As the Titanic and her passengers sank slowly into the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, a nearby ship looked on. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting idly a few miles north, saw the distress rockets that the Titanic fired. He alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was sleeping in the chartroom below, but Lord did not come to the bridge. Eight rockets were fired during the dark hours of the midnight watch, and eight rockets were ignored. The next morning, the Titanic was at the bottom of the sea and more than 1,500 people were dead. When they learned of the extent of the tragedy, Lord and Stone did everything they could to hide their role in the disaster, but pursued by newspapermen, lawyers, and political leaders in America and England, their terrible secret was eventually revealed. The Midnight Watch is a fictional telling of what may have occurred that night on the SS Californian, and the resulting desperation of Officer Stone and Captain Lord in the aftermath of their inaction.
Told not only from the perspective of the SS Californian crew, but also through the eyes of a family of third-class passengers who perished in the disaster, the narrative is drawn together by Steadman, a tenacious Boston journalist who does not rest until the truth is found. David Dyer's The Midnight Watch is a powerful and dramatic debut novel--the result of many years of research in Liverpool, London, New York, and Boston, and informed by the author's own experiences as a ship's officer and a lawyer.
Debut author Dyer elucidates formerly restricted evidence in his recreation of the confounding evening that the SS Californian watched on while the nearby Titanic sent up eight distress rockets before slowly sinking into the sea. The story itself is bizarre, rife with miscommunications. When Capt. Stanley Lord brings the Californian to a halt, his radio operator warns nearby ships that "We are stopped and surrounded by ice," but the steaming Titanic's operator responds, "shut up shut up shut up keep out" only moments before that passenger vessel's lights go out all at once. Meek second officer Herbert Stone sees the rockets go up, bursting "silently into a delicate shower of stars" one after another, during his graveyard watch, but is fatefully told only to monitor. When Captain Lord and Officer Stone later offer their official accounts, Boston reporter Steadman senses an incomplete truth, and through his pleasantly filigreed voice, their failure to act is exposed during the second half of the novel. Dyer's elegant, imaginative renderings captivate, and his expansive research including exclusive access to legal documents makes this colossal disaster newly enthralling.
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A superb novel from a supremely gifted writer. I thoroughly recommend this book.
The Midnight Watch
I couldn't put it down! I read it entirely in 2 days!