Pennywhistle's World

Fiction   Historical   Military   War

Book Reviews . . .

“Ambushed by the charming, charismatic, and complicated character of Royal Marine Captain Thomas Pennywhistle, the reader of Active’s Measure becomes a willing captive to his grand adventures in this riveting nautical adventure. Active’s Measure commands one’s attention and respect from Pennywhistle’s first act of personal heroism to the final act of magnificent selflessness. The writing is as strong, forceful, and compelling as the handsome marine himself. Thrilling, heart-warming, and intense enough to hold the novice’s attention as well as the most demanding connoisseur of period military detail, the intrigue and action will leave the reader breathless for Pennywhistle’s next adventure.”


 Thomas George, Antiquarian


“Meet a truly remarkable hero, Captain Thomas Pennywhistle. In Active’s Measure, John Danielski brings to life the world of warfare at the time of the Napoleonic Wars in vivid and detailed writing based on exhaustive and intelligently informed research. Alongside this, his skill in inventing and telling a rollicking good tale makes turning of the next page inevitable. This first novel brings a new and remarkable author to the world of naval fiction, one to be watched with keen interest in the future.”


 George Odam, Professor Emeritus Bath Spa University


“An exciting, fast-paced, naval swashbuckler with vivid writing that makes you feel you are living every broadside, sword slash, and musket shot. The action is strong and unremitting, the plot twists are sharp and surprising, the characters robust and strongly realized. The central character, Thomas Pennywhistle, shows traces of Sharpe, Hornblower, and Darcy, yet emerges as a distinctive, complex personality worthy of your full attention. This is a real page turner; be prepared for sleepless nights.”


James Taylor, Ph.D. Southern University


“This is not just a wild, edge of your seat nautical tale for men, but a powerfully passionate and captivating love story that women will enjoy from start to finish. The hero, Tom Pennywhistle, while certainly brave, resourceful, and constantly captivating you with his feats, is also a surprisingly deep, reflective, and somewhat cunning character with a dark side. Carlotta, the object of Pennywhistle’s admiration, is a strong, capable, independent female who exemplifies great sensitivity to a woman’s point of view. It is refreshing to see a heroine who is competent and not a mere damsel in distress who exists simply to be put in jeopardy and then rescued. The endearing chemistry between hero and heroine leaves you in constant fear for the survival of their future. Unable to stop at the end of each chapter, I decided the author must have employed as yet undiscovered reading pheromones!”


Sandi Lindstrom



“This is a wonderfully well told story, with great imaginative flair and well-researched detail. It combines vividly dramatic action with sympathetically drawn characters on all sides of the battles. Although the hero, Captain Pennywhistle, says ‘I am a marine officer, not a spinner of rattling sea yarns,’ John Danielski takes us right into the heat of the action and spins a rattling good yarn of the Napoleonic War.”


John McRae, author of The Routledge History of Literature in English



Reviews of The King's Scarlet



"Once again Danielski’s exceptional gift for matching a rollicking good adventure story with significant historical and period details makes this second novel a genuine page-turner. Rescued from rape and death in the dramatic and shockingly bloody opening chapter, a peasant girl forms an alliance with heroic Marine Captain Thomas Pennywhistle in this second of his adventures. The date is 1812 and the place takes us first to the hot and dusty central Spanish plains of Cáceres in contrast with the breezy north-eastern Adriatic marine location of Active’s Measure. Pennywhistle is on a dangerous secret mission, accompanied only by the ruggedly worthy Sergeant Dale and his manservant Manton. Danielski is a writer whose facility and ingenuity brings to life in vivid but accurate detail the colours and wildlife of the high Spanish Sierra de Francia as he guides his heroes to the culminating Battle of Salamanca. The Peninsular War is one of the lesser-known areas of the Napoleonic era and is ably realized for us through Danielski ‘s’insight and powers of believable recreation as we follow the exciting exploits of this small but dangerously powerful party of under-cover British marines."


