The California Run

The California Run ISBN: 9781946409553, Penmore Press, a historical e-book copyright and written by Mark A. Rimmer.

Plot: Achilles, a newly commissioned clipper ship sets sail from New York to Frisco with a Whaler Captain, who also was a Quaker, in charge. His daughter, Emma, who has accompanied him for several years and is an experienced seaman, is with him. He has a quite brutal 1st Mate and a 2nd Mate, Nate Cooper, who is a young experienced seaman but is in his first, somewhat insecure assignment as an officer. The ship is to depart for San Francisco at the same time as a similar ship, Sapphire, captained by Jonas Blunt who has made the journey before but seemingly is quite addicted to alcohol. No similarly destined cargo ships have left New York in several weeks so not only will the first arrival gain the best prices for their cargo, but also will win for the owner a sizeable bet made with the owner of the other clipper. The story, following mostly Achilles’ journey in the dangerous trip ‘around the Horn’ (the southern tip of South America) is fraught with problems of weather, tides and similar indigenous to the journey, but also sabotage, murders and a mutinous crew. Nate and Emma are forced into most unusual positions and the competitive race becomes a tightly contested one. A number of other interestingly portrayed characters also aid the plot: Sarah Doyle, formerly Lady Thompson’s maid who was supposed to await the next ship but instead assumes the position of her former employer; Henry Jenkins a man whom she has duped out of his money, who becomes a crewman on the Achilles after being shanghaied: Gideon whom the unprincipled owner of Sapphire, Thaddeus Oglesby, has made sure for his inclusion in Achilles’ crew for the purpose of sabotaging it so his ship Sapphire can win the race; Thomas, Oglesby’s incompetent son; a bordello owner with 3 of her girls; a brutal 1st mate and other crew members that play interesting parts in the tale. This is a story replete also with abundant details of the structure of the old ‘square riggers’ and their handling in various seas, currents, fog and wind.

Discussion: This tale of a race between two clipper ships from New York to San Francisco in the early days of the ‘gold rush’ when Frisco still was Yerba Buena is a fascinating tale on several levels. At this particular time supplies were short and the residents of Frisco were largely dependent upon those that could be brought by these ships. These newly designed ‘greyhounds of the sea’ could make the journey from New York to Frisco in 100 days and were much in demand. Unfortunately, upon arrival the crews mostly would ‘jump ship’ to attempt to enrich themselves in the gold fields. Resultantly, Frisco harbor was literally overfilled with empty ships unable to obtain sufficient crew to return for another run. The only way sufficient crew members could be obtained was by ‘Shanghaiing’ them. A ship’s captain could pay a combine of bar owners who would drug the drinks of patrons and waterfront thugs who then would deliver them aboard the paying ship. More frequently than not these individuals knew nothing about sailing but were forced to learn rapidly by brutal first and second mates. The author, as “presently one of only a handful of captains worldwide who is qualified to command a fully-rigged ship the size of the clippers” is eminently qualified to write about these ships and does a remarkable job of interspersing fascinating ‘lessons’ into this well-plotted story. Only two caveats must be provided. The story’s early description of shanghaiing crews is so intertwined with the Yerba Buena details that at least this reader was momentarily confused as to the point of departure of the ships. Secondly, many of the details of the vessels, seamanship, weather, tides, use of the sextant and similar material may be a little too pedantic for some readers. However, and parenthetically no doubt, as one who has done a considerable amount of sailing and also made a ‘trip around the horn’, I found the discussions of use of the sextant, tides, winds and points of reference especially fascinating. Unfortunately, or perhaps most fortunately because of the weather, my Horn trip was made in a relatively large motor vessel, but it was enough to bring each feature presented quite sharply to mind.

Conclusion: A totally fascinating historical tale that should appeal to anyone who enjoys sea stories of the period and even more so if you have sailed and/or had the opportunity to ‘go around the Horn’.

5* Fascinating tale of the Clipper Ships; regrettable caveats for a few readers.


Blood Symbols

Blood Symbols ISBN: 9780620738507, Amazon Edition, a fictional e-book copyright and written by Izak Botha.

