Monday, March 5, 2012

Books: Nautical Literature Good, Bad and Ugly

Peter H. Spectre’s A Mariner’s Miscellany is a book that no one writing nautical fact or fiction should be without. Spectre is a wealth of marine information and, best of all for those of us who deal in history, he by no means confines himself to modern ships and shipping.

As with everything, there are drawbacks to Spectre’s tome. He does not site sources, which limits one to what Spectre has to say. Taking his book as a starting point for research is impossible; he will credit individual writers and older books, but you can rarely go further than his book itself. He’s also a little opinionated. We all are, of course, but one of my favorite stands taken by Spectre is his ranking of 20th century writers who touch on the subject of the sea. While I vehemently disagree with Spectre’s assertion that C.S. Forester’s Hornblower series is better than Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels, there are some points in his rankings that it is hard to argue with. In particular I am struck by how much I agree with his first and last choices. Here, then, for your consideration, Peter H. Spectre’s entry “A nautical writer Hall of Fame, twentieth century” from A Mariner’s Miscellany:

All Century, Cannot be Topped - Joseph Conrad
Best American, Boating - Joe Richards
Best British, Boating - Maurice Griffiths
Most Entertaining - L. Francis Herreshoff
Most Enthusiastic - William Atkin
Most Inventive - E.H. Morgan
Best Sea Stories, American - Lincoln Colcord
Best Sea Stories, British - "Shalimar" (F.C. Hendry)
Most Entertaining Braggart - Weston Farmer
Brightest Technical Prose - David C. "Bud" McIntosh
Dullest Technical Prose - Howard I. Chapelle
Best Historical, the Grand Sweep - Samuel Eliot Morison
Best Historical, Small Craft - John Gardner
Best Historical, Naval Architecture - Howard I. Chapelle
Best Expository - Hervey Garrett Smith
Hippest - George J. Putz
Artiest - Rockwell Kent
Saltiest - Carl Lane
Most Co-Authors, Books - Basil Greenhill
Most Prolific, Good Books - Alan Villiers
Most Prolific, Bad Books - Bill Robinson
Best Father-and-Son Team - William and John Atkin
Hairiest Chest, Deserved - Uffa Fox
Hairiest Chest, Undeserved - Sterling Hayden
Best Novels, Nineteenth Century Naval - C.S. Forester
Best Novels, Twentieth Century Naval - Nicholas Monsarrat
Best Novels, Tugboats - Jan de Hartog
Most Novels, Good but Impossible to Finish - William McFee
Most Novels, Mediocre But Impossible to Put Down - Alistair MacLean
Best Current Reputation, Deserved - Patrick O'Brian
Best Current Reputation, Undeserved - Tom Clancy

If you have a strong opinion, let me know. I have not had the pleasure – or perhaps pain, depending – of reading all these authors so I’m keen to hear what the Brethren might think. Especially on such issues as, say, hairiest chest…

Header: A Mariner’s Miscellany via Amazon


Timmy! said...

Ahoy, Pauline! That is quite a list. It looks to me like Spectre (again with the super-villain names?) has earned his opinions, whether we agree with them or not...

Pauline said...

Yes; absolutely. He's obviously very well read in the field. Another reason why I can't do without his book.