Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Aboard a Steel Ship During World War II with C. S. Forester

"A colossal geyser of black mud followed along with the terrific roar of the explosion.  Mud and water rained down on the Apache, drenching everyone on deck, while the little ship leaped frantically in the waves."  Gold From Crete, by C. S. Forester





A Reading Recommendation

by Malcolm Torres


When you search around for sea stories naturally the Horatio Hornblower collection by C. S. Forester comes up at the top of many lists.  But, I'm not much of a fan of Hornblower and the old tyme wooden-ship sea stories, so naturally when I saw C. S. Forester's collection of WWII stories, Gold From Crete, I snatched it up and read it cover to cover.

What I wonder is:  How did Forester write these stories?  While reading them I simply took it for granted that the author was a Royal Navy officer, but I was quite surprised to find that he did not serve in the Navy at all.  He did server in the British Infantry during WWI, but that does not explain how he wrote such wonderful sea stories.  Forester left England prior to the start of WWII, and lived in California writing sea stories and movie scripts for most of his life.

This collection, Gold From Crete, is written with great authenticity, containing so many small details that one experiences while aboard a ship at sea.  The story puts you aboard the HMS Apache during operations in the Mediterranean during WWII.  There's plenty of action and humor, character development and insights into life aboard a ship during wartime.



Five of the stories are about the brave crew aboard the HMS Apache, as they barely survive being bombed as they recover the national treasure of gold at the Greek port of Crete.  In one funny, yet hair-raising story, the Apache's captain dons a diving suit to defuse an accidentally dropped depth charge in port at the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  And of course, as any good WWII sea story should, this volume includes an intense hunt for a German submarine, this time with a new high tech sonar system.

There are several stories in this collection that do not take place aboard ships at sea, and we'll forgive Forester for straying from his nautical plots and themes, but these others stories are well worth a read.  They take us into tank battles on the sands of North Africa, a spy story in New York City and a what-if story that ponders what may have happened if Hitler had invaded England.

For those who enjoy good sea stories, especially those aboard a small ship during WWII, Gold From Crete by C. S. Forester is well worth a read.


If you enjoy a good Sea Story,
these two salty tales are free on all eReaders:
Amazon KindleApple iBooksBarnes & Noble NookSmashwords and Kobo.


Malcolm Torres is the author of original sea stories.



Monday, September 4, 2017

Alcoholic Sailor With Serious Psychiatric Problems

The sailor with the crack in his skull is, you guessed it, McGlue, our murder-suspect and main character.


McGlue by Ottessa Moshfegh (Fence Books)

I spend way too much time in bookstores.  What I do while browsing the displays and stacks is I read the first few pages of any book that looks like it has anything to do with ships and sailors.  If there's a picture of the ocean or waves or a drawing of a ship or a boat on the cover, I read the first few pages.  If the word maritime, sea, navy, sailor, or any reference to anything even vaguely nautical appears on the cover, I crack that book open and lean on the shelf to read a few pages.  While reading, I run through a checklist in the back of my mind.  On that list there are plot elements, themes and character qualities that, over the years, have been ingrained into my gray matter.  On my list are the critical elements that go into a great sea story.

I'm happy to report that McGlue, the slim novella by Ottessa Moshfegh, placed a messy red check mark, a bit like blood splatter, right next to five elements required for a great sea story.  The amazing thing is, I checked these elements off my list while reading the first page:

  - Alcohol-fueled adventure in a foreign port (check)
  - Sexual misconduct (check)
  - Crime (Triple-Check for MURDER!)
  - A sailor shoving off from the pier and heading out to sea with a wicked hangover (check)
  - Main character has a cracked skull and he's still alive (Check! + new item added to my list)

The sailor with the crack in his skull is, you guessed it, McGlue our murder-suspect, main character.



As any reader of this blog knows, I don't go for the types of sea stories that glorify weapons, officers, Naval tradition or politics.  Now, I can go for a bit of each of those, but if these things are wrapped tight around the main plot, I'm out.  This book, has none of that.  Set in the mid 1800s in ports across the Pacific, South America and New England (NY to Boston), the author uses this blurry sort of first person monologue to tell the story.

The plot progresses forward with McGlue tied to a bunk in a locked compartment below decks.  He's being taken back to New England to stand trail for murdering his friend Johnson.  All the while McGlue is flashing back telling the story of his childhood, filled with dreadful mommy-issues.  McGlue and Johnson become best of friends.  They are hobos together, drinking and fighting their way from Boston to New York.  An excellent foundation for a sea-faring bro-mance, by the way.  McGlue and Johnson sign on as deckhands aboard a ship somewhere, maybe it was NY, maybe Baltimore -- it's hard to tell because there's excessive amounts of alcohol involved.  And they aren't drinking beer.  They are not beer-aholics.  No, they are drinking liquor, cheap liquor and lots of it.  All along, Johnson has issues with his father and McGlue with his mother, which fuels the psychiatric subplot.  Periodically we flash to the present where McGlue is bound in the compartment aboard ship.  He's going through some of the most vivid and gut wrenching alcohol detox symptoms I've ever read about.



