Richard Sharpe and Jack Lark
Richard Sharpe 21 (11)
Jack Lark 8
What is the score for you might wonder? well since Paul Collard burst onto the scene only a short 3 years ago i have been unable to do anything but relate his fantastic character Jack Lark to anyone but Sharpe, not because he is a copy or parody of Sharpe, but its the closest genre comparison i can think of.
Jack Lark is a man from the ranks making his way as an officer, only unlike Sharpe who makes no pretense to being well bred and from the upper echelons of society, Jack must do so. He is a trickster a Loki character, making his way by guile, deception and skill. This for me makes him a more subtle character than Sharpe who bludgeons his way through his escapades, his softer edges provided by his ancillary characters, Jack can’t have those blending tones provided by anyone but himself, to do so would be to admit to what he really is (which doesn’t come until more recently in the series), so Paul Collard needs to really expose and explore the soul of his character, making him someone the reader can really connect with, in comparison to Sharpe who you want to be because he is the rugged adventurer.
From a readers perspective i always have to play “which is my fave series” , its just one of those reading things, and its a hard thing to consider with these two series…. (lets face it Sharpe would wipe the floor with Jack in a one on one scrap…) but this is more subtle than that. Sharpe was a stand out book of its time, the character so iconic that it inspired a TV series, but then the TV series took on a stature greater than the books, Sean Bean became Sharpe. Can anyone honestly read or picture Sharpe as anyone but Sean Bean? that’s a huge testament to the production team and also to the actor himself. But this achievement also in my opinion also sounded the death knell for the quality of the books, i don’t know what it was, time? having to commit so much to the TV series or just that the author didnt need to try so hard any more? but for me the books declined from about book 11 Waterloo (note the bracketed 11 above next to Cornwells name), maybe its just that a series ultimately has a lifespan and you have to kill people. This possibly is where Sharpe has some strengths that Jack Lark doesn’t, Sharpe has his Rifles, he has characters to build, to make you connect with and love, and then to kill in sudden startling realism, leaving behind a hole, a loss that cant help but have an impact on the reader (Lets face it Patrick Harper became almost as iconic as Sharpe). Jack Lark being a solitary character with his only co-stars coming and going in a single book means that the readers don’t build that bond with anyone else, and Jack Lark cannot die, not without the death of the series, so there is certainly something to be said for a band of men v a solo character, maybe the longevity is provided by the variance of the group?
From a plot perspective, you want your man in all the big fights of their time, Sharpe was always constrained by the War he was in, and where his regiment was, and who he was, his rank etc. Jack Lark has never had those constraints, he is whomever he makes himself into. This means that Paul Collard can take him anywhere, any country any conflict, always one step ahead of the establishment, one step ahead of his past, and as such always in the thick of the worst that humanity can imagine on a battle field, where Jack doesn’t have a group dynamic for longevity i think he gains ground with the fact he has freedom to go and fight anywhere.
So ultimately while Sharpe is a few goals (books) ahead , there is lots of this game left to play and with the way the Jack Lark Series is growing and the intricacy and depth of the plot increasing i can see that 3 book deficit being closed down very fast…. hopefully the publishers will see the power of the series and we will have many more to come, as well as mixing it up for the writer with something else (cant beat a bit of diversity on series). Who knows, maybe Jack Lark will get his own outing on the screen, its certainly a very intriguing idea for a TV show.
If you have not read the books i hope this gives you pause to stop and go get one
Inspiration for Jack Lark
Jack Lark Novellas / Prequels:
The first e-novella featuring the early life of Jack Lark, the boy who will one day become The Scarlet Thief.
As pot boy at his mother’s infamous London gin palace, Jack Lark is no stranger to trouble.
Between dog fights and street scuffles, if he’s not being set upon, he’s starting a brawl himself. But when an unlikely ally draws him from the dark alleys of the East End into the bright lights of a masked ball, he gets a glimpse of another life. That life, once seen, is impossible to forget.
Jack will do anything to outwit, outsmart and escape the cruelty in his own home. He is determined to get out, but what price will he be forced to pay for his freedom?
Forced to leave London, young recruit Jack Lark is determined to make his way as a Redcoat. Despite the daily tirades of Sergeant Slater, a sadistic monster of a man who sees his new trainees as the scum of the earth, Jack holds on to his belief that the Army will give him a better life.
His comrades are a rough and ready bunch, and Jack falls in with Charlie Evans, a cheerful young clerk who quickly comes to regret joining up. But once you’ve taken the Queen’s Shilling, there is no way out: deserters always pay the highest price.
As Charlie schemes to escape, Jack, always a loyal friend, is forced into an impossible situation where the wrong move could leave him taking the long walk to the gallows…
The third e-novella featuring young Jack Lark – now a young Redcoat yearning to rise above his lot in life – following Rogue and Recruit
Private Jack Lark wears his red coat with pride. Though life in Queen Victoria’s service is tough, he relishes the camaraderie of Aldershot barracks, and four years’ harsh discipline hasn’t blunted his desire to be more than just a Redcoat.
When he learns that Captain Sloames needs a new orderly, Jack is determined to prove his worth both to the officer and to Molly, the laundry girl who has caught his eye. But standing in his way is Colour Sergeant Slater, a cruel and vicious bull of a man who loathes Jack, and is longing for the chance to ruin his ambition…
The bold hero of THE SCARLET THIEF and THE MAHARAJAH’S GENERAL returns in an exhilarating and dangerous new adventure.
Bombay, 1857. Jack Lark is living precariously as an officer when his heroic but fraudulent past is discovered by the Devil – Major Ballard, the army’s intelligence officer. Ballard is gathering a web of information to defend the British Empire, and he needs a man like Jack on his side. Not far away, in Persia, the Shah is moving against British territory and, with the Russians whispering in his ear, seeks to conquer the crucial city of Herat. The Empire’s strength is under threat and the army must fight back.
As the British march to war, Jack learns that secrets crucial to the campaign’s success are leaking into their enemies’ hands. Ballard has brought him to the battlefield to end a spy’s deceit. But who is the traitor?
THE DEVIL’S ASSASSIN sweeps Jack Lark through a thrilling tale of explosive action as the British face the Persian army in the inky darkness of the desert night.
Buy The Lone Warrior
Review of Book
Jack Lark, once the Scarlet Thief, has fought hard for his freedom. But will he risk it all to do the right thing?
Bombay, 1857. India is simmering with discontent, and Jack Lark, honourably discharged from the British Army, aims to take the first ship back to England. But before he leaves, he cannot resist the adventure of helping a young woman escape imprisonment in a gaming house. He promises to escort Aamira home, but they arrive in Delhi just as the Indian Mutiny explodes.
As both sides commit horrific slaughter and the siege of Delhi begins, Jack realises that despite the danger he cannot stand by and watch. At heart, he is still a soldier…
Buy The Last Legionnaire
Jack Lark has come a long way since his days as a gin palace pot boy. But can he surrender the thrill of freedom to return home?
London, 1859. After years fighting for Queen and country, Jack walks back into his mother’s East End gin palace a changed man. Haunted by the horrors of battle, and the constant fight for survival, he longs for a life to call his own. But the city – and its people – has altered almost beyond recognition, and Jack cannot see a place for himself there.
A desperate moment leaves him indebted to the Devil – intelligence officer Major John Ballard, who once again leads Jack to the battlefield with a task he can’t refuse. He tried to deny being a soldier once. He won’t make the same mistake again.
Europe is about to go to war. Jack Lark will march with them