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.


The Divinity Complex

The Divinity Complex ISBN: 9781719490573, a psychological thriller an e-book published, copyright and written by P. H. Figur.

Plot: Fundamentally, the story is about a man, FBI Agent Drake Marino, who is plagued by a psychological problem that disrupts his entire life until ultimately he encounters a clinical psychologist who attempts to lead him back to the initiating factor to effect a release. The actual plot is a little difficult to follow. The tale begins with a couple who are being held at gun point stopping for gasoline. The man, while paying the in-store attendant is able to convey the fact to the attendant. Drake’s newly engaged love also is FBI and has just happened to have stopped at the same convenience store. The attendant had taken the couple’s license plate number which he gives to her. She calls in while following in the same direction as the departing couple and finds it along side of the road. She gets out to investigate, finds them dead, is accosted by the killer and also killed. Drake is devastated but continues to work with his twin brother Dominic, who is the lead investigator on the case of what is beginning to look like a serial killer. They continue to investigate further killings by this same person and he finally breaks down when more gruesomely staged victims are found. This is followed by his actual ‘freezing’ when a young woman whom he has established a somewhat empathetic relationship has her throat slit. His inability to act is the final straw. He gives up and disappears. Meanwhile the reader is introduced to the owner of a massive pharmaceutical corporation and his son. The company is immensely successful having developed a formula that successfully eradicates neurological disease. Now on top of the world money-wise the psychologically compromised owner strengthens his personal larger than God complex and decides he will find a drug that will rid mankind of negative behavior. To accomplish this, the company must establish an entire community with individuals who will volunteer but be completely controlled once they are within this town that is completely hidden in an otherwise deserted section of the country. The town is established and populated and eventually Drake reappears, as well as the serial killer, and most of the action is centered around the town and individuals associated in some way with it. Numerous characters enter and re-enter the plot through its rather convoluted course until the finale that presents some surprises.

Discussion: The author has based his story on an interesting concept. Unfortunately however, it is not a particularly easy book to read. Further editing of much of the repetitious material and banality would have been helpful as well as the number of characters introduced and their actions which made the plot difficult to follow at times. With respect to handling of specifics to provide authenticity to the story’s plot, the deceitful and treacherous activity portrayed within the FBI seems quite acceptable because of the stories that constantly beset today’s residents from various sources. However, the portrayal of the loose handling of drug experimentation and population assembly and control is difficult to accept, even though the value and use of ‘under-the-table’ money is wide spread. The immensity of such an operation is most difficult to envision even if one retains only minimal pragmatic thoughts. The possibility of such a huge endeavor remaining a secret is totally unimaginable. However, individuals who are able to accept all of these factors mentioned will find an interesting, action-packed psychological thriller. Regrettably, those who cannot will discover a tale quite difficult to enjoy.

3* 4* for certain type readers; 3* or less apropos the factors presented.