Sailor named JonesI just finished the first book of the Tommy Potter series, Sailor Named Jones (Doubleday, 1957). More fictionalized history than historical fiction, this novel is the story of John Paul Jones' two famous cruises through British waters in 1778 and 1779. Haislip was a retired Captain (USN) and his passion for the service and the sea is evident.

The descriptions of ship handling and actions are compelling. Unfortunately, Jones spent all too much time ashore wrangling with the fickle French and the American commissioners, especially the odious Arthur Lee, and the novel remains faithful to this history as well. Haislip handles this about as well as a writer can, but the reader comes to share Jones' frustration with being ashore. Haislip, while remaining a clear partisan of Jones, doesn't sugarcoat Jones' dark side. His immense ego and almost boundless ambition are clearly presented, though the author finds them tolerable in someone of Jones' ability and audacity. Tommy Potter appears on the quai at Brest, having left his American family in Paris and volunteers as a midshipman. He supports Jones with unswerving loyalty and a fierce sense of duty through the tribulations ashore, finally coming of age during the cruise of the Bonhomme Richard and the fabled battle with HMS Serapis.

It has been years since I read The Pilot and I don't remember enough to compare Cooper's treatment of JP Jones to Hailsip's. A pity, since Cooper's book stands, quite rightly in my recollection, as the novel against which all other fictional treatments of John Paul Jones must be measured. I'll try to re-read it sometime soon...

Description of: Sailor named Jones

Author: Harvey Haislip

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