Monday, July 30, 2018

The Deceivers

  • Winner of the 2004 Stonewall Fact and Fable Award.
1862, on the east coast of England: the railway is the death knell of the coastal shipping trade, and many small lines like Eastcoast Packet won't survive. Sail and steam are technologies in collision -- the thousand-year tradition of the tall ships is almost an end.
Jim Hale is about to inherit Eastcoast and the schooner Spindrift, if he and Captain Bill Ryan can first survive the explosive violence of the North Sea and the vicious schemes of shipwrecker Nathan Kerr, who has a score to settle with Jim -- and with Ryan, for whom the situation has become intimately personal.
Bill and Jim are caught in the jaws of change. Survival depends on bravery, brawn and the willingness to take terrible risks. For men who have the courage to be lovers in this time and place ... the struggle is dire, the rewards astonishing.
Mel Keegan returns to sea in the days of tall ships and high adventure with this historical thriller, rich with action and gay romance. Meticulously researched, fabulously detailed, The Deceivers will be treasured by readers who loved Fortunes of War and Home From the Sea

Novel length: 125,000 words
Rated: adult (18+; sex, violence, language)
ISBN-13: 0-9750884-2-4
Publication date: August 2003
Publisher: DreamCraft
Price: $6.99 - ebook; $17.95 - paper (NEW LOWER PRICE)
Cover: Jade

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Terminology and Topography; Schooners, Old Movies, Yorkshiremen, Ghost Stories and the World Wide Web!

Research for this novel spanned decades. Literally. The first draft was done in the 1980s, long before the word 'Internet' was dreamed of, yet when the final draft was finished, a lot of extra reasearch was added in, and all of it was done electronically. I went no further than the PC, and worked via to pull up anything and everything I wanted or needed. If you're interested, you can retrace my steps ... go to Google and run searches on Scarborough and Whitby, and then on Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and Victorian railways in England ... the steamships Great Britain and Great Western ... and the China clippers. It's a cool way to kill off a rainy afternoon. 

Having said that, the research for DECEIVERS started with maps of the coast between Whitby and Scarborough, and here you have to remind yourself that every decade brings 'the storm of the century,' and the coastline has changed a good deal in a century and a half. The changes are less massive where the coastline is rocky, of course. You don't get areas where whole villages vanish from the map, as was fairly common in the southeast and southwest. Parish records from the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries, for example, quote entire areas which no longer exist; in later references the vanished villages are sometimes listed as 'LTS,' or Lost to the Sea.'The best I could do was start with the oldest maps I could find, which dated from the 1950s, and work backwards from there.

I was particularly lucky, in that I could plumb the memories of folks who spent a lot of their lives in the region, pre-WWII. In turn, they could recall a few things told to them by their elders, and now we're probing back to the turn of the other century. Beyond that? Time to hit the books! 

I found a couple of good ones. Indispensible. ONCE UPON A TIDE is a great documentary work on the coastal shipping trades of a couple of centuries. Author Hervey Benham clearly sweat blood over his research, but also injects a tremendous humanity into his book, which makes a documentary very nearly as personable as a novel. It was published in 1955, reprinted as late as 1986 by Harrap, but I think it's out of print now. The other book which was invaluable was Lew Lind's SEA JARGON, another work which spans centuries. It's a 'dictorionary of the unwritten language of the sea,' and is often downright hilarious, as few dictionaries ever are. This one was done in hardcover in 1982/83 by Kangaroo, but I don't know if it's still available. If it's not, it's a loss. 

The NE coast is, like many places in Europe, rich with a strange, parochial mythology. Folklore here is not even the same as the tales told fifty miles away, and it was my great pleasure to be able to include a couple of really good mysteries and ghost stories, which surround the ruined abbey at Whitby. (Some geat photos are available on the WWW -- just start with a search on Whitby Abbey). I was just plain lucky to still have two items on the home shelves: the pocket-size FOLK TALES OF YORKSHIRE, which was done over half a century ago by Thomas Nelson and was still in print in '60, when my parents bought it ... as a 'wee bairn' I appear to have scribbled in it here and there. Hmmm. My artistic gifts lacked a certain something in those days. The legend of the abbey bells is from this book. The other item was a standard guide book available through the 1960s, 'Guide to the Abbeys and Monasteries or Yorkshire and the Northeast,' produced by Her Majesty's Printing Office. Our copy could easily be the last one in existence. From this slim volume came the stories of St. Hilda. 

