Tuesday 23 December 2014

The Old Salt Press: A growing presence in nautical publishing

Sharp-sighted followers of the Dawlish Chronicles will have noticed that the third novel in the series, Britannia’s Shark, has been published under the aegis of the Old SaltPress. This is an independent press, set up by an association of writers working together to produce the very best of nautical and maritime fiction and non-fiction. I was honoured by the invitation to be a member, joining four other authors who love ships and the sea, but who, individually, are focussed on different areas of interest.  Though we are very widely separately geographically we are united by a shared passion which results in work that spans a very wide range .

Below is an introduction to each of the authors and their work.

Rick Spilman is the founder and host of the superb  Old Salt Blog (see link in column to right) and has worked as a naval architect for several major shipping lines. Living alongside the Hudson River, he had extensive sailing experience as volunteer crew on the replica square-riggers HMS Rose and HMS Bounty. He has also sailed on both modern and period vessels along the New England coast, the west coast of Florida, the Caribbean, the Great Lakes and the southwest coast of Ireland. Rick’s fiction – such as Hell Around the Horn – is focussed on the great age of mercantile sail when large wind-powered vessels were in long retreat before the advances of steam power.

V.E. Ulett is based in California and her Captain Blackwell series novels are set in the classic period of naval fiction, that of the Napoleonic Wars. Her work is however fresh, and unusual , in that it reflects, but is not dominated by, a strong feminine viewpoint. It is indeed unflinching in dealing with just how uncomfortable it was to be a woman in this era. Her plotlines and settings are also out of the ordinary, making for very absorbing reads. Her series starts with Captain Blackwell’s Prize and the second, Blackwell’s Paradise, is already available while the third, Blackwell’s Homecoming has just been published.

Alaric Bond, British based, also writes novels set in the era of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, but his “Fighting Sail” series differs from most written in the genre in that they do not follow a single individual exclusively, but rather a wide range of characters. Alaric’s work reflects deep knowledge of the events, personalities of the period, as well as of the complexities of ship handling, as demonstrated in the sixth book in the series, The Torrid Zone, was published in 2014. Though not part of the series, Alaric’s Turn a Blind Eye, unusually featuring the Revenue Service than the Royal Navy, is similarly enthralling.

Joan Druett, who lives in New Zealand, covers the widest range of any of the Old Salt Press authors. She is also the most prolific, and is widely honoured and respected for her non-fiction work based on detailed historical research. By reference to hitherto untapped resources she has brought to life not only the extraordinarily active roles – now largely forgotten –  played by women at sea in the Age of Sail, but also other neglected aspects of 19th Century nautical activity such as sealing. Joan’s most notable fictional work is the Wiki Coffin series of period detective stories , built around the adventures  of a  half-Maori , half-American interpreter who accompanies the United States Exploring Expedition which was launched in 1838. I was particularly enthralled by the factual The Elephant Voyage – an amazing story of privation, of survival and of the legal imbroglio that followed, and by the Wiki Coffin mystery The Beckoning Ice. Joan’s latest book, the non-fiction Eleanor's Odyssey, is built around the journal of the wife of an East Indiaman’s captain from 1799 to 1801. Like Joan’s excellent World of the Written Word blog (see bar on right), this offers fresh insights to life at sea in the period.

And the fifth Old Salt Press author? That’s Antoine Vanner and you’re already familiar with him if you’re reading this blog!

Best Wishes to all my readers for Christmas 2014 and for a Happy and Successful 2015!
                                                                                     Antoine Vanner

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