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Friday, March 27, 2009

James L. Nelson, not talking about his book


My good friend Jim Nelson, who writes great novels and nonfiction accounts of life at sea (and life in the early American navy, in particular), has hit on a great way of promoting a book. And that is NOT to talk about it.

To interrupt this anecdote, I must say that the book in question is a really great book. It is called George Washington's Secret Navy -- How the American Revolution Went to Sea. It is about a man you might have heard of, called George Washington, who didn't have a ship, let alone a navy, but had to do something about the British who were blockading Boston at the time. What did he do? How did he go about founding the US Navy out of a bunch of little privateers? It's an untold mystery - well, untold until now.
Jim, knowing I'm a fan as well as a friend, sent me a pre-publication draft, which I enjoyed so immensely I sent him a sentence about it, which was eventually published on the back of the jacket.

The political machinations are as exciting as the blood-stirring ship actions in this meticulously researched story of the shadowy beginnings of American might on the seas, I wrote.

Other people enjoyed it too, Eric Jay Dolin calling it "A gripping and fascinating book about the daring and heroic mariners who helped George Washington change the course of history and create a nation." Eric got it right -- it is the swashbuckling mariners who roam the pages that make this work such a delight. Knowing Jim as we do (as he says himself, he spends far too much time dressed as a pirate, considering he is a grown man), it is easy to imagine him taking part in the adventures himself.

Anyway, back to the story. Jim has a new way of publicizing this great book -- or, at least, the Pritzker Military Library in Chicago has found the new way of doing this. Jim gave a talk there, the Library put on on their website, and presto, you can see this swashbuckling author for yourself.

Does he talk about the book? No. Which takes me back to my anecdote. As he points out at the start, telling the audience all about a book takes away any need for anyone to buy it and read it. To find out what he does talk about -- and very entertainingly, I might add -- visit the website and see.

2 comments:

Joanne Parker said...

Dear Joan,
I hope you don’t mind my contacting you. I teach in the Department of English at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus (near Falmouth, UK). I am currently putting together a funding application for a research network investigating the relationships between British identities and the sea. The aim of the network will be to foster discussion among a broad spectrum of researchers who have worked in this area (or are interested in doing so), whether that is in the field of history, literary studies, art history, folklore studies, or cultural geography.
It will involve two main events (as well as a graduate symposium) – the first being a Summer 2011 conference on Women and the Sea, held at the Cornwall campus. I hope that this will bring together researchers interested in the history of women whalers, fishers and sailors with those working on women (and mermaids) in sea shanties and folklore, and those interested in the uses of the sea by women writers, artists, and feminist theorists. What I'm hoping is that it will begin to uncover interesting relationships between women's theoretical and their practical relationships with the sea, over the last two hundred years in particular. Women’s History Review has already expressed an interest in doing a special issue from the conference, and beyond this, I would also like to see a multi-authored book on the sea arising out of the two main conferences (the other event is on national/regional identities and the sea).
Obviously, the network is still at an early stage in its planning and its precise shape will be determined both by our success in attracting funding and by the eventual make-up of its members. However, I would be delighted if you would provisionally consider being involved in the Women and the Sea conference?
Again – I hope you don’t mind my contacting you out of the blue (and by slightly odd means - I couldn't find your email address!) I look forward to hearing back from you.

With best wishes,

Joanne Parker

Joan Druett said...

Dear Joanne -- Your idea is an excellent one, as I have the impression that the American and Australian historians have dominated the field of the human spirit and the sea -- except for Nelson and Trafalgar, of course. There has been sporadic interest in women and the sea, but it mostly flickers off into pirate history. So good luck with this. I certainly hope it works well. If you want to get in touch with me offlist, as it were, there is a link on my website, http://www.joan.druett.gen.nz

I shall now rush off and make sure it is up and working!

Kia ora from New Zealand, Joan