Sunday, June 10, 2018

Summer Reading Sea Story: The North Water


I highly recommend that you add this sea story to your 2018 Summer Reading list.  I read this book last summer, and reviewed it here.  But don't take my word for it, here's a YouTube Video Book Review by Jake Iannarino, who enjoyed The North Water by Ian McGuire as much as I did.

If you enjoy a good sea story, these two are free on all eReaders.

Amazon Kindle,  Apple iBooks,  Barnes & Noble Nook,  Smashwords

Malcolm Torres is the author of original sea stories and nautical novels.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Opportunity to Tell a Great Sea Story Squandered

The author's experience "bears no resemblance to that of the millions of sailors who have gone to sea in big gray ships." LA Times

Why didn't I buy, read and review Geoff Dyer's book, Another Great Day at Sea, when I first saw it on the new nonfiction display at Powell's books in Portland, Oregon, back in 2014?  Considering that I am a total nut for sea stories, it would make perfect sense that I would have picked it up, walked straight to the cashier and paid for it.  I should have read it and posted a review within a week.  It makes no sense at all.  The sub-title is "Life Aboard The USS George H.W. Bush."  There's a picture of an F18 Hornet chained down on the flight deck on the cover.  There's a deckhand wearing a cranial helmet and float coat silhouetted against the haze grey sea.  This is exactly what I love to read.  It's exactly what I search bookstores for all the time.  If there was ever a book targeted at me, it is absolutely positively this book.  So, why did I not buy it and read it?

It makes no sense.  I'm sure I read the description of the story inside the dust jacket.  I'm reading it now, and it's got all the great stuff I love to read and write about:

Another Great Day at Sea chronicles Dyer’s experiences on the USS George H.W. Bush as he navigates the routines and protocols of “carrier-world,” from the elaborate choreography of the flight deck through miles of walkways and hatches to kitchens serving meals for a crew of five thousand to the deafening complexity of catapult and arresting gear. Meeting the Captain, the F-18 pilots and the dentists, experiencing everything from a man-overboard alert to the Steel Beach Party, Dyer guides us through the most AIE (acronym intensive environment) imaginable.

All my stories and novels are set in this environment, populated with these characters, wrapped tightly around these plots and themes.  It defies the laws of reason as to why I did not snap up this book the instant I saw it.  I am constantly on the prowl for books about ships and sailors.  The simple fact is, I am constantly on the prowl for this exact book, and yet the day I found it, I set it back on the shelf and walked away, deciding not to read it.  And my question is, why?

USS George H.W. Bush

Today, 4 years later, after I did pick this book out of the bin in the dollar store and read it (in one afternoon), I can say that I should have listened to whatever told me to not to read it in the first place.

It's not that the writing is bad.  The man is a good writer.  Descriptions are clear, the language is colourful and accurate.  In ever scene you know exactly where you are, and that is no small feat when describing flight deck operations, the ship's bridge, the galley, the living compartments, sick bay, and store rooms.  The author provides detailed accounts on how massive quantities of food are brought on board, stored, prepared and served.  He describes the catapults used to launch aircraft and the arresting gear used to land them with descriptive flair.  And he peoples the story with intimate encounters with everyone from the captain to the cook, from the chaplain to the mechanic.  But the author doesn't stop there, he doesn't simply describe the spaces and the people, he actually takes you into the lives and into the hearts of the crew.  In chapter after chapter, there are accounts of one-on-one interviews with many of the key people who make the ship and it's crew go.  And each and every one of these situations, it's clear that the author has the ability to put people at ease and get them to open up and tell their story.  And the author, this guy Geoff Dyer, clearly has the writing skills to put you as the reader right into every single scene where you really get to know the men and women he is interviewing.  We hear and deeply feel their lives, including the personal relationships, hardships, professional achievements and shortcomings of each and every person we meet.  And that is where this story is ruined.  Absolutely ruined.