The sad thing is stories like this are almost never written.  That's why I was happy to find this slim novella about an alcoholic sailor / murder suspect on the shelf at Powell's City of Books here in my home town of Portland, Oregon.

The author, Ottessa Moshfegh, has written for such prestigious publications as The Paris Review and the New Yorker.  Moshfegh creates language and art together in this story.  She leaves me scratching my head (not that there's a crack in my skull) wondering how the hell she wrote this book.  It's authentic, I can tell you.  I've spent years aboard ships, gotten absolutely shitfaced in foreign ports, had friendships that went horribly wrong.  How can Ottessa Moshfegh know about all this.  Has she been in the Merchant Marine, the Navy?  Does she have a hardcore alcoholic sailor in her life?  It makes me wonder?  Perhaps, she is simply a great writer combining a bit of research with the voice of her muse.  Either way, I like Ms. Moshfegh.  I will be on the lookout for her books, especially if she stumbles into writing another sea story.

McGlue, by Ottessa Moshfegh, (118 pages) is published by Fence Books and received the Believer Book Award.


If you enjoy a good Sea Story, 
these two salty tales are free on all eReaders:

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

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Science Fiction at the Bottom of the Ocean

If you love gritty sea stories and grungy sci-fi, you'll love LOW.

Graphic Novel Series:  LOW, by Rick Remender & Greg Tocchini 


Review Excerpts from around the web:

"I found myself reading all the dialogue first, and then letting my eyes go back over the pages slowly to take in everything. The sense of scale was never lost on me. The cities were huge yet ultimately finite. The oceans vast, dark, and foreboding, and full of unknown dangers." Patrick Hester, Kirkus


"Greg Tocchini’s artwork has a different kind of style to it, which looks good when it comes to putting together some eye catching imagery or covers. The underwater scenes, sea creatures, and some of the futuristic technology looks amazing at points; the scene where Sel and Marik swim through the ocean is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a great combination of pencils and paint-like coloring."  Jordan Richards, Adventures in Poor Taste


"Be warned, though: Low isn't for the faint of heart. There's a lot of sex, swearing and violence that may turn some readers away. Any who are willing to continue will continue until the final page and find themselves rewarded by a story that is much more that it first appears to be; a moral tale of how hope can prevail through even the darkest of times." Alister Davison, Starburst




If you enjoy a good Sea Story, these two salty tales are free on all eReaders:



Malcolm Torres is the author and editor of sea stories and nautical fiction.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Wreck of the Medusa

"The heavens were overspread with black clouds; the winds unchained, raised the sea mountains high; terror again rode triumphant on the billow; dashed from side to side, now suspended betwixt life and death," M. Savigne


This is an excerpt from

THE BOOK OF-SHIPWRECKS, AND NARRATIVES OF MARITIME DISCOVERIES

Published by Charles Gaylord, Boston, 1840


The Wreck of the Medusa


In July, 1816, the French frigate the Medusa was wrecked on the coast of Africa, when part of the ship's company took to their boats; and the rest, to the number of one hundred and fifty, had recourse to a raft hastily lashed together.  In two hours after pushing off for the shore, the people in the boats had the cruelty to bear away and leave the raft, already laboring hard amid the waves, and alike destitute of provisions, and instruments for navigation, to shift for itself.  "From the moment," says M. Sevigne, from whose affecting narrative this account is chiefly taken, “that I was convinced of our being abandoned, I was strongly impressed with the crowd of dark and horrible images that presented themselves to my imagination; the torments of hunger and thirst, the almost positive certainty of never more seeing my country or friends, composed the painful picture before my eyes; my knees sunk under me, and my hands mechanically sought for something to lay hold on; I could scarcely articulate a word.  This state soon had an end, and then all my mental faculties revived.  Having silenced the tormenting dread of death, I endeavored to pour consolation into the hearts of my unhappy companions, who were almost in a state of stupor around me.  No sooner, however, were the soldiers and sailors roused from their consternation, than they abandoned themselves to excessive despair, and cried furiously out for vengeance on those who had abandoned them; each saw his own ruin inevitable, and clamorously vociferated the dark reflections that agitated him."  Some persons of a finer character joined with M. Sevigne in his humane endeavors to tranquilize the minds of these wretched sufferers; and they at last partially succeeded, by persuading them that they would have an opportunity in a few days of revenging themselves on the people in the boats.  "I own," says M. Sevigne, "this spirit of vengeance animated every one of us, and we poured vollies of curses on the boat's crew, whose fatal selfishness exposed us to so many evils and dangers.  We thought our sufferings would have been less cruel, had they been partaken by the frigate's whole crew.  Nothing is more exasperating to the unhappy, than to think that those who plunged them into misery, should enjoy every favor, of fortune."

