote valley in north Wales. In 1949 O'Brian moved to Collioure, a Catalan town in southern France. He spent the winter of 1998–1999 at Trinity College, Dublin and died there in 2000.

His most famous series is about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin. The language used is more authentic than most which makes it harder to read at first but well worth it is a series which closely reflects life at the time. The series formed the basis of the film 'Master and Commander' starring Russell Crowe. Lesser known is the fact he had previously written The Golden Ocean Series which is also historic naval fiction.

Series: Jack Aubrey
Year  Book  Comment
1800  Master & Commander 

Aubrey forms a friendship with his surgeon Stephen Maturin

1802  Post Captain  After fleeing to France to avoid debtor's prison Aubrey now faces internment as war looms again
1804 HMS Surprise Aubrey sails to India & the far east
1808 Mauritius Command Aubrey commands the frigate squadron sent to capture Mauritius


Desolation Island

Jack sails for Australia to rescue "Bounty" Bligh


The Fortune of War

Jack is captured by the Americans

1813* The Surgeon's Mate After leaving Canada Aubrey is chased by ships seeking vital information


The Ionian Mission

A Mission to the Greek Islands


Treason's Harbour

Espionage in Malta
1813* The Far Side of the World

A chase across the Pacific after an American ship attacking the whaling fleet

1813* The Reverse of the Medal Aubrey becomes involved with the London criminal underground

The Letter of Marque

Thrown out of the Navy, Jack's friend buys his old ship for him to command


The Thirteen Gun Salute Aubrey is restored to the Navy and sails for the far east
1813* The Nutmeg of Consolation An engagement with Malay Pirates and more conflicts when Australia is reached
1813* Clarissa Oakes

When leaving Australia a hidden danger is aboard


The Wine-Dark Sea

Aubrey blunders into a new war with the United States

1813* The Commodore Aubrey is at last promoted to Commodore & given command of a squadron
1814 The Yellow Admiral

Jack captures a prize but in doing so misses a vital signal

1815 The Hundred Days  Set during the period of Napoleons escape from Elba 
1815 Blue at the Mizzen  Aubrey sails on a mission to Chile 
  The Final Unfinished Voyage of Jack Aubrey  (An unfinished work released by the publisher after the authors death) 
Omnibus editions
  The Complete Aubrey/Maturin Novels A compendium of all novels in the Aubrey/Maturin series

(* whilst not logical all these books are set in 1813)


Series: The Golden Ocean
Year  Book  Comment
1740 The Golden Ocean Based around Commodore Anson's famous voyage. Peter Palafox, son of a poor Irish parson, signs on as a midshipman.
  The Unknown Shore "The Wager" sinks off the coast of Chile 

AOS Naval Non Fiction

Series: n/a
Year  Book  Comment
  Men-of-war: Life in Nelson's Navy Concise, historical overview of what daily life was like in Admiral Horatio Nelson's navy

© 2008-2024 David Hayes (Astrodene)