From C.S. Forester to Patrick O'Brian, naval fiction continues to fascinate generations of readers. But what was life really like on a wooden warship? A Frigate of King George looks at life on board the 42-gun frigate HMS Doris during the reigns of George III and George IV, from her launch from Bombay in 1807 to her retirement at Valparaiso in 1829. Brian Vale concentrates on one tour of duty in the early 1820s, when the ship formed part of a squadron under Nelson's old flag-captain Sir Thomas Hardy, sent to protect British interests during the stormy years of South American independence. Vale covers in vivid detail the operations in Brazil, Chile and Peru. But this is more than a history of naval campaigns. Vale, drawing on official correspondence, logs, muster rolls, paybooks, records of punishments and fascinating private diaries and letters, paints a vivid and convincing picture of life on board. Here are the tensions among officers of middle-class or patrician background jockeying for position, while trying to keep the crew fed, healthy, disciplined and, above all, occupied during long voyages without landfall. There is the comradeship arising from notions of duty, mutual respect and admiration between all ranks. But the darker side of shipboard life breaks through, when boredom leads to drunkenness, brawling and desertion, often leading to savage punishments when a flogging depended on a captain's whim. This is an authentic picture presented to modern eyes, one which Nelson or 'poor Tom Bowling' would instantly recognize. It will fascinate enthusiasts of naval history and naval fiction alike.