The Write Space is a monthly Q&A series from Creative Collective covering a local writer and a North Shore space(s) s/he associates with writing. Questions? Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Give us your best writerly bio.
I am the author of thirteen books, the most recent being Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates, which was published in September 2018. Other books include Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America, which was chosen as one of the best nonfiction books of 2007 by the Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and Providence Journal, and also won the 2007 John Lyman Award for U.S. Maritime History; and Fur, Fortune, and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in America, which was chosen by the Seattle Times as one of the best nonfiction books of 2010, and also won the James P. Hanlan Book Award, given by the New England Historical Association. I am also the author of When America First Met China: An Exotic History of Tea, Drugs, and Money in the Age of Sail, which was chosen by Kirkus Reviews as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of 2012; and Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse, which was chosen by gCaptain and Classic Boat as one of the best nautical books of 2016. A graduate of Brown, Yale, and MIT, where I received his PhD in environmental policy, I live in Marblehead, Massachusetts, with my family.
Tell us about a North Shore Write Space.
For many years, my office was in the basement of my house. It is a nice, finished basement, but it was a bit dark, with little natural light. After I quit my day job and became a full-time writer in 2007, my wife, Jennifer, thought it was important for me to get out the basement, and be more in the world, so to speak, where there was plenty of light, which would keep me from moldering away, and, hopefully, also get me out of the house more often so that I didn’t lose my ability to interact with other humans (writing being solitary, and my nature, being introverted — I am being a bit tongue-in-cheek, but writing is solitary, and I did often not leave the house for days at a time!). So, about five years ago, we converted our garage into my office. It has tons of light, and it is where I write, and also keep my research library. And, yes, I do get out a bit more often!
When I’m in North Shore, not writing, I’m …
I go to the gym, ride my bike, and walk a lot, the latter two especially during warm weather. Being home, while my wife is at work, I cook most of the dinners, although they are usually pretty basic, but sometimes there are flourishes of genius! I am an avid gardener, and I love visiting museums and libraries, both to try to get ideas for books, as well as to just have fun. I love to eat out and travel as well. I travel a lot during my book tours, which usually have me giving sixty or more talks throughout New England, and beyond, but I am hopeful that in a few years, when both of my kids are out of college, my wife and I can travel more just for fun.
What are you working on now?
I am writing a popular narrative history of hurricanes in America. It will span 500 years, from Christopher Columbus up until the present. Readers will learn about the science, politics, impacts, and drama of hurricanes and how they have influenced our history. As with virtually all of my books, I knew little about this topic before I began writing the book. It has been fun and difficult to synthesize and connect all the information into a flowing narrative. Being a New Englander, of course the Great Hurricane of 1938 will be covered. With such a vast canvas, the hardest thing is deciding what to keep in, and what to leave out. The book should publish in the summer of 2020, just in time for hurricane season.
And finally –
Since my last books is usually my favorite, here are the first few pages from the introduction to my pirate book, Black Flags, Blue Waters, which will hopefully get you interested in reading the rest.
At the end of April 1726, Captain John Green was finally ready to leave. The last of the food, water, and supplies had been hoisted aboard the Elizabeth, which was tied to a wharf in Jamaica’s capacious Kingston Harbor. Green and his sixteen-man crew were about to sail across the Atlantic to Africa’s Guinea Coast to pick up a cargo of slaves, the main labor source for the island’s cruel economy. Jamaica’s vast and lucrative sugar plantations brutally employed tens of thousands of slaves to do the backbreaking work of harvesting and processing sugar cane so that an ever-increasing number of people throughout the British Empire could sweeten their tea, coffee, and cakes—most of these consumers blissfully unconcerned about the horrors perpetrated to delight their palate. The death rate was so high on these plantations that the owners needed to continually replenish their supply of slaves to keep up with the growing demand for sugar. Without the services of men like Green and his crew, Jamaica’s economy would eventually grind to a halt.
Not long after the Elizabeth departed from Jamaica’s crystal blue waters, the trouble began. Captain Green, and his first mate, Thomas Jenkins, quickly earned the enmity of the majority of the crew, who claimed that the two men had subjected them to “bad usage,” and treat ed them “barbarously . . . like dogs.” Twenty-seven-year-old boatswain William Fly channeled this anger and began plotting a mutiny. In the dead of night on May 27, when the Elizabeth was hundreds of miles from the American coast, Fly and his coconspirators decided it was time to strike.
Just after one in the morning, Fly, who was standing watch, gave the signal. Tense with anticipation of the violence to come, he and four others strode across the main deck and approached Morrice Cundon, who was manning the helm. Fly leaned in close and whis- pered menacingly in Cundon’s ear, “Damn you, if you stir hand or foot, or speak a word, I’ll blow your brains out.” To drive his threat home, Fly lifted his shirt to expose the gun tucked into his trousers. Petrifed, Cundon watched as Fly climbed down the companionway to the captain’s cabin below, with crewman Alexander Mitchell following closely behind.
Violently rousing the startled Captain Green from his bed, the two mutineers hauled the struggling officer to the main deck. As they were about to pitch him into the sea, he screamed, “For God’s sake, boatswain, don’t throw me overboard, for if you do I shall go to hell.” Relishing his new position of power, Fly coolly ordered the captain to repeat after him, “Lord have mercy upon my soul,” and then Fly, Mitchell, and a crewman named Winthrop threw Green over the rail. Reluctant to accept his fate, in a last-ditch effort the struggling captain grabbed hold of the mainsheet with a vise-tight grip. It was, however, only a momentary reprieve. As Green dangled above the waves, Winthrop swung a cooper’s broadax in a mighty arc, bringing it down on the hapless captain’s wrist, severing his hand and launching him into the deep.
Their bloodlust still raging, the mutineers now searched for their next victim—Jenkins. Quartermaster Samuel Cole yelled to the mate, “Come out of your cabin you dog.” But Jenkins, who had heard Green struggling with his executioners just moments before, would not budge. Instead he pleaded, “For the Lord’s sake, save my life.” The mutineers hauled Jenkins out to the main deck, where Winthrop shattered his shoulder with his now bloody broadax, shouting, “He should go over after his commander!” as he threw the first mate overboard. Bobbing in the water, Jenkins called out, “For God’s sake, throw me a rope.” But there would be no help. The mutineers controlled the vessel, rechristening it Fame’s Revenge. Their reign as pirates had begun.
Find out more at —-
My author website is www.ericjaydolin.com. There you can find information about all of my books, and other fun or interesting stuff.
You should be able to find one or more of my books at area bookstores, including Spirit of 76 (Marblehead), Wicked Good Books (Salem), The Bookstore of Gloucester, Jabberwocky (Newburyport), The Book Rack (Newburyport), Cabot Street Books and Cards (Beverly), and other area bookstores, as well as at any online bookstore.
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