“He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.” Those words, accompanied by a sculpture of a man lying prone with a pen still held in his hand, supply the epitaph on the grave of novelist Rafael Sabatini at Adelboden in Switzerland. They are the opening sentence of his most accomplished novel, Scaramouche.

A couple of generations ago that introductory line was as familiar to the reading public as “It is a truth universally acknowledged…” Today it is more the preserve of a devoted minority of enthusiasts, but it is probably an exaggeration to describe Sabatini as a lost classic; he simply enjoys a diminished readership. His works are all still in print, largely thanks to Stratus Books which in the early years of this century republished the entire canon – thirty-seven volumes – now available on Amazon and similar outlets.

The essential epithet invariably applied to Rafael Sabatini is “swashbuckling”.