After the first transports of passion had subsided, the sole efforts of their more collected moments were directed to the means of gaining the land, to procure provision.  All that they had on board the raft, consisted of twenty-five pounds of biscuit and some hogs heads of wine.  The imperious desire of self-preservation silenced every fear for a moment; they put up a sail on the raft, and every one assisted with a sort of delirious enthusiasm; not one of them foresaw the real extent of the peril by which they were surrounded.



The day passed on quietly enough; but night at length came on; the heavens were overspread with black clouds; the winds unchained, raised the sea mountains high; terror again rode triumphant on the billow; dashed from side to side, now suspended betwixt life and death, bewailing their misfortune, and though certain of death, yet struggling with the merciless elements ready to devour them, the poor castoffs longed for the coming morn, as if it had been the sure harbinger of safety and repose.  Often was the last doleful ejaculation heard of some sailor or soldier weary of the struggle, rushing into the embrace of death.  A baker and two young cabin boys, after taking leave of their comrades, deliberately plunged into the deep.  "We are off," said they, and instantly disappeared.  Such was the commencement of that dreadful insanity which we shall afterwards see raging in the most cruel manner, and sweeping off a crowd of victims.  In the course of the first night, twelve persons were lost from the raft.

"The day coming on," says M. Sevigne, "brought back a little calm amongst us; some unhappy persons, however, near me, were not come to their senses.  A charming young man, scarcely sixteen, asked me every moment, 'When shall we eat?' He stuck to me, and followed me everywhere, repeating the same question.  In the course of the day, Mr. Griffen threw himself into the sea, but I took him up again.  His words were confused; I gave him every consolation in my power, and endeavored to persuade him to support courageously every privation we were suffering.  But all my care was unavailing; I could never recall him to reason; he gave no sign of being sensible to the horror of our situation.  In a few minutes he threw himself again into the sea; but by an effort of instinct, held to a piece of wood that went be yond the raft, and he was taken up a second time."

The Raft of the Medusa, Théodore Gericault, 1819 (The Louvre, Paris, France)


The hope of still seeing the boats coming to their succor, enabled them to support the torments of hunger during this second day; but as the gloom of night returned, and every man began, as it were, to look in upon himself, the desire of food rose to an ungovernable height; and ended in a state of general delirium.  The greater part of the soldiers and sailors, unable to appease the hunger that preyed upon them, and persuaded that death was now in evitable took the fatal resolution of softening their last moments by drinking of the wine, till they could drink no more.  Attacking a hogshead in the center of the raft, they drew large libations from it; the stimulating liquid soon turned their delirium into frenzy; they began to quarrel and fight with one another; and ere long, the few planks on which they were floating, between time and eternity, became the scene of a most bloody contest for momentary pre-eminence.  No less than sixty-three men lost their lives on this unhappy occasion.

Shortly after, tranquility was restored.  "We fell," says M. Sevigne, "into the same state as before: this insensibility was so great, that next day I thought myself waking out of a disturbed sleep, asking the people round me if they had seen any tumult, or heard any cries of despair? Some answered, that they too had been tormented with the same visions, and did not know how to explain them.  Many who had been most furious during the night, were now sullen and motionless, unable to utter a single word.  Two or three plunged into the ocean, coolly bidding their companions farewell; others would say.  'Don't despair; I am going to bring you relief; you shall soon see me again.'  Not a few even thought themselves on board the Medusa, amidst everything they used to be daily surrounded with.  In a conversation with one of my comrades, he said to me, 'I cannot think we are on a raft; I always suppose myself on board our frigate.'  My own judgment, too, wandered on these points.  M. Correard imagined himself going over the beautiful plains of Italy.  M. Griflen said' very seriously, 'I remember we were forsaken by the boats; but never fear, I have just written to Government, and in a few hours we shall be saved.'  M. Correard asked quite as seriously, 'and have you then a pigeon to carry your orders so fast?'"

It was now the third day since they had been abandoned, and hunger began to be most sharply felt; some of the men, driven to desperation, at length tore off the flesh from the dead bodies that covered the raft, and devoured it.  "The officers and passengers," says M. Sevigne, "to whom I united myself, could not overcome the repugnance inspired by such horrible food; we however tried to eat the belts of our sabres and cartouch boxes, and succeeded in swallowing some small pieces; but we were at last forced to abandon these expedients, which brought no relief to the anguish caused by total abstinence."

