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Francis Hertzog: Home


Crescent Blues Book Views Fithian Press (Trade Paperback) ISBN:1-56474-444-2

Book: francis hertzog, home
Francis Hertzog writes a story which reads like an eclectic mix of Swiss Family Robinson and H.G. Wells. A careful reading of the back cover information and a search to verify the existence of a prequel to this volume helped overcome the bewildering first few episodes of the story.

Dr. Wyatt Horstmann and members of his extended family encounter a bear shaman. They believe this shaman is an avatar of the immortal spirit of their evil ancestor, the pirate Francis McCabe, with whom they previously clashed. To escape the wrath of the pirate and his minions, the family leaves its home on the Northern California coast and sets sail to explore the territory once the domain of the vicious ancestor.

Once at sea and out of the reach of the bear shaman, the erstwhile crew settles into the routines of the long sea voyage until enveloped in a raging storm. Its seamanship challenged, the battered crew fights its way through the storm and into an eerie calm. There, a foreboding and muggy fog bank surrounds the sloop, and all the onboard electronic equipment malfunctions. Without warning a brigantine and a Spanish sailing ship emerge from the fog firing at each other in full battle mode.

The crew frantically maneuvers away from the battle and reaches a point of temporary safety only to be confronted by a boarding party from the brigantine. A vigorous fight ensues. The family again escapes but only after discovering that the pirate ship's name, She Urchin, matches that of McCabe's vessel, which sailed in the 1700s. Now the crewmembers must deal with the realization that they had somehow blundered into the past.

Faced with the new realities of the situation, Horstmann decides the best and safest alternative lies in heading back to the area of his family's 20th century home. Here, he reasons, the group will at least know the lay of the land, affording them their best chance of survival in the now changed surroundings. The decision made, the sloop turns back toward the California coast. Along the way the group experiences a variety of adventures and various encounters with primitive tribes inhabiting the early Pacific Coast landscape. A final confrontation with the ghostly McCabe and his crew brings the story to an end.

Hertzog's strength lies in his ability to paint a believable picture of the California environment circa 1700. He also demonstrates an apparent depth of sailing knowledge. He peppers the sea narratives with lots of neat nautically stuff such as, "Wyatt cleated the rode, and let the boat lug hard on the kedge." As a confirmed landlubber, I have no idea what most of it means.

The major weakness of this episode lies in Hertzog's failure to provide new readers with at least a brief prologue to help them navigate the somewhat muddy waters at the beginning of the story (Although the information on the back cover does help). Still, Home provides an interesting and imaginative read.

Clint Hunter

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