Back again to the shelves of my little library, and to my small nautical book collection. This time, featuring my tramp steamer books.
Tea clippers and tramp steamers have played their roles in my stories. My early, 1970’s unpublished novella featured starships with a story setting that paralleled tea clippers and their annual race from China to the London docks. Plus, those noses of many of my unfinished stories until I set out to write what became The Bright Black Sea, also featured sailing ships in space – though the sails were energy fields, not actual sails.
With The Bright Black Sea I challenged myself to write an old fashioned, Tom Corbett Space Cadet rocket ship story. And for it, I made it into a tramp steamer in space story. Not having served on a tramp steamer, or ever gone to sea, I relied on the books – my preferred method of travel. The books that I drew on for my stories are shown below.
First off are the three Glencannon Omnibus books (I have several duplicates) that contain all the short stories of the chief engineer of the tramp steamer SS Inchcliffe Castle by Guy Gilpatric. Gilpatric wrote these stories from 1929 thru 1941 for the Saturday Evening Post, and then collected them into books, which were later collected into the omnibus versions I have. There was even a TV series made from these books in 1959, which I haven’t been able to track down. The Glencannon stories are humorous short stories which served as a model for the serial that I had originally planned to release my Lost Star stories as. However, since I can not write a short story to save my soul, mine were novellas rather than short stories. And I didn’t even try to write humorous stories. However, a Glencannon like figure does appear in my story as the Lost Star’s former chief engineer, Glen Colin.
Going even further back in my reading history we find the Howard Pease YA books that feature Tod Morgan. I distinctly recall (for some odd reason) seeing these books on the shelf of the Greendale Public Library, back when I was looking for the Heinlein juvenile SF books, and others. I didn’t read them then, but picked them up years later, when I found them at rummage sales. I can’t say much about them – basically they are sea adventure books, featuring Tod Morgan climb up through the merchant officer ranks as the series progressed.
The third major influence on my writing is the works of C J Cutcliffe Hyne, and his flagship character, Captain Kettle. These were very popular back in the first decades of the 20th century, but are definitely not politically correct in this day of age. Captain Kettle is a rough and tumble seaman, who has nothing good to say about any race or nationality other than the English, and he uses all the derogatory words and typically derogatory stereotypes, be one black, Italian, German, Slavic… you name it. If there’s a derogatory term, he uses it. So you’ve been warned. However, if you can see this in the context of the time, and the character, he writes fast moving, entertaining adventure stories and sea stories with a lot authenticity and humor. Over the years I tracked down many, but not all of his Captain Kettle books, as well as his other characters, such as McTodd, his Scottish engineer, and Mr Horrocks, his purser character. Hyne was a Cambridge graduate and a world traveler who brought his travel experience to the stories he wrote. He wrote these stories for the English magazine Pearson’s. He also wrote detective stories under the name Weatherby Chesney, and is known in science fiction circles as the author of The Lost Continent: The Story of Atlantis.
In addition to these fiction books, I collected a number of non-fiction books describing the life of a tramp steamer and shipping in general, like The Deep Sea Tramp by Captain A G Course, ca 1960 and more recently, Steaming to Bamboola, by Christopher Buckley, 1982… Wait, that isn’t all that recent is it? Time flies. I also have a small collection of larger format books on ships and shipping, pictured below.
Thankfully, I’ve lived a quiet, uneventful life, living my adventures inside the pages of books. As a result, the adventure stories I write owe a lot to the books I’ve read in my quiet, uneventful life. The Bright Black Sea owes much to these tramp steamer stories and books.
Well, I have several more shelves of nautical books to talk about, but will save those for a later blog.