Professor Emiritus, Bath Spa University, Bath, England



"​In typical dashing style, gallant Royal Marine Thomas Pennywhistle saves the beautiful damsel in distress, and utilizes her special gifts in helping to complete his highly secret and vital mission for his King. The Peninsula campaign proves difficult as well as vexing for our loyal hero. Fates’ many twists and turns impede his progress, but his resourcefulness, passion for his cause and compassion for his fellow man drive him to turn stumbling blocks into steps to success. The author challenges the reader to join, dig in, hold on and relish every moment of this very vital experience with the indomitable Captain Thomas Pennywhistle and his pack of unlikely companions."


Thomas George, Master of Arts in Interior Design, Antiquarian



​"Traveling back in time and space is possible. Once you open the pages of “ The King’s Scarlet”, you will immediately escape to the Iberian peninsula of 200 years ago. All your senses will be fully stimulated by the rapid paced descriptions of war through the eyes of vividly drawn characters. The battle scenes are compelling and horrendously accurate. You are there seeing the worst of mankind, but the indomitable spirit of human goodness is never quenched and well represented by the hero, Tom Pennywhistle. A great novel which pulses with life and is soulfully satisfying."


James A Taylor, J.D, Ph.D



"The King's Scarlet is an adventure novel in the finest tradition of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe novels. John Danielski takes his readers to 1812 Spain in the company of some remarkable characters, first among them being Captain Tom Pennywhistle of the Royal Marines, who is a rational, secular professional, an honorable gentleman, but one not above occasional acts of ruthlessness. One finds gallant but inept Spanish militia, dashing but cruel French Hussars, and, of course, the capable professionals of His Majesty's forces. The story is believable yet still full of action, and the history behind the story is first-rate, giving the story authenticity and grit.Cracking good stuff!"


Mark Bois, author of Lieutenant and Mrs. Lockwood and The Lockwoods of Clonakilty



"The second in Mr Danielski’s Pennywhistle series, we meet his protagonist travelling through Spain in search of Sir Arthur Wellesley’s English army. He is accompanied by Dale, his sergeant and Manton, his servant whom we have met aboard HMS Active. He is attempting to deliver dispatches and of course his task does not go smoothly. He is faced with treachery and malevolent forces. Several excellent descriptions of skirmishes between the French and English during the peninsular campaign of 1812 finish with a wonderful set piece battle. Mr. Danielski conveys an admirable sense of detail in the equipment and the uniforms of the day which reveals careful research. Our hero does not neglect his female admirers and a finely drawn portrait of the mutual attraction between Juanita and Pennyworth make their affair out of the ordinary. The main characters are given depth and colour and the writer makes us care about their fates. A delicious twist at the end completes a story well told.​


Jack Humphreys, Professor of History, Southern Illinois University



Royal Marine Captain Thomas Pennywhistle, along with his sidekick Sargent Dale, are sent on a secret mission into the Spanish interior with a written message from Vice-Admiral Martin for General Wellington. It is 1812, and the English army is attempting to dislodge the French army from Spanish soil. Unfortunately, prior to his mission, Pennywhistle trusted the wrong contact and is betrayed, resulting in useless maps, and is now trapped behind enemy lines.

Pennywhistle rescues a young Spanish woman named Juanita from the clutches of French soldiers. She is familiar with the territory and volunteers to help him locate General Wellington. He also takes on Sergeant Juan Morales, from a local Spanish regiment, to assist him in moving through the French-held land. Meanwhile, the French begin a massive manhunt, trying to capture Pennywhistle and obtain his message.

This novel is Book II in the Pennywhistle series. I didn’t read the first book, and never felt that I needed to. This novel is an excellent depiction of the Peninsular War, with striking comparisons to Bernard Cornwall’s Sharpe series. The characterizations are excellent, clearly defined, realistic, and credible for the time period. The battle scenes are gripping, while the protagonist is constantly faced with danger throughout every chapter. Highly recommended reading for Napoleonic War enthusiasts.