In the evening they were fortunate enough to take nearly two hundred flying fishes, which they shared immediately.  Having found some gunpowder, they made a fire to dress them, but their portions were so small, and their hunger so great, that they added human flesh, which the cooking rendered less disgusting; the officers were at last tempted to taste of it.  The horrid repast was followed with another scene of violence and confusion; a second engagement took place during the night, and in the morning only thirty persons were left alive on the fatal raft.  On the fourth night, a third fit of despair swept off fifteen more; so that, finally, the number of miserable beings was reduced from one hundred and fifty, to fifteen.

"A return of reason," says M. Sevigne, "began now to enlighten our situation.  I have no longer to relate the furious actions dictated by dark despair, but the unhappy state of fifteen exhausted creatures reduced to frightful misery.  Our gloomy thoughts were fixed on the little wine that was left, and we con templated with horror the ravages which despair and want had made amongst us.  'You are much altered,' said one of my companions, seizing my hand, and melting into tears.  Eight days torments had rendered us no longer like ourselves, At length, seeing ourselves so reduced, we summoned up all our strength, and raised a kind of stage to rest ourselves upon.  On this new theatre we resolved to wait death in a becoming manner.  We passed some days in this situation, each concealing his despair from his nearest companion.  Misunderstanding, however, again took place, on the tenth day after being on board the raft.  After a distribution of wine, several of our companions conceived the idea of destroying themselves after finishing the little wine that remained.  'When people are so wretched as we,' said they, 'they have nothing to wish for but death.’  We made the strongest remonstrances to them; but their diseased brains could only fix on the rash project which they had conceived; a new contest was therefore on the point of commencing, but at length they yielded to our remonstrances.  Many of us, after receiving our small portion of wine, fell into a state of intoxication, and then great misunderstandings arose.

"At other times we were pretty quiet, and sometimes our natural spirits inspired a smile in spite of the horrors of our situation.  Says one, 'If the brig is sent in search of us, let us pray to God to give her the eyes of Argus,' alluding to the name of the vessel which we supposed might come in search of us.

"The 17th in the morning, thirteen days after being forsaken, while each was enjoying the delights of his poor portion of wine, a captain of infantry perceived a vessel in the horizon, and announced it with a shout of joy.  For some moments we were suspended between hope and fear.  Some said, they saw the ship draw nearer; others, that it was sailing away.  Unfortunately, these last were not mistaken, for the brig soon disappeared.  From excess of joy, we now sunk into despair.  For my part, I was so accustomed to the idea of death, that I saw it approach with indifference.  I had remarked many others terminate their existence without great outward signs of pain; they first became quite delirious, and nothing could appease them; after that, they fell into a state of imbecility that ended their existence, like a lamp that goes out for want of oil.  A boy twelve years old, unable to support these privations, sunk under them, after our being forsaken.  All spoke of this fine boy as deserving a better fate; his angelic face, his melodious voice, and his tender years, inspired us with the tenderest compassion, for so young a victim devoted to so frightful and untimely a death.  Our oldest soldiers, and, indeed, every one, eagerly assisted him as far as circumstances permitted.  But, alas! it was all in vain; neither the wine, nor any other consolation, could save him, and he expired in M. Coudin's arms.  As long as he was able to move, he was continually running from one side of the raft to the other, calling out for his mother, for water, and for food.

"About six o'clock, on the 17th, one of our companions looking out, on a sudden stretching his hands forwards, and scarcely able to breathe, cried out, ' Here's the brig almost alongside;' and, in fact, she was actually very near.  We threw ourselves on each other's necks with frantic transports, while tears trickled down our withered cheeks.  She soon bore upon us within pistol shot, sent a boat, and presently took us all on board.  We had scarcely escaped, when some of us became delirious again; a military officer was going to leap into the sea, as he said, to take up his pocket book; and would certainly have done so, but for those about him; others were affected in the same manner, but in a less degree.

"Fifteen days after our deliverance, I felt the species of mental derangement which is produced by great misfortunes; my mind was in a continual agitation, and during the night, I often awoke, thinking myself still on the raft; and many of my companions experienced the same effects.  One Francois became deaf, and remained for a long time in a state of idiotism.  Another frequently lost his recollection; and my own memory, remarkably good before this event, was weakened by it in a sensible manner.

"At the moment in which I am recalling the dreadful scenes to which I have been witness, they present themselves to my imagination like a frightful dream.  All those horrible scenes from which I so miraculously escaped, seem now only as a point in my existence.  Restored to health, my mind sometime recalls those visions that tormented it, during the fever that consumed it.  In those dreadful moments we were certainly attacked with a cerebral fever, in consequence of excessive mental irritation.  And even now, sometimes in the night, after having met with any disappointment, and when the wind is high, my mind recalls the fatal raft.  I see a furious ocean ready to swallow me up; hands uplifted to strike me, and the whole train of human passions let loose; revenge, fury, hatred, treachery, and despair, surrounding me!"




