I have to admit that I'm a sucker, a hopeless sucker, for books---fiction or nonfiction--- on the sea. Like a magnet drawn to a metal slug, I will navigate windward at a bookstore to anchor leeward at the picture of a mainsail on a book. Thrill! And if this book has anything to do with the NorthWest Passage, I'm sold. My wife says, " For God's sake, how many times can you read about the NorthWest Passage?" She doesn't understand. These brave, haggard, rum-soaked, mottled tars battling incredibly inhospitable Polar environs with ships made of wood that could snap like a matchstick from any rogue ice floe, while feebly and tenaciously holding on to eroding British decorum and civility, makes for good literature. That's good stuff! And it's true!---most of it. I love it!
The Franklin Expedition, of course, stands out as the definitive Polar epic. This disastrous expedition involved two ships, HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, 24 officers and 110 men, set off on May 19, 1845 to seek the NorthWest passage to the Pacific ocean, and was never heard of nor seen again. It's a mystery that has captured the imagination of poets, authors, painters, explorers, etc, etc. (Even M. Atwood wrote an essay on it! I think).
There are thousands of books and articles and essays written about the Franklin Expedition. I'm not going to list them and have not read them all---yet. But I'll put up some authors worth consideration for worthy reading on this matter. Pierre Burton, Ken McGoogan, David Murray, Owen Beattie and John Geiger, David Woodman, Clive Cussler, and Dan Simmons.
OK, I might as well talk about Dan Simmons. I read Dan Simmons' novel THE TERROR last year. Dan Simmons is a mediocre run-of-the-mill author who is very popular. He also writes Sci-Fi stuff. I don't think Dan is taken very seriously by literary critics, but often receives rave reviews for his work. I bought the book because it had a picture of HMS Terror on the front sleeve(see above). It's a rather big book at almost 800 pages, and contains an unseen, spiritual, Inuit-folk-lore based predator with huge claws(scary!) who terrorizes the TERROR. God, I enjoyed this book! I had to cover my more serious novels like Updike, Mailer, Ondaatje, Rushdie, Irving, in deference to "good" literature. Sometimes an exciting story is all you need on long winter nights. Yes, I must say I really enjoyed reading this book.
I see Dan Simmons has a new novel out, DROOD. It's based on Dickens and his last uncompleted novel THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD. Thar be monsters in this book too, I suppose. This book doesn't have any sails on it but I'm toying with the idea of picking it up.
Besides Franklin, there are excellent sea books about Whaling(I know, sad, but it did and is happening), racing, solo sailing, pirating, war, expeditions, and so on. There's enough material that's very well written out there to keep a wannabe sea-dog like me happy.
Next: Some Canadian authors