You see, what the author does, and he does it really well, is he takes you aboard the ship (which is a massively difficult thing for a writer to do because it's a completely alien environment).  And he explains all the mechanical systems (which is difficult to do because everything is large and complicated and unlike anything on land in the civilian world).  He's fascinated by it all (along with the reader - because the author has a great gift in his ability to take you aboard a super-carrier with words).  Of course he uses a bit of humor here and there as all sailors do.  And he even drops in a little sarcasm, which is extremely refreshing at first, because you get the sense that this book isn't going to be a politically correct Navy press release.  At first, the author's sarcasm and complaints are subtle.  It makes sense that someone would complain about the noise, the cramped spaces, the food, the announcements blasting at all hours through speakers in ever space, all the acronyms.  But the author's chronic whining doesn't level off.  It's not a snarky remark here and there.  The author's chronic whining takes over the story and begins to color every interaction, begins to fill every page. 
Inconsistent Reviews on Amazon

Page by page, the author's complaints, his whiny attitude, his criticism of each and ever member of the crew (who open up and share their inner lives with him) begins to overshadow the entire story.  It's like a slap in the face to the reader.  We are brought aboard the ship, taken down below decks, shown all this gigantic and amazing mechanical, aeronautical shipboard machinery.  We meet the actual people who are working hard, serving their country, spending months at sea away from their loved ones.  The author puts them at ease and they open up to us about their professional and personal lives.  As they open up to us, it's all described so well, but in every situation the author drops in his constant snide and crude and cranky remarks.

Here are excerpt from two 2-star reviews on Amazon that summarise my critique of this book:

Dyer presumably spent 2 weeks embedded on a US aircraft carrier. He never got mastery of his material. Reading in stretches like the tantrums of a precocious and spoiled child, his report is little more than a series of high-handed put-downs and cynical gags groping for an organizing metaphor, which never emerges.  From a two-star review on Amazon

Compared to Dyer's previous books, this is pathetic. "Great Day" is at least half about Dyer himself- his preferences in food and movies, his ageing body, his health and diet, even his bowel movements. He put zero effort into reflecting on his material; there's nothing of his dazzling connections of disparate findings, his evocation of a deep background that sets his observations in a more profound context. Only twice does he even wonder about what he's observing, and both excursions are commonplace trivialities. And actually, he doesn't even observe very much. His previous works feature references to an extensive literature, but "Great Day" references mostly movies, and contemporary American movies at that. Probably worst of all is his effort to be humorous, tongue-in-cheek funny. It's not funny at all; it's pathetic. This book is the work of a self-absorbed SoCal fluffhead.  From a 2-star review on Amazon

If you enjoy a good sea story, these two are free on all eReaders.

Amazon Kindle,  Apple iBooks,  Barnes & Noble Nook,  Smashwords

Malcolm Torres is the author of many original Sea Stories.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Tile Artwork Tells Sea Stories of Pacific War Dead


I went on vacation to Oahu, Hawaii a few months ago. I had not been there in over 30 years, since the early 1980s when my ship stopped at Pearl Harbor. This time around I didn't spend all my time laying in the sun at the beach or running around to bars at night.

National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl Crater in Honolulu,
on the island of Oahu in Hawaii

I made it a point to visit the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, also known as Punchbowl Crater Cemetery. I was very impressed with the memorials, especially the maps and the tile artwork. At the top of the big memorial, there is a series of maps (all made with brilliant color tile mosaics) depicting the major Pacific battles of WWII, Korea and Vietnam.

Looking up the Memorial steps, along both sides are granite columns with the names of those who died but did not return.  Up at the top, all along on the right and left side there are shady alcoves where the tile mosaic maps are located.  The maps illustrate many of the battles that took place across the Pacific during WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

Looking back down the steps and across the center of the crater.

What I found fascinating was to walk slowly along, pausing and reading the stories of the battles in the Pacific during WWII. What really caught my attention was the small nautical pictures along the borders of the maps. To those who enjoy a good sea story, the colorful bits along the margin are sometimes the best parts of the tale.

There are many of these maps at the top of the Memorial.  It was interesting to walk slowly along and read them one by one.  The history of violent warfare between the US and Japan, Korea and Vietnam really comes to life.  The realization that we are at peace and have positive relationships with Japan and Vietnam today is profound.  Today (5/27/18) there is a  possibility of making peace with North Korea.

All along the borders of the big maps that illustrate the major battles, you can see these little pictures of ships, sailors and sea creatures.  They reminded me of the gallery of maps in the Vatican.

At the Battle of Midway forces from Japan and the US collided in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean.  Like most people, I want to see a map with the dates and the names of the places spelled out.  I want to see the battle lines and the precise locations where the conflicts took place.  But I want something else too, I want the human side of the story.