Featured Online Review via: historicalnovelsociety.org | Direct Link: https://historicalnovelsociety.org/reviews/the-kings-scarlet/



​​"It is July, 1812, and the French are running roughshod across Spain’s Iberian Peninsula.  In 1808 the combined armies of Spain and France had invaded neighboring Portugal and jointly subdued that small nation in what can only be described as an act of international villainy. But then – upping the villainous ante twice over – France turned on Spain, and since then the Spanish resistance has fragmented and devolved, spinning off as it has many uncoordinated militias and guerrilla bands that confront the French at every opportunity. The British – bitterly opposed to Napoleon’s imperial adventures across the European Continent – have, with the aid of the Portuguese, retaken Portugal, and now use that country as a staging point for a war against the French forces in Spain. The action, by and large, across the Iberian Peninsula has been both furious and merciless for both soldier and civilian alike.  Thrust into this seething cauldron of international intrigue and regional violence enters British marine captain, Thomas Pennywhistle, on a sensitive and secret mission to deliver a sealed dispatch from Lisbon to the British Army in Spain, commanded by Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.

Thus begins The King’s Scarlet, John Danielski’s impressive second novel involving Captain Pennywhistle, a veteran officer of the British marines. Accompanied by his sergeant, Dale, and loyal servant, Manton, Pennywhistle begins a trek across the Spanish countryside that encounters French hussars, Spanish militia, guerrillas, peasants, and a host of assorted difficulties that tax the captain’s experience and abilities to the extreme.  Yet The King’s Scarlet is far more than merely a fine action novel set in turbulent early years of the nineteenth century. Danielski is clearly an authority on the era, bringing this story to life with an historian’s eye for detail coupled with the fine touch of an artist.  His battle scenes are gripping and accurate, just as his descriptions of the Spanish countryside – the wildlife, vegetation, even the local foods – are wonderfully evocative of both time and place. Indeed, it is Danielski’s mastery and juxtaposition of the details of life and war that make this novel particularly fascinating.  For anyone interested in a rollicking good tale of Napoleonic era warfare, intrigue, romance, and heroism, The King’s Scarlet is highly recommended."

The King’s Scarlet Review by Jim Stempl | Jim Stempel is the author of seven books including Windmill Point. Released March, 2016. www.jimstempelbooks.com



The King's Scarlet concerns the Peninsula War in Spain in 1812. The English and the Spanish have joined forces against the French and the novel concerns an English officer's effort to deliver a special report to his superiors. He experiences several battles that are difficult to survive and fascinating to read. The events are presented in prose that is precise and strong. In fact, the quality of the writing is genuinely distinguished, far above the usual. Mr. Danielski knows his subject with a confidence that allows him to write in a style that enhances the story and engages the reader. It is like a first rate adventure story with an elegance of writing we do not often encounter.

James Kraft taught in the English Department at the University of Virginia, Laval Universite in Quebec, and Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He has written a study of the early tales of Henry James and edited a five volume edition of the American poet, Witter Bynner.



In typical dashing style, gallant Royal Marine Thomas Pennywhistle saves the beautiful damsel in distress, and utilizes her special gifts in helping to complete his highly secret and vital mission for his King. The Peninsula campaign proves difficult as well as vexing for our loyal hero. Fates’ many twists and turns impede his progress, but his resourcefulness, passion for his cause and compassion for his fellow man drive him to turn stumbling blocks into steps to success.  The author challenges the reader to join, dig in, hold on and relish every moment of this very vital experience with the indomitable Captain Thomas Pennywhistle and his pack of unlikely companions.


Thomas George, Master of Arts in Interior Design, Antiquarian​.



It takes a mixture of courage and daring to weave a story into the facts of history but when well done it is both educational and a pleasure to read. John Danielski has managed to pull this off very well with his latest novel The King’s Scarlet, published by Penmore press No, I’m not going to tell you the whole story, chapter and verse, like some bloggers do, but I can briefly describe the time and the place. It is the time of the Napoleonic wars in particular the Peninsular War where the British are in retreat and the French are doing well. Our hero Pennywhistle is a captain in the Royal Marines who is on a mission behind enemy lines but finds himself caught in the middle of the vicious and brutal guerrilla war between the French and the Spanish partisans, where no quarter is given on either side. Our man wants only to extricate himself from this fight but finds himself drawn into the battle both for reasons of chivalryand because of his strong sense of duty. This is a great yarn that I really enjoyed. Nice one Danielski, where is the sequel?


James Boschert is the author of the popular Talon series as well as When the Jungle is Silent.