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Book Notes

A few choices for summer reading

A few choices for summer reading

Summer’s here, the boat’s in the water, so it’s high time for cruising — and reading. Our summer reading list includes disasters, conspiracy, historical characters, historic discoveries, a couple of novels and a few good cruising stories.

“Mutiny” by Julian Stockwin (Scribner, 2004, $25) is the fourth Kydd novel. The historical adventure-at-sea series follows seaman Thomas Paine Kydd, who was pressed into service for the British Navy in 1793. Now, the crew is planning mutiny and Kydd must decide where his loyalties lie.

If you want to start at the beginning of the series, the first three books are “Kydd,” “Artemis” and “Seaflower.

“The Wreck of the William Brown” by Tom Koch (McGraw Hill, March 2004, $22.95) touts itself as a true tale of overcrowded lifeboats and murder at sea. Koch examines the 1841 sinking of a ship off the coast of Newfoundland — very near where the Titanic sank 71 years later. The ship was carrying 17 crew and 65 passengers, mostly poor Irish emigrants, when it hit an iceberg. The ship carried too few lifeboats. Every sailor lived. Three quarters of the passengers died. The author narrates the ship’s sinking, the rescue of the survivors, and the subsequent murder trial.

If you’re eager for more tales of ill-fated ocean liners, try “Dark Descent” by Kevin F. McMurray (McGraw Hill, May 2004, $24.95). This time it’s the story of the Empress of Ireland, a Canadian ocean liner that sank in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1914. While most have never heard of this shipwreck, it’s a Mecca for a group of deep-diving adventure-seekers. To date six divers have died exploring the wreck of the Empress.

Lee Hughes conquers his fear of the sea head-on by sailing the Intracoastal Waterway in a 16-foot open dinghy, and writes about his trip in “The Biggest Boat I Could Afford,” (Sheridan House, June 2004, $19.95). Hughes, a New Zealander, took on the voyage as a dare. The title explains why he chose to complete the trip in the 16-footer — with a 3.3 hp engine, a pair of sails, but no cabin, galley, bunk, head or electricity.

Thomas Froncek’s midlife crisis also arrived in boat form. His tale of a late-blooming love affair with the water is chronicled in “A Splendid Madness” (Sheridan House, May 2004, $23.95). He bought a Tanzer 22, which he sailed on the Hudson River. The book tries to explain what exactly it is about boating that causes otherwise sensible people to develop an obsession.

If you are among those who know a “gentle breeze” is characterized by 8 to 12 mph winds, and leaves and small twigs in constant motion, you are already familiar with the Beaufort scale. (Gentle breeze is a Beaufort No. 3). Scott Huler was so fascinated that he tested Beaufort’s observations himself, and delved into the story of Sir Francis Beaufort. “Defining the Wind” (Crown Publishing, $23) is set for an Aug. 17 release.

It was the compass that fascinated Alan Gurney. A yacht designer based in Suffolk, England, Gurney looks back at the quest to perfect the compass in “Compass: A story of exploration and innovation” (W.W. Norton & Co., June 2004, $22.95).

“Lab 257” is the controversial book from Michael Christopher Carroll (William Morrow, February 2004, $24.95). PlumIsland’s AnimalDiseaseCenter, off the coast of Long Island, has long sent a frisson down the collective spine of the conspiracy minded. “Three infectious germs, … emerged from the same geographic locus,” writes Carroll. “All three occurred in the vicinity of a high-hazard, high-containment foreign germ laboratory. … The public is asked to accept that none of these three outbreaks is connected to PlumIsland.”

“The History of the Lives and Bloody Exploits of the Most Noted Pirates” (The Lyons Press, May 2004, $13.95) was originally published in 1847. Battles, bloodshed, executions — what more could you ask from a summer book?

Peter Freuchen’s “Book of the Seven Seas,” (The Lyons Press, 2003, $17.95) starts at the very beginning: how the seas were formed. Fitting for a book that tries to tackle the whole of the world’s oceans, from winds and tides, marine life and mari-time history, to scientific discoveries, maritime adventures and classic ghost stories. A

resource book as much as it is entertainment, according to the publisher.

“Catboat Summers” (Sheridan House, October 2003, $19.95) mixes a Massachusetts family, a decade of New

England summers and a 100-year-old “leak- and rust-plagued, repair-hungry wooden boat.” Readers of Messing About in Boats magazine have followed John Conway’s experiences with his boat, Buckrammer. This book gathers them all together.

Charles McLane’s novel “Red Right Returning” (Tilbury House, June 2004, $15) follows a dozen characters and their lives on a Penobscot Bay, Maine, island. The book is set just after World War II, and looks at the relationship between the islanders and the “summer people.” McLane is the author of the “Islands of the Mid-MaineCoast” series, non-fiction histories of life on Maine’s coastal islands.

Keep youngsters on the lookout with “Boats & Ships, Your Field Guide” from Moon Mountain Publishing (2004, $7.95). The series also includes guides to vessels found in Rhode Island, New England and the GulfCoast. For each boat there is a page of information and an illustration ready for coloring.


Simon & Schuster,

McGraw Hill,

Sheridan House,

Crown Publishing,

W.W. Norton & Co.,

The Lyons Press,

Seal Press, (510) 595-3664.

MoonMountain, (800) 353-5877.