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Ghost Ship


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About the Author

Brian Hicks, a senior writer with The Post and Courier in Charleston, South Carolina, is the co-author of two previous books on maritime subjects: Raising the Hunley: The Remarkable History and Recovery of the Lost Confederate Submarine and Into the Wind: The Story of the World's Longest Race. The recipient of the South Carolina Press Association's award for Journalist of the Year, Hicks lives in Charleston with his wife and their son.


On December 4, 1872, a small merchant ship, the Mary Celeste, was discovered floating without a crew. Members of another vessel, the Dei Gratia, boarded her and saw no trace of struggle, no serious weather damage or any other trouble that would have prompted sailors to abandon ship. Hicks (Raising the Hunley) is a master of cliffhanging phrases, and he hooks readers with warnings of the ship's bad luck and poor timing. His chronicle, rigorously researched and written with spare, precise clarity, takes a while to gather emotional momentum and present its characters. He generates excitement with the introduction of a colorful villain, queen's proctor Frederick Solly Flood. Convinced the Dei Gratia crew members who brought the Mary Celeste into port were guilty of foul play, Flood indulged in what Hicks calls "a full-fledged witch-hunt." He tautly documents Flood's hysteria, along with his rage upon learning red marks on the ship's floor weren't the bloodstains he'd hoped for. The Dei Gratia crew emerged after a salvation hearing with tarnished reputations, and the Mary Celeste's mystery remained unsolved. With Flood's disappearance from the story, the passionate sweep of the saga diminishes, and Hicks explores so many theories readers are cast adrift on a sea of speculation. Still, the haunting image of a cursed ship lingers, and Hicks succeeds in making the Mary Celeste a character as human as any of the sailors and reporters who spent their lives struggling to make sense of her puzzling, often painful history. B&w photos. (On sale June 1) Forecast: Bestselling author Clive Cussler, who founded the National Underwater and Marine Agency, discovered the wrecked Mary Celeste in 2001. He's contributed a blurb to Hicks's book, and having his name attached to the work should bump sales. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

"Spellbinding . . . Brian Hicks takes us on a gripping voyage into the sea's greatest mystery."

Adult/High School-Recounting the building in 1860 of the boat in Nova Scotia, her increasingly troubled and profitless journeys, her transfer from owner to owner, and, finally, the possible discovery of her ultimate fate, Hicks brings a surprising freshness to a supposedly well-known story. Descriptions of the life and times of the crew are particularly poignant. Woven into the mystery are interesting vignettes of the transformation of the shipping industry from sail to steam. Well-established companies and dominant sailing families would disappear and new entities and methods would replace generations of practice. Writing about the disappearance would become a cottage industry and provide a foundation for the subsequent notions of the Bermuda Triangle and the abduction of humans by extraterrestrials. Teens should be fascinated by the hunt for what happened to the crew of the Mary Celeste, and Hicks's solution invokes the methods of Sherlock Holmes. The inclusion of a dramatis personae and contemporaneous black-and-white photographs and diagrams adds to the interest and value of the volume. Ghost Ship is very readable, can provide useful information for research papers, and gives new life to an old mystery.-Ted Woodcock, George Mason University, Arlington, VA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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