If you enjoy a good Sea Story . . . 


these two salty tales are free on all eReaders:

Amazon KindleApple iBooksBarnes & Noble NookSmashwords and Kobo.



Malcolm Torres is the author and editor of sea stories and nautical fiction.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Reading Recommendation: The North Water by Ian McGuire

"The North Water, Ian McGuire’s savage new novel about a 19th-century Arctic whaling expedition, is a great white shark of a book — swift, terrifying, relentless and unstoppable." NY Times




A Review of 

THE NORTH WATER by Ian McGuire


As you know, I love a great sea story, but it's only once every few years that a great new one comes along.  For this reason, I'm always on the look out for a nautical yarn that will hit me like a punch in the gut.  Not that I like to be punched in the gut--I mean this metaphorically.  When I read a book, especially a sea story, I want it leave a dent in my hull.  So, for me, a former Navy sailor who likes a powerful rush, I greatly enjoy reading tales of adventure, crime, violence, horror, saucy romance and thrills, preferably set aboard a ship at sea or among sailors visiting a port of call.  Today, I'm happy to report that THE NORTH WATER by Ian McGuire meets all my requirements for a great sea story.


I knew right away I was going to buy and read this book after opening it at the book store and reading the first paragraph.  We have one of the main characters emerging from an alley, "he rubs his bristled head, and readjusts his crotch.  He sniffs his fingers, then slowly sucks each one in turn, drawing off the last remnants, getting his final money's worth."  And, of course, I'm standing there in the book store wondering if this character has just paid for a meal or a whore, and what residue exactly is he sucking from his fingers?  I liked the fact that the author was doing nasty things to my mind and for this reason I decided immediately to purchase and read this book.  The answer to the question:  What was the character licking from his fingers? is not answered, but it doesn't matter because the character, Henry Drax, quickly becomes so much more horrifying with each ensuing sentence.


After that initial shock, the author delivers plenty of dents and scratches to the reader's imagination as the voyage of this story runs along.  Without giving away any spoilers, here's an excerpt from one of the book's many glowing reviews:


“The North Water,” Ian McGuire’s savage new novel about a 19th-century Arctic whaling expedition, is a great white shark of a book — swift, terrifying, relentless and unstoppable.  It is also as epically bloody as a Jacobean drama or a Cormac McCarthy novel.  One man has his head bashed with a brick, and “there is a fine spray of blood and a noise like a wet stick snapping.”  Another is bludgeoned with a piece of whalebone.  A sailor is nearly decapitated with a saw blade.  Two boys are raped and murdered.  Two Eskimo hunters are killed while they sleep.  And an oarsman’s arm is ripped off by a polar bear." (NY Times Book Review, by Michiko Kakutani)




Continuing along in the spirit of this NY Times review, I'll tell you (without spoilers) that there are countless things the author sets on the page that are blatantly objectionable.  In addition to those actions mentioned above, The North Water describes drunkenness, whoring about, several surgeries performed without anesthesia, the killing of adorable and endangered animals, double crossing bad guys, shipwrecks, near death experiences, no-strings-attached sex with a married Eskimo woman, and many putrid odors.  Quite a few authors attempt to write about these sorts of things, but most authors lack the literary chops to pull it off successfully.  For example, consider the difference between an Oscar winning film (say John Travolta in Pulp Fiction) and a B-rated flick (say John Travolta in Be Cool).  Well, now that you have those films in mind, please understand that Ian McGuire's The North Water is an Oscar winner written for the big screen inside your mind.

"Here's the description copied off the book's Amazon description page for the recently-released paperback (this hooked me right way):

Behold the man: stinking, drunk, and brutal. Henry Drax is a harpooner on the Volunteer, a Yorkshire whaler bound for the rich hunting waters of the arctic circle.  Also aboard for the first time is Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon with a shattered reputation, no money, and no better option than to sail as the ship's medic on this violent, filthy, and ill-fated voyage.

In India, during the Siege of Delhi, Sumner thought he had experienced the depths to which man can stoop.  He had hoped to find temporary respite on the Volunteer, but rest proves impossible with Drax on board.  The discovery of something evil in the hold rouses Sumner to action.  And as the confrontation between the two men plays out amid the freezing darkness of an arctic winter, the fateful question arises: who will survive until spring?

With savage, unstoppable momentum and the blackest wit, Ian McGuire's The North Water weaves a superlative story of humanity under the most extreme conditions."



So there you have it, all the ingredients that make for a wonderful sea story!  Now, as I summarize my review, just in case there remains any doubt, let's be absolutely clear that this book is for readers who enjoy rough characters in harsh environments committing brutal acts of violence.  Supporting this thesis, the settings include harbor towns in England and isolated bays east of Greenland.  Further, the characters are all the lowliest whalers living aboard a wooden ship on an ill-fated voyage.  All this the author sets down on the page in such a way as to make you shiver in the biting cold as you come to know all the sleazy characters personally.  Best of all, every grimy scene is described with exacting precision and literary artistry.