The day before going to Punchbowl, we went snorkeling and saw so many colorful fish.  This tile artwork made me think about how amazing the sea-life must have been back in the 1940s.  I knew that Marines and sailors had downtime on those tiny atolls.  I wondered if they went snorkeling, even though there was a war going on.  I'm sure they did. 

I thought it was cool that someone had the vision to take the time and raise the money to commission this artwork.  It just seemed perfect somehow.  It's one thing to pay tribute to the dead with stark granite and marble columns, but it's another to memorialize them by telling their stories with these amazing tile mosaics.

These little bits of art made me remember when I took the PADI scuba diving certification class in Subic Bay in the Philippines back in the 80s when I was there on shore leave.  We dove on Japanese barges that were sunk by the Americans when they took back the Philippines.  It made me think of how tough those UDT Seals were back in WWII, with their primitive diving equipment.  They must have been brave to go on those underwater attack missions against Japanese positions.

As you walk along and study the maps there's a peacefulness to it.  You are reading the stories of these violent battles.  You can imagine the explosions, the men dying.  Yet you are in one of the calmest place in the world - you are inside the crater of an extinct volcano.  The birds are chirping.  The sun is shining.  And then you see this Octopus with big eyes, and he's tangled up in a ship's wheel.  Somehow it makes you realize that all those men and women who died, they were people.  Smart, funny, handsome, young people.  Tough, yet loving people who were probably nervous and joking around with each other shortly before they died serving their country.

Storming the beaches.  There's only green fatigues and air between your skin and Japanese bullets.

They fought and died together, and now they sleep side by side.

If you have never been to the Island of Oahu, Hawaii, you should add it to your bucket list.  It's worth the trip.  There are sunny beaches, great restaurants, beautiful people and war memorials.  This particular memorial, Punchbowl Crater, is worth an afternoon walking around and reflecting on history.  Be thankful for the sacrifice made by the brave soldiers, airman and sailors across the Pacific during WWI, the Korean War, and Vietnam.  We owe them our freedom.

Malcolm Torres - Memorial Day, May 28, 2018

If you enjoy a good sea story, these two are free on all eReaders.

Malcolm Torres is the author of original Sea Stories and Nautical Novels.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Nautical Disaster

Recommended Summer Reading

1945:  The Wilhelm Gustloff, a cruise ship converted for war by Germany, was crammed to the gunwales with refugees, all seeking to escape the advancing Russian Army.  Four teenagers, all from different countries, each harboring a secret, is desperately trying to escape to freedom.  They form friendships and take incredible risks to help save each other.

This story, written by Ruta Sepetys, alternates point of view between the four teens.  Mirroring the chaos of war, the story jostles the reader between scenes of incredible violence and endearing acts of humanity.  It's hard to tell who is who at first, but quickly the narrative settles into a fast paced, high stakes plot that races to a violent conclusion.  After overcoming impossible odds to secure passage on the Wilhelm Gustloff, the ship sets out to sea and meets it's destiny.  The only question is, who, if anyone, will survive in the freezing waters?

"The sinking of the Titanic may be the most infamous naval disaster in history, and the torpedoing of the Lusitania the most infamous in wartime. But with death counts of about 1,500 and 1,200 respectively, both are dwarfed by what befell the Wilhelm Gustloff, a German ocean liner that was taken down by a Soviet sub on Jan. 30, 1945, killing 9,343 people—most of them war refugees, about 5,000 of them children." Time Magazine

SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys is available on Amazon

If you enjoy a good sea story, try these two for free on all eReaders

Malcolm Torres is the author of original sea stories and nautical novels.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

The Best Sea Story Ever Written

The Grand Daddy of Nautical Literature

Moby Dick is a literary masterpiece and perhaps the best sea stories ever written.  Anyone serious about nautical literature simply must read this monster of a novel.  Overflowing with all the elements that make up a great sea story, Moby Dick sets the standard for writing about sailors, ocean travel and making a living at sea.  More than this, Moby Dick is a novel about being alive and searching for the meaning of it all.

In Melville's masterpiece, the reader finds all the things that make going to sea in ships so amazing, and that includes deep friendships, monumental challenges, profound mysteries, youthful adventure, technology, the grandeur of nature, heartbreaking tragedy, disaster, salvation and earning a livelihood.

Rather than try to come up with any more catchy lines of praise, here's a quote from Moby Dick that says it all:  "He [Captain Ahab] piled upon the whale's white hump the sum of all the general rage and hate felt by his whole race from Adam down; and then, as if his chest had been a mortar, he burst his hot heart's shell upon it."

