I finished the 20th Patrick O'Brian novel some time back, and instead of reading the unfinished 21st book - O'Brian died before he got the chance to bring it to conclusion - I decided to start again at the beginning, Master and Commander. A lot of the characters we know and love are introduced in the first book. Of course there are Aubrey and Maturin, but we also meet Bonden, Pullings and Killick, not yet Preserved Killick, his lovably irascible self from the later parts of the series.
The second novel Post Captain begins on board the Charwell, chasing a French ship in the English Channel, commanded by Captain Griffiths. The French ship is larger by far with more guns, but the Charwell is not alone, though its companion does not sail quite as quickly. We are several pages into the chase before we get this paragraph, an absolute corker I wish I wrote, but only in my dreams. There are several guests aboard the Charwell, and here is how O'Brian describes three of them.
Captain Aubrey was standing by the aftermost larboard carronade, with a completely abstracted, non-committal look upon his face. From that place, being tall, he could see the whole situation, the rapidly, smoothly changing triangle of three ships; and close beside him stood two shorter figures, the one Dr. Maturin, formerly his surgeon in the Sophie, and the other a man in black - black clothes, black hat and a streaming black coat - who might have had the word intelligence agent written on his narrow forehead. Or just the word spy, there being so little room. They were talking in a language thought by some to be Latin. They were talking eagerly, and Jack Aubrey, intercepting a furious glance across the deck, leant down to whisper in his friend's ear, 'Stephen, will you not go below? They will be wanting you in the cockpit any moment now.'
You do not have to read Aubrey and Maturin books if you do not want to. They are not to everyone's taste. But know that if you do not, I will be silently judging you.
That is all.