Plot: Jennifer Jaine, a young devoutly Catholic woman working for her Doctorate in Religion gains an opportunity from a prominent news organization to interview Cardinal Cardoni, perhaps the most powerful man in the Vatican besides the Pope. She is quite shocked to find him quite inadequately prepared for his position. His answers are based on conjecture rather than actual evidence, mostly age-old tradition where missing portions had been replaced by earlier texts (which also were missing). It was not known who wrote them and when. The Gospels were not written by the Apostles as the earliest manuscripts appeared around 300 CE. Interestingly, the Epistles of Saint Paul were written about 45 – 60 AD, the Gospels supposedly postdate Paul by decades but do not mention him. She is quite pragmatic because of long-standing frustration and becomes quite confrontational and even rude

Meanwhile, Cardinal Leonardo Santori knifes to death young Father John Yilmaz because he has discovered a secret of the church in the well-hidden vault beneath the Penitentiary office. And unfortunately, all of these matters are occurring at an unfortunate time with the Vatican already haunted by a number of years of negative publicity. Added to the upheaval, another intruder is discovered and cannot be stopped before he escapes and it is found that he has taken the ancient secret document that could lead to dissolution of the Catholic faith and the premises upon which it had been administered for centuries. Specifically, the document written in the 12th century, provides some answers to, and many questions about, the discrepancies between the lives and writings of Peter and Paul and their relationship to Jesus all stemming from the original church’s site in Antioch, now the city of Antakya, Turkey.

Still an additional imminently catastrophic incident threatens when a highly disturbed individual has appeared threatening another part of the Vatican. He has a bomb sufficiently powerful to destroy a huge part of the city. Schneider, a devout defender of the Holy See in charge of the Helvetian Guards, must attempt to save the compound from suffering such destruction. From these fascinating initiating factors, the tale continues with a confrontational relationship between the well-prepared Schneider and Verretti, the self-serving head of security for the Vatican. An important part is offered with the appearance of Simon who is a Jew but a Turkish resident with long familial history in Antioch. He now is one of the specialists working at a Turkish licensed dig of the ancient Cave Church in Antioch and incidentally related to the Priest killed by Santori. Simon is aided at times by the professor in charge of the excavation and by Giogio Castignani, the son of a former Sicilian Mafiosi Boss. The action in parts is full throttle but interspersed with other sections of lengthy discussion of the writings of Paul and Peter and replete with supportive and contradictory biblical facts as the tale proceeds finally to reach a conclusion of sorts.

Discussion: The author has provided, as stated, a story with several intertwining sub-plots and an overall rather uneven approach. Parts provide a high-test thriller while others spend considerable time on a slow, methodical discussion of factual material. Basically it is another quite fascinating story following the long-standing controversy of conflicting statements, especially with respect to the Gospel according to Peter and to Paul. It is suggested that “scripture offers enough circumstantial evidence that Peter did not convert gentiles in Antioch and that he never was in Rome.” The author further sets forth his belief that the differences in the two men’s stories in how the Christian Church was begun could form the basis of the church’s founding suspect and he does proceed to supply most interesting material. He also makes another interesting statement with respect to the soul: that “Lack of evidence cannot support a belief, but it is also no argument against it. Lord suggests in the Gospel of Matthew – body, soul and mind? (Thus,) The inability of technology to identify the soul does not negate its existence.”

Summary: The pace of this story ranges from an almost frenetic velocity to lengthy, slow-moving explanations and discussions. BUT, it presents a fascinating ‘take’ on the development of the Catholic Church, the relationship of Jesus and disciples Peter and Paul and upon what passages from the writings of these individuals may indicate with respect to the entire matter. In spite of the uneven presentation of the inter-related sub-plots and the complexity involved character involvement, the tale should provide enjoyment for readers who enjoy thrillers, yet it offers much intriguing material to the individual who may think, even occasionally, about the long-argued controversial passages in the Scripture. This reader found the presentation intriguing, even with the areas and descriptions that were overdone and/or slow in development and presentation.

4* 5* story with regrettable -1 for reasons described.”