After reading this tale in only 3-days, I slipped it onto my book shelf right between two similar favorites; Jack London's Sea Wolf and Donald Ray Pollock's The Devil All the Time.



If you enjoy a good Sea Story . . . 

these two salty tales are free on all eReaders:

Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Smashwords and Kobo.


Malcolm Torres is the author and editor of sea stories and nautical fiction.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Book of Sea Stories by Cyrus Townsend Brady

"The reason we love the sea . . . is this Homeric spirit of the Ocean Masters that tills the dreams of youth and stirs the memories of old age."




Introduction 

by Cyrus Townsend Brady


MOST of us have passed through a period of life during which we have ardently longed to be, if not actually a rover, a buccaneer, or a pirate, at least and really a sailor!  To run away to sea has been the misdirected ambition of many a youngster, and some lads there are who have realized their desire to their sorrow.  The boy who has not cherished in his heart and exhibited in his actions at sometime or other during his youthful days, a love of ships and salt water, is fit for — well, he is fit for the shore, and that is the worst thing a sailor could say about him!


The virile nations, the strong peoples, are those whose countries border on the sea. They who go down to the great deep in ships are they who master the world.  On the ocean as well as on the mountain top dwells the spirit of freedom.  When men have struggled with each other in the shock of war, or the emulation of peace, when they have matched skill against skill, strength to strength, courage with courage, the higher quality of manhood in each instance has been required upon the sea;  for there the sharp contention has been not only between man and man but between nature and man as well.  A double portion of heroic spirit is needed to meet the double demand.  That is the reason we love the sea. It is this Homeric spirit of the Ocean Masters that tills the dreams of youth and stirs the memories of old age.


In these dreams and memories the veriest boy catches glimpses of the perpetual Titanic struggle of, and on, the deep; dimly discerning in his youthful way, a thousand generations of heroic achievement before, and through which, he begins to be; and he realizes that the ocean affords such a field for the exhibition of every high quality that goes to make a man as may be found nowhere else.  The deck of the ship is the arena upon which he can play a mighty part, and he loves it.  In imagination the boy now discovers a new world, like Columbus and America;  in dreams he opens a vast empire to civilization, like Perry in Japan;  sometimes he fights the battles of the free, like Nelson at Trafalgar;  or he strikes for his own flag on the decks of some gallant Constitution.  If he be a sports man, he may pursue the great fighting sperm-whale, or angle for Jack Sharkee;  if an adventurer, he may seek to pierce the icy barrier of mystery ringed about that polar star by which he guides his ship;  if a trader, he may visit strange lands and seek new markets for his product;  if a missionary, he may carry his gospel of good tidings to dark peoples, ignorant of the meaning of that southern cross which flashes in splendor above them in the midnight heavens, and tell to them the story of the Ruler of the deep.  Wherever men achieve and do, wherever nations grow and prosper, they have a mastery of the sea.


In these pages are gathered stories of the heroes of peace, not less kings of the sea than those who have startled the mighty depths with the thunder of their war-ship guns.  The freshness, the freedom of it, the joy and delight, the calm and rest, the strenuous life, the labor and sorrow, the peril and danger, the reward and success, all are here. We turn back some hundred years to go a-cruising with Cleveland.  We hunt the cachelot with Bullen.  Our own Cooper takes us breathless with the romantic Pilot over the dangers of the Devil's Grip.  Under the Antarctic Circle we watch the sea lions play. Here a mighty monster of the hideous depths seems to spread its tentacles across the printed page in a struggle which Victor Hugo immortalizes.  Flame and smoke are those deadliest of perils to ships toward which gentle Jean Ingelow conducts us.  The sudden mutiny, the long cruise in the small boat, the lonely islet affording the shipwrecked a haven, appeal to us in these pages.  We drift through the teeming waters of the Gulf Stream.  Daniel DeFoe, and Melville and Marryat and Cupples and Russell and Kingston, unroll before us the panorama of the ocean.  There are also men great in other fields of letters who have felt the witchery of the sea and tell us what it says to them — Charles Dickens, Pierre Loti, Stevenson, Charles Reade, and Kingsley.  We envy the boy or girl who reads these tales for the first time.  Fain would we again enjoy such a happy privilege.  And our envy deepens when we think of the wide range of literature to which this volume will introduce them. Lucky young people who open such pages for a first glance!

A Book of Sea Stories is free on Google Books on this link here.


Two Free Sea Stories
by Malcolm Torres


If you enjoy a good Sea Story, these two salty tales are free on this link right here.  These stories are free on all eReaders, including Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble Nook, Smashwords and Kobo:


Malcolm Torres is the author and editor of sea stories and nautical fiction.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Attention All Hands: Sea Stories Wanted

Writers of original sea stories are requested to submit their work for consideration to be published in The Sea Adventure Collection.




