Wednesday, March 28, 2012

John Welshman's "Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town"

John Welshman is Senior Lecturer in History at Lancaster University, UK.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his book Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town (Oxford University Press, 2012), and reported the following:
Lawrence Beesley (35), is an English science teacher travelling in Second Class to visit his brother in Toronto. With the skill of a novelist, but the precision of as scientist, Beesley observes events as they unfold. Archibald Gracie (53), by contrast, is a wealthy American amateur military historian who is travelling First Class. With an old-fashioned gallantry, Gracie offers his ‘protection’ to any unaccompanied ‘ladies’.

On page 99, Lawrence Beesley has got up from his bunk and is investigating why the Titanic has stopped. He meets one passenger who tells him that he wants to stay in his warm bed, and that getting dressed is unnecessary. Beesley goes back to his cabin, sits on his sofa, and reads for ten minutes. Then hears a shout from above: ‘All passengers on deck with lifebelts on’. Beesley stuffs two books in the pockets of his Norfolk jacket, picks up his life jacket and dressing gown, and walks upstairs tying it on.

Archibald Gracie has been enjoying a good night’s rest when he is roused by a noise forward on the starboard side, which he immediately knows has been caused by a collision. He jumps from his bed, puts on the light, and glances at his watch on the dresser. He opens the door of his cabin, but there is no commotion in the corridor. However immediately afterwards comes the noise of escaping steam. And although Gracie listens intently he cannot hear the engines. He dresses quickly in underwear, socks and shoes, trousers, and a Norfolk jacket. He goes up to the Boat Deck above.

I was pleased to find that page 99 features Beesley and Gracie, two of my favourite characters. The book focuses on 12 people whose stories are woven into the narrative. They have been chosen to represent, as far as possible, the Titanic as a ‘small town’. So there are passengers and crew members; children as well as adults; women as well as men; rich and poor; and people from Britain, the United States, South Africa; Finland, and the Lebanon. Ford Madox Ford is correct that page 99 offers a very good guide to the book as a whole.
Learn more about Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town at the Oxford University Press website.

My Book, The Movie: Titanic: The Last Night of a Small Town.

--Marshal Zeringue