With eloquent accuracy, Spilman’s novel captures the life of a 19th-century sailor…. Spilman’s colorful, well-researched novel will enthrall both sailing enthusiasts and landlubbers. A fabulously gripping sailor’s yarn.
I am very pleased to learn that my latest novel, The Shantyman, is being featured as one of Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month for August.
The Kirkus starred review from last June, called The Shantyman …a fabulously gripping sailor’s yarn. The review also says: With eloquent accuracy, Spilman’s novel captures the life of a 19th-century sailor…. A profound understanding of nautical terminology and procedure is also evident, yet the author is careful not to confuse readers who don’t know a “crojack” from a “spanker.” … Spilman’s colorful, well-researched novel will enthrall both sailing enthusiasts and landlubbers.
The Shantyman was recently reviewed by Kirkus Reviews. I am pleased to say that gave it a Kirkus Star. What does that mean? (I didn’t know either.) “The Kirkus Star is one of the most prestigious designations in the book industry. Look for the icon to discover books of exceptional merit.” An excerpt from the review: “Spilman’s colorful, well-researched novel will enthrall both sailing enthusiasts and landlubbers. A fabulously gripping sailor’s yarn.”
With eloquent accuracy, Spilman’s novel captures the life of a 19th-century sailor.
George Jepson’s review of my latest novel, “The Shantyman,” from the May/June issue of the McBooks Press newsletter “Quarterdeck.”
The Shantyman by Rick Spilman
George Anderson, retired from a lifetime at sea, recalls a voyage from New York to Australia and back in 1870 in the wooden Kennebec-built clipper Alhambra. Anderson was barely seventeen when he signed aboard as an A.B. or able seaman (able to hand, reef and steer).
Originally published in Historic Naval Fiction.
In the Age of Sail the strength of wind and the height of waves in the southern ocean faced by ships rounding the Horn in winter were infamous, so from a book titled Hell Around the Horn you expect some pretty graphic descriptions of life at sea. Rick Spilman does not disappoint.
After an introduction from one of the crew in later life, the story starts as the windjammer Lady Rebecca takes on a cargo of coal and signs on crew at Tiger Bay, Cardiff, ready for a voyage to Chile. We then follow the vessel from the point of view of various officers, apprentices and crew, as well as the captain’s wife, as it faces seemingly never ending storms and the hardships lead to death and conflict aboard.
Richard Spilman’s Hell Around the Horn is set at the turn of the twentieth century in one of the last windjammers to make the perilous passage about Cape Horn. It follows the progress of the Lady Rebecca as she takes on cargo and crew at Tiger Bay, before setting out for her eventual destination in far away Chile. The subsequent story is one of peril and hardship, brought about by the atrocious weather conditions and a fair degree of human mischief, and is told through the eyes of all on board, be they fresh or seasoned hands, young “brassbounders,” senior officers, or even the captain’s family. It is a gritty tale: no blue wave lapped sandy beaches here, just an excellent recreation of what is takes to round the Horn under sail, along with a better understanding of those who chose to do so. This is true historical fiction: a genuine “feel” for the time is portrayed, with interesting nuggets of information about the social conditions and descriptions of the contemporary sailing methods and gear.
A review by Linda Collison, author of the Patricia McPherson Nautical Adventure Series:
“When the wind did hit, Fred was first deafened by the unholy roar, and then was tossed against the shrouds. An icy wall of water washed over him but he held tight to the line he had been hauling, as the rushing water lifted him off his feet. The ship staggered and rolled in the infernal blast. Then she fought her way back up, pitching and rolling like a battered boxer, never quite knocked flat, always rising again.” – from Hell Around the Horn (Chapter 9) by Rick Spilman.
Writing with the verisimilitude of one who is at home on traditional sailing ships, Spilman takes us on a long and harrowing journey from Cardiff to Pisagua, Chile, around Cape Horn during the Southern Hemisphere’s winter, aboard a three-masted, steel-hulled windjammer filled with Welsh coal. The year is 1905. Young Captain Barker, part owner of the ship, is in command. “This trip was his chance. It could either establish or ruin him. All in one roll of the dice.”