IT MAY DISMAY our more progressive notions, but some books are unabashedly for men rather than women, for lovers of derring-do rather than romantic intrigue. Anthony Forrest's latest Captain Justice story, The Pandora Secret, is in the tradition of Horatio Hornblower rather than Scarlett O'Hara.
Captain Justice is a naval officer, temporarily seconded to shore duty where he is protecting British interests against French intrigue. England is at war with Napoleonic France and the American Robert Fulton has come to England with his plans for a submarine, the Pandora. The British Admiralty, while skeptical about the feasibility of such a vessel, realizes that it could threaten the country's existence. Naturally the French are determined to regain Fulton and his plans for themselves.
Protecting the elusive Fulton and the Pandora is dangerous work for the resourceful Captain Justice. Such a task provides opportunities for the appearance of sinister Frenchmen, mysterious Irish collaborators, Tory traitors, and also much talk of masts, winches, 10-gun cutters and "making Boney shake in his Imperial boots." All essential to the genre.
Anthony Forrest (the nom-de- plume of two Englishmen) has the historical knowledge to create the period in convincing detail, and Captain Justice is the quintessential hero of understatement and great courage. The satisfaction in such books comes more from the telling than the end, which is no great surprise. A creditable heir to the Hornblower tradition.