Set onboard a general cargo ship, the John Bede, at the fag end of the great days of the British merchant fleet, ribald Captain Lovelace (archetypal rough diamond drunk) is relieved of command after disgracing himself before a female company director. His replacement is the much hated disciplinarian, but greatly respected seaman, Rupert de Vere Frogmore. Appointed at the same time is a work study expert, a Dr Trimmer, who travels on the voyage to Australia, via Brazil. The eccentric, and often drunken doctor goads Frogmore, despises him as an anachronism and sends him up.But in Frogmore he has met his match. We see events through Alex, the ship's purser, who is outraged by the way that Frogmore bullies the young cadet and Alex wages a covert war against the captain, hoping to get him removed. At a shipper's party in Brazil he unearths a dark secret in his captain's past. Ashore, on ship's business in Melbourne, sophisticated, coming-out-of-the closet Alex takes Captain Rupert de Vere Frogmore for a drink in a gay bar. After a raucous party on board Captain Frogmore is served with The Black Spot.
Alex confronts the captain and has a volte-face and there is a surprising and eventful denouement as he sides with the captain against the doctor.
Paul Mann lives in East Sussex. He is a member of 42 Commando Association because despite being an anti establishment, queer vegetarian pacifist, who loathes blind discipline and compulsory sport, he served by mistake in the Third Commando Brigade and enjoyed almost all of his time there. He was also a purser with British India Steam Navigation Co during the last great days of the British Merchant fleet.