But the descriptions of Whitby Abbey and the town are all from my own memory. I was very young, and while I don't have fully-formed memories any longer, I have a wealth of 'snapshots,' like still images, stored away. I never went inside St. Mary's church, but for the descriptions here I had only to talk to (interrogate) someone who had. I can't be 100% sure if what I describe in DECEIVERS was there in 1861. I spent many hours moving heaven and earth to get confirmation, and it's just not there to be had. But the whaler's church as described to me seems to have been there forever. So I used it, and if I'm wrong -- I'll take responsibility for the gaff and call it 'poetic license.' 

Ships, now ... ships were another question! Some of my fondest memores are of days spent on and in yachts, particularly the sailing vessel Ghostrider out of Seward. But a yacht and an 80-foot schooner are two different boats. And I wanted to know about building 'em as well as driving 'em. I used the Time/Life volume, THE CLASSIC BOAT for the anatomy of boats and ships, as well as rigging. Other volumes in that series were mines of information about sailing larger vessels, and I want to thank my life-partner here, for adding his considerable knowledge of boat handling. 

If you want a far more pleasurable 'research experience,' into the hows and whys and whats of schooners, run the old Gregory Peck movie, THE WORLD IN HIS ARMS. The film features a schooner race to Alaska in about 1855. Those are exactly the kind of schooners I'm writing about in DECEIVERS. And the best thing about movies of that vintage (c. 1955) is ... CG effects, digital special effects, were unknown. If the movie called for two schooners to race to Alaska, well, the movie company put two schooners on the water, loaded up the cameras and ... did it. Which means folks like myself have an audio-visual record on celluloid, almost as good as first-hand experience. (And that's something the SPFX wizards can't match, and never will ... the absolute reality of a thing). 

The last point I want to write about here is the speech patterns in which some of the characters in DECEIVERS talk. You may have to stop and think about some of the dialog -- in which case, let me help! Scarborough is on the NE coast, which means Yorkshire. If you don't come from that region, you may not understand a word they're saying! My family left the place when I was very young, and if I hear Yorkshiremen on TV these days, *I* can't get one word in five. I ameliorated the dialog a great deal to make it easier for readers (half of whom are in the US, while a fair percentage of the remainder are in most of the countries in Europe!), but in the end I had to 'give a nod' to the actual accent. Here's how it works: 

In Yorkshire-speak, the definite article (the) is written, but it's NOT PRONOUNCED. It's swallowed whole. In printed-Yorkshire-speak, the convention is to indicate where the definite article was, or is supposed to be, by using [t'] right before the noun. So, "Up the hill" would be typed as "Up t'hill" and pronounced as "up *hill," where the asterisk indicated you must literally swallow the word "the." Don't just say "Up hill." That'd come out sounding like "Uphill," and it's not ... there's a clear break in the speech, almost like a tiny hiccup, where the definite article has been swallowed. Give it a shot. Say "Down t'road," and "off to t'shops," remembering that the [t'] is a tiny hiccup, not a 'tuh' sound! 

In Yorkshire speak, deliberately drop all your H's. So, if you were saying Hamptead's horses have hair so handsome, you'd say 'ampstead's 'orses 'ave 'air so 'andsome. Then, when you reach an -ing ending on a word, remember to drop the G's ... so 'folks are singing, bells are ringing' sounds like 'folks are singin, bells are ringin.' 

Past these broad guidelines, I can't help. Every vowel is also pronounced differently, but this can't be coherently represented on paper ... and then, the dialectic English itself is so different. For instance, here's a short quotation, said to be a West Riding Yorkshireman's advice to his son: 'See all, hear all, say nowt; eit all, sup all, pay nowt; an if ivver tha does owt for nowt, allus be sure tha dus it fer thi sen.' 

Literall translation: 'See all, hear all, say nothing; eat all, drink all, pay nothing; and if ever you do anything for nothing, always be sure you do it for yourself.' Well, aside from the self-centered morality of the advice ... it's not exactly English! 

I had to draw a line somewhere, and I chose to err on the side of readability, with the Yorkshiremen, Cornishmen and Scots characters. I did include some of the better known phrases, for instance, the shipbuilder, Duncan Linwood, at one point says, 'I'll be away home.' That's absolutely correct for the man, the place and the time, and it's easy to understand the dialect. 

The book also makes use of British-English ... so when you run into the word 'nous,' for instance, don't assume we've missed a typo! 'Nous' is British-English for good, sound common sense. It may not appear in an American-English dictionary, however. 

The jargon of the sea also plays a part in DECEIVERS, but again, I chose to err on the side of readability. I was very much aware, early on, that I was writing a novel, not a text book! So there's not a lot of words that will leave you scratching your head. I may speak of a ship 'standing out' of a port rather than 'putting out' or 'shipping out,' and I may refer to a particular sail by its proper name, for example, a 'jackyard topail,' but it's always pretty easy to guess the meaning. 

Incidentally, if you're ever in any doubt, email in and ask!

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