The Lost Fleet

It's the mid-19th century and the American whaling fleet, the wonder and envy of the maritime nations of the world, is struck by one hammer blow after another. Yankee whalers are contending with icebergs, storms, rogue whales, sharks, hostile natives, and disease. Now conditions are getting even worse, and the chances become ever slimmer a whaling master and his crew will return from a voyage safe and profitable. The scarcity of whales, the increasing dangers of going further into the Arctic, and the roving Confederate privateers are making this already difficult profession ever riskier. Many whalers give up the life — but some carry on the vocation.One such man is a tall captain from Wethersfield, Connecticut, Thomas William Williams. Not only does he go out on voyage after voyage, but he even takes on board with him his tiny wife, Eliza, and his infant son and daughter. The Lost Fleet's thrilling narrative recounts Williams' remarkable career, including a daring escape from the Confederate cruiser Alabama and a daring rescue and salvage of lost ships off Alaska's coast. A family saga, a true narrative of adventure and death on the high seas and a detailed and well-researched look at the demise of Yankee whaling–Songini has crafted an historical masterpiece.

DISCLAIMER: The content of this site consists of my own personal opinions (and occasionally the opinions of others) and does not officially represent my employer's view in any way.

August 28, 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Blog

Can a rodent achieve tragic grandeur? A skunk on Rt. 128 smashed into a small tuft of thought offered the incense of revenge to the hundreds and thousands squashing him into the pavement. Ahab, anyone? The skunk was reaching out past the grave to punish the bipeds that had curtailed his life so abruptly….Then again, he (or she) may have been a suicide….A suicide skunk. There's a scary thought.

August 24, 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Blog

Sunday, 10:30 a.m., sunny, no wind, dry air. The deportment of the small but sober looking crowd in the parking lot in the cool air at Fort Wetherill in Rhode Island said either: A) funeral; or B) religious service. Perhaps the two were a bit one.

As more cars parked and people stepped out for greeting, the handshakes, the hugs, the tears were unmistakable. Funeral. I knew where this group would go–the nearby natural exalted rock stage where there is a view of the Atlantic and of Newport that money can't buy. Not a more grand sight in New England. So, I had to huddle with the little guy and wife in the uncomfortable rocks by the side of the cliff we had been going to sit on…I am sensitive to these things.

The mourners filed onto the cliff. More tears; some dropped flowers into the outgoing tide 40 feet below; I saw what I took to be a small urn pass hands.

My brain's opera hall echoed with a strain from neolithic times; to peat bogs in North Europe; to sad apes trying to piece something together after a death. Judging by the old woman lacking a man, receiving deference, the ashes being handed off, perhaps, had been a grandfather. A sire of mighty children? Or perhaps he'd been a fool. Or a mix of the twain. I don't know. But looking at the expanse of ocean, I thought the gesture of the flowers indescribably sad and lovely.

Then a small unlovely fisherman, pole in hand, in red cap and jeans, broke into the tribal congregation. "Gonna bring me some luck?" he asked. I assume he didn't read the signs–admittedly unwritten, though obvious. Then he took his perch in a cleft of the rock to ply his crude yet patient art.

How perfect.

A few months ago I attended a funeral service in a VFW hall. The man who'd passed had suffered terribly; was good and decent. His grandchildren were comfortable enough to play on and around his coffin, whose lid was up. The body stared up as the kids, who'd really loved him, went about their business of being children. I've never seen anything more lovely.

August 15, 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Blog

Those of you south of the border–as in Rhode Island border–if you aren't too busy Sunday, then come by and say hi to me at Bank Square Books. I'll be offering free beer to anyone I know who visits. Yes, you read that right. And we'll go see the "Charles Morgan" together.

July 27, 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Blog

The New York Daily News gave "The Boston Mob" a fair plug: Not a pretty story, but a fascinating one. Check out the review–it has a lot of photos and does a reasonable job of recounting the basics about Joe "The Animal" Barboza. The photos are priceless.

July 19, 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Blog

My next book is out by month's end. It's violent, sad, heartbreaking, real. In short, everything that a McDonald's Happy Meal is not. Check it out here. No, it is not another book about Whitey Bulger–a not very interesting man, I must add. It covers the rise of Raymond Patriarca, the don of the New England Mafia at the Dawn of the New England Mafia. It follows the basic decimation of Raymond's empire by Joe Barboza and the FBI. Did I mention it covers the multiple gang wars going on during the 1960s? Well it does quite a bit of that, too. More later.

March 30, 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Blog

So it appears this latest soggy Noah epic is as contemporary as Rousseau, who rejected modern civilization and progress as evil delusions. I imagine this must at least be better than the version with George C. Scott as the species saving mariner. (By the way, the scene in Sodom is a really creepy and bizarre one–beats anything I've seen in Provincetown.)

But, I must tell all my fundamentalist friends that not only is the tale of Noah a dark and bleak one, it's not even an original yarn. There is a Semitic tradition of ¬®flood" stories and Noah is just one iteration of that…It does however show a youthful YHWH regretting having made the human race, which is kinda silly if he's omniscient. Like he didn't realize his children, made in his own image, would be such a bunch of rotten stinkers? Then again, he was an adolescent God at that time, and not the only deity out there. Just the most ferocious.

And what about the fish and the whale? Why are they spared? Aren't they pretty nasty to each? Sharks are awful mean….

As I've observed before, lumber suppliers could have made a killing selling Noah wood for his ark….Of course, they would have had to spend the money earned rather hastily….

At the end of the day, one must conclude Noah is still one El of a story.

March 18, 2014 · Comments Off · Categories: Blog

This article notes there is a celestial echo from the creation–hinted at in Genesis 1. A powerful story that gives cohesion to the human narrative.

But how much more exciting is it to actually see the authentic mechanics of God's handiwork? This gravity echo is not a poetical guess, as the early creation myths are. This has some evidence–something we always need to apply to our worldview to keep it fresh and accurate.

In short, the universe is so much bigger, scarier, more beautiful and richer than any of our stone or bronze age prophets could have imagined. For those of you who are monotheists, this is an opportunity to get excited. Really. God is a really savvy technologist.

December 03, 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Blog

Finally walked the Brooklyn Bridge. I remembered from David McCullough's "The Great Bridge" how much suffering went into erecting this lofty and grand connector. Lots of bends for the workers; it ruined the lead architect, who'd survived the Civil War. Now walking it…The great buildings lay in front of you like you are in an art gallery about to bid. And of course, dominating the skyline, the new sinuous World Trade Center building: slim, smooth and glassy, with eye bending curves, stabbing the open air.

You walk, making little human steps to cover the miles, very small, yet elevated. And, there, at the edge of the boardwalk covering the roof the bridge, hucksters selling trinkets and portraits. One second a good deal on a key chain–two inches further, a precipitous drop to the automotive feeding frenzy below.

All in all, a great structure–with the human element always present, as Ken Burns' fine documentary makes mention. I know fear for all public monuments. Our leaders have mortgaged what we should be giving to our grandchildren. If Trump buys it, however, he doubtless will cover the bridge in reflective glass, reshape the towers into massive capital T's, and all the working class walkers and drivers will be ejected so that only the very rich can enjoy the connection of the two boroughs.