If you enjoy a good sea story, try these two for free on all eReaders

Sea Stories by Malcolm Torres

Amazon Kindle

Apple iBooks

Barnes & Noble Nook


Malcolm Torres writes original sea stories.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Two Anthologies of Creepy Sea Stories

Mysterious Sea Stories & Sea Cursed

These two books will not disappoint fans of creepy sea stories, because the editors have include tales set aboard yachts, battleships, submarines that encounter whirlpools, undersea misadventures, psycho shipmates, denizens of the deep, sailors lost at sea, zombies and many other plots and themes that explore this obscure genre.  Mysterious Sea Stories, edited by William Patrick, includes 14 tales by some of the best authors to ever set pen to paper, including Edgar Allan Poe, Jack London, Joseph Conrad and Ray Bradbury.  Sea Cursed, edited by Liam McDonald, also includes stories by Joseph Conrad, Edgar Allan Poe and Ray Bradbury plus tales by Clive Barker, H. P. Lovecraft, Roger Zelazny and other less-well-known creepsters of the deep.

If you enjoy a good sea story, try these two for free on all eReaders

US Navy Nautical Disaster & Coast Guard Crime Thriller

Amazon Kindle

Apple iBooks

Barnes & Noble Nook


Malcolm Torres is the author of original Sea Stories

Sunday, March 18, 2018

How to Download and Read Free Sea Stories

Read Free Sea Stories On Any Device

Choose how you want to read eBooks for free:

Amazon Kindle

Download free eBooks from Amazon and read them on any device.

If you already have an Amazon Kindle eReader your choice is made, read on!  However, if you don't have an Amazon Kindle eReader, but you do shop on Amazon, you can easily install the Amazon Kindle App on any electronic device for free.  Go to the Apps icon on any iPhone, iPad, Samsung or any other electronic device and download the free Amazon Kindle App.  Open the app and log into Amazon with your existing Amazon account information or create an account for free.  Search for Malcolm Torres, and grab my two free eBooks:  Sixty-Four Days and The Pirate Part I.  Here's a cool tip:  Anywhere in the world, go to and it will take you to the Amazon store for your location.  Once there, you can download my books, and they will download to your Kindle App.  If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can read most of my eBooks for free.  Several of my books are available in paperback on Amazon as well.  Click here for my free sea stories on Amazon.

Apple iBooks

Download free eBooks from Apple and read them on all your Apple devices.

If you have an iPhone or an iPad, then you already have the iBooks App installed or you can easily install it for free from the App Store.  Simply open the iBooks App and search for Malcolm Torres and my books will appear.  Tap on Sixty-Four Days or The Pirate Part I and then tap the GET button to download the free eBook.  It may prompt you to log in, and it might ask you to enter your credit card number, but you will not be charged.  Once you open the book, you can adjust the size of the fonts and start reading.  It's just as easy to install the Amazon Kindle or Barnes & Noble Nook app for free on you iPhone or iPad.  Click here for my free sea stories on Apple iBooks.

Barnes & Noble Nook

Download free eBooks from Barnes & Noble
and read them on your Nook eReader or on the free Nook App.

If you already have a Nook eReader your choice is made, read on!  You can just as easily download the Nook App onto any electronic device.  Go to the Apps icon on any iPhone, iPad, Samsung phone or any tablet, laptop of desktop computer and download the free Nook eReader App.  Open the app and log in with your existing Barnes & Noble account information, or create an account for free.  Search for Malcolm Torres, and grab my two free eBooks:  Sixty-Four Days and The Pirate Part I.  You may be asked to enter your credit card number, but you will not be charged for downloading, reading and posting reviews on free eBooks.  Click here for my free sea stories on Barnes & Noble Nook.

Read free eBooks from Smashwords
without giving up any of your personal information.

Smashwords is an excellent option for people who do not have or do not want to share their credit card information or any other personal information for that matter.  On Smashwords, you can download my free eBooks and they will open in your Kindle, iBooks or Nooks eReader Apps.  You will not be asked to enter your credit card number or any other personal info on Smashwords.  If you want to post reviews, you will have to sign up for an account, but only an email address is required.  Click here for my free sea stories on Smashwords.

These Sea Stories are Free On All eReaders

Free on all eReaders:

Amazon Kindle

Apple iBooks

Barnes & Noble Nook


Malcolm Torres is the author of original Sea Stories