Do you have a story with characters aboard a ship, boat, yacht or submarine?  How about a story that takes place ashore in a port of call?  If your story involves the navy, coast guard, marines, merchant sailors, fisherman, yachtsmen, a harbor pilot, lighthouse keeper, stevedore or any other seafarer, you should submit it for publication in the Sea Adventure Collection.  We're open to stories from the military, pleasure cruising, pirates, smugglers, and all other boating enthusiasts.

Stories must be original works of fiction, written in English and approximately 500 to 4,000 words.  Plots may include, but are not limited to adventure, war, thriller, crime, sci-fi, comedy, history, disaster, horror and / or romance.  R rated stories are okay, but X rated stories will not be considered.

Author Guidelines:

  • Submit stories to:  malcolmtorres1@gmail.com in MS Word or any other popular word processing format.
  • Expect to hear back within 1-month on whether or not your story has been accepted for publication.
  • Proofread and spell check your story before you submit it, but the editor understands that a good sea story is sometimes written by a sailor who is unfamiliar with the rules of writing in the English language (and that's ok).   Appropriate proofreading, spell checking and editing will be done to improve every published story as needed.
  • If your work is accepted for publication, you will be asked to sign a release form granting the publisher, permission to publish the story in print, eBook and blog formats.  The author will retain all other copyrights.
  • Proceeds from the sale of The Sea Adventure Collection will be dispersed as follows:
  • 60% of proceeds will be donated to a Seaman, Mariner or Veteran's Service Organization such as a retired sailor's home, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Wounded Warrior Project, etc. or other organization serving Seaman or Mariners.
  • 40% of the proceeds well be retained by the editor to pay for book cover artwork, book design, proofreading, advertising, website hosting, book printing and shipping expenses.
  • Send all questions and comments to malcolmtorres1@gmail.com


Malcolm Torres is the author and editor of sea stories and nautical fiction.


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Vatican Museum's Gallery of Maps Includes Fine Nautical Artwork

Last week I was very fortunate.  I was in Rome, Italy and spent an entire day at the Vatican.  I did not do much research before going, because I wanted to take it all in without a lot of preconceived ideas.  I wanted my mind to be fresh.  I wanted to be surprised.

So, there I was making my way through one long hall after another, each filled with the most amazing artwork in the world.  Everything from Egyptian coffins and Etruscan pottery to paintings by European masters and Greek sculptures.  Every doorway was a colossal arch held up by marble pillars, every ceiling decorated with frescoes and ornate golden trim.

Here's the scene as I entered the Gallery of Maps.


A few steps down the corridor I looked back and up and here's what I saw:


To say this is art and architecture on the grandest scale is an understatement.  Descriptions such as profound genius and epic masterpieces seem to fall short.  As I walked along the corridor, I listened to the audio guide and learned that Pope Gregory XIII, back in 1580, commissioned a map maker to draw and paint detailed maps of Italy along the corridor which is over 100-meters long.  The maps look like this:








As I walked along and gazed on theses amazing maps, my eyes were constantly drawn to the ships, sea creatures and port cities painted in all along the Italian coastline.  I felt like I was in heaven.




The intricate detail showing wooden ships with their sails full as they crossed the Mediterranean to Greece and Egypt made me wonder about the adventures those sailors must have had back in the 1500s.  The elaborate paintings of sea creatures made my imagination run wild.




As you well know if you have read this blog before, I love nautical artwork in all its forms, including sea stories, novels, movies, tattoos, drawings and paintings.  All I can say is that I was very happy, surprised and impressed with the fine details found in these old paintings.  I would give almost anything to be able to travel in a time machine back to the mid-1500s and be able to meet with the artist who painted these marvelous pictures.  I would give almost anything to be able to sail with the sailors back in those days, when the sea was full of mystery and monsters.

*     *     *


If you enjoyed this blog post, I'm sure you'll enjoy these free sea stories.  Grab them with no strings attached here: www.malcolmtorres.com/books/


Free on Amazon Kindle, Apple iBooks, Nook, Kobo and Smashwords.

*     *     *


Malcolm Torres is the author of sea stories and nautical fiction.


