The Midnight Watch by David Dyer
The Last Word Review
The role of the SS Californian during the loss of the Titanic. Outstanding fictional account
At 11.40pm on Sunday 14 April 1912 the largest passenger liner RMS Titanic was four days into her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York when the Titanic struck an iceberg. Two hours and forty minutes later the Titanic was lost on board there was an estimated 2,224 people. Over 1,500 men, women and children perished, one of the worst peacetime maritime disasters in history.
History records that nearby a ship looked on that ship was the SS Californian and its Captain, Stanley Lord slept on and did not go to the bridge. The RMS Titanic fired eight distress rockets and all eight were ignored. Still Captain Lord stayed in his cabin.
The SS Californian
In The Midnight Watch by David Dyer the role of the Californian has been fictionalised to tell of what may have been going on at the time on board the Californian. On board Second Officer Herbert Stone on Midnight Watch sees the first of the rockets light up the night sky and realises the significance of the flares and alerts his captain only to be told to carry on and only alert him when it is certain the rockets are a distress signal. Further rockets light up the night sky and still no response from Captain Lord. By morning the Titanic is at the bottom of the North Atlantic.
The enormity of the disaster reaches the states and John Steadman a reporter with the Boston America realises there is a massive story to be told and he wanted that story no matter what. Dyer manages to tell the story brilliantly switching from the crew on board the Californian who experienced the disaster at first hand and then from the point of view of John Steadman determined to tell a story of the loss of the Titanic.
What the story tries to tell is what was going on board the Californian and why did Captain Lord not react to the distress rockets, to this day and I guess forever more we will never know why the captain reacted in a way despite him a very good and enigmatic captain. On land Steadman is gathering his story and determined to get to the truth and be the voice of those who perished either in the freezing Atlantic or those who went down with the Titanic.
What does come out of the story in The Midnight Watch is that Captain Lord was an extremely difficult man to get to and went through his entire life in total denial of his role in the loss of the Titanic and his action can only be described as totally reprehensible.
Credit must go to Dyer for the amount of research that went into writing this book and the way he weaves the story so beautifully and sensitively from historical fact to fiction to create an incredible story.
One part of the book brought more than a few tears to my eyes as the story moves to that of the perspective of the passengers and of an entire family of eleven who perished. For someone like me who has followed the story of the Titanic since a boy this part of the story hit me pretty hard and one I will not forget.
If you have an interest in historical fiction or just want to read a fictional account of what took place on the Californian during those hours as the Titanic slipped beneath the waves taking with her over 1,500 souls, then I can highly recommend this fabulous fictional account.
Thank you to Atlantic Books for a review copy.
The Midnight Watch by James Dyer and published by Atlantic Books is now available through Waterstones and all good book shops