I recently introduced my friend Leith Easterling to the AMC series Turn: Washington’s Spies, which is streaming on Netflix. If you can get past the liberties (sorry) taken with some of the historical figures — Captain John Simcoe and Robert Rogers especially — it’s an entertaining drama depicting the activities of the Culper Ring in New York during the American Revolution.
One of the more compelling portrayals Turn offers is the British spymaster Major John André, by JJ Feild. And every time he appears on the screen I think, “That’s Jack Absolute!”
C.C. Humphreys’ Jack Absolute novels are fine, swashbuckling historical thrillers featuring a British officer who is also blood brother to the Mohawk. Humphreys, who has a passion for the theatre, riffs off of a delightful conceit: that his hero’s identity was borrowed by the actual 18th century playwright Richard Sheridan for his actual 18th century play, The Rivals.
The year is 1777. As the American Revolutionary War rages across the sea, London is swept off its feet by Jack Absolute, the dashing rogue in Richard Sheridan’s comedy The Rivals.
When the real Jack Absolute, former captain of the 16th Light Dragoons, returns after years abroad he is immediately embroiled in an illegal duel over a backstage tryst at the Drury Lane theatre.
Jack escapes with his life, only to find himself pressed again into the King’s service as a spy for the British in the Revolutionary War.
With his Mohawk blood brother, Ate, at his side — and Loyalist beauty Louisa Reardon on his mind — Jack leaves England and sets sail for the wilds of North America.
When Jack learns there is a traitor in his ranks, he is dispatched as a double agent to root out the secrets of the Illuminati, a secret lodge within the Freemasons with their own agenda in the colonies.
With no one left to trust and more blood spilling with each passing day, it’s no longer clear if Jack is a spy…or the target.
Humphreys served up a prequel set during the French & Indian War:
London: 1759: Jack Absolute is loved by the ladies and envied by his schoolmates. With a place secured at university and a baronetcy at hand, his future seems bright-if he can just stay out of trouble.
But when Jack is caught red-handed with a powerful lord’s mistress, his good fortune is destroyed, forcing him to seek a new fate in the dangerous New World during the brutal French and Indian Wars.
There, marooned amid hostile Indians and fierce colonial rivalries, the bawdy schoolboy disappears and a man emerges. Jack’s survival depends on winning the friendship and help of the natives, but those come at a high price.
In order to become the man they could eventually trust, Jack Absolute must first be blooded. And in order to be blooded, he must do the unfathomable. He must learn to kill.
Both are delightful yarns, solid in their history, and well worth tracking down. And they beg to be brought to the screen. Feild is just right for the role, especially as Jack has the same kind of effect on the lovely ladies — actresses in particular — that André had.
Just ask Philomena Cheer…
Well done, Jack.