Friday, April 7, 2017

Making Peace With Japan, A Sea Story





There’s a sculpture of a carp with a pearl in its mouth, another of the Buddha surrounded by burned-down incense sticks in clay pots.  Over it all, a high arching roof with a stained glass window filtering sunlight.  Deuce is snapping pictures.  I’m studying the artwork in the roof.  I spin on the soles of my tennis shoes and realize I’m looking at a green-scaled dragon, blasting fire from its open mouth at a tiger sinking its claws into the dragon to keep it from flying off on flapping wings.  I look closer and see the dragon is actually in flight over a snow-capped mountain, but the tiger hangs on, its claws dug in.
“Amazing,” I say.
“Fuckin' A,” O’Don whispers as we bump into each other.
Outside, a cloud crosses before the sun and the streaks of color vanish.
“Check it out,” Deuce says.
There’s a large black and white photo on an easel.  In the photo we see a pond and in the clear water there are large carp swimming under lily pads.  The next picture shows an old man in a simple white robe tending to a delicate Bonsai.  Another shows two sumo wrestlers facing each other with their hands on their knees.
A marquee says this is an exhibit by a renowned Japanese photographer.  Metal poles with felt ropes guide us to the entrance.
We wander through checking out the black and white pictures, mounted on cardboard, hung on partitions.  They depict rural life in Japan years ago.  We wander through a maze leading us deeper into the exhibit.  The pictures are amazing.  Laborers in a rice paddy.  People in simple garb shopping at an open air market.  A Samurai with a hand on the hilt of his sword.  A temple beside a tranquil pond.  People pulling nets of fish onto the beach.
My wanderlust stirs.
I want to hop on a bus and go up along the coast or into the mountains.  The Navy, though, doesn’t give us enough time off to get past the waterfront bars, and even if we had more time, we don’t have any way to make travel plans before we arrive.  Here in Sasebo, it’s the same as every other port—take a cab into town, walk around, go to a bar, get shitfaced.
We drift apart as we meander through the photos.


I round a turn and it hits me.  The people who set this up tricked us, they lured us in with beautiful pictures, but now I’m deep in the middle of the maze and they’ve got me, like a bug stuck in a spider’s web.  There’s a photo of a Zen garden outside an ancient pagoda.  A path through the garden leads my eye into a grove of dense evergreens.  This scene in this photo shows the most peaceful and idyllic place I’ve ever seen.  In the photo beside this one, taken after the bomb went off, the pagoda is a toppled pile of smoking rubble.  The evergreens torched to blackened trunks, their branches incinerated.  Another photo shows rows of school children in uniforms.  Boy girl, boy girl.  The next picture, a doctor in a dirty lab coat doing something painful to a child who has been burned severely.  Two distressed women hold the screaming child on a cot covered with a gray sheet.
A ball of guilt in my gut.  I remind myself that I’m not responsible.  I think about my grandfather as a young man, maybe it’s his fault.
The next picture shows a row of women in silk kimonos hiding their heavily made-up faces behind elaborate fans.  Their striking eyes draw my attention into a building behind them where big pillows and low tables fill a shady room.  Geisha girls.  They’re beautiful.  I’m intrigued but then I glance at the next picture—several corpses crumpled on cobblestones surrounded by decimated city blocks where all the wooden buildings were vaporized, only black scorch marks on the ground remain.


My guts twist and I don’t know what to think.
This will leaving a mark, I realize.
It’s a lot more powerful than 10,000 people waving signs.
Slowly walking through the maze looking at every picture leads me back to the beginning.
There’s an old man, tranquil and calm, sitting behind a table.  I wonder if he’s the photographer.  His blank look tells me he was there, he saw the flash in the sky over Hiroshima or maybe Nagasaki.
On his table there’s a card with a quotation: “The new generation can learn from the past and out of this rubble create something good.”
I remember being in the tailor shop and how they greeted us.  I bow slightly.
The old photographer nods.  Deep wrinkles and brown age spots around his eyes.  I think I’ll never look like him.  Not Japanese, of course I’ll never be Japanese.  What I’m thinking is I’ll never be as old as him.  I’m 19.  I’ll never get old.
Something inside my chest moves and I wonder if it’s my soul, but it’s probably just the hot sauce and the beers.
I find Deuce and O’Don.
"Those photos were heavy,” I say.
They don’t say anything.
I wonder if they’re both just brutes, living unexamined lives.
“What did you think of those pictures, O’Don?” I ask.
“Old times,” he says.



*     *     *

This is an excerpt from Making Peace With Japan, A Sea Story by Malcolm Torres.  In this story, we follow three young sailors off the USS Enterprise as they come ashore in Sasebo, Japan.  They are greeted by thousands of anti-nuclear protesters.  After weeks at sea, the sailors only want an exotic meal and a cold beer, but this port visit turns into a reckoning with history after they meet some friendly locals and find themselves Making Peace with Japan. This is one of the short stories in The Sea Adventure Collection. These stories are often free on Amazon, and they can be read in any order.If you enjoy it, please post an honest review.  Click here to see this story on Amazon.



Click here to see this story on Amazon

*     *     *

If you enjoyed Making Peace With Japan, you will also like this sea story.  

It's free on all eReaders HERE.


*     *     *

Malcolm Torres is the author of 

original Sea Stories and Nautical Fiction


Find out more at www.malcolmtorres.com