QBD’s March Book of the Month is David Dyer’s masterpiece of historical fiction, The Midnight Watch. Based on true events, the novel centres around the crew of the Californian, a British steam ship that had stopped near the Titanic but failed to assist, despite witnessing the Titanic’s distress rockets.
It’s April 1912 and all eyes are on the Titanic and it’s passengers. The unsinkable ship has sunk to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean and both the UK and America want answers. But while everyone is focusing their attention on the Titanic herself, it is journalist John Steadman that decides to look in another direction, that of the SS Californian who was the Titanic’s only company on that fateful night. Both ships were in sight of each other, the Titanic sent distress rockets, but the SS Californian failed to assist and the result was the untimely death of 1500 passengers.
This novel investigates why the SS Californian sat idly as the Titanic sunk and the consequences such actions had.
Undoubtedly one of the best historical fiction novels I have ever read.
-Erin, Cairns QBD
About the author:
David Dyer grew up in a coastal town in NSW, Australia, and graduated as dux of his high school in 1984. From the mid-1990s until early 2000s David worked as a litigation lawyer in Sydney, and then in London at a legal practice whose parent firm represented the Titanic’s owners back in 1912. In 2002 David returned to Australia and obtained a Diploma in Education from the University of New England, and commenced teaching English at Kambala, a school for girls in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
David has had a life-long obsession with the Titanic and has become an expert on the subject. In 2009 he was awarded a Commonwealth Government scholarship to write The Midnight Watch as part of a Doctorate in Creative Arts at the University of Technology, Sydney. The doctorate was conferred in November 2013. David’s research for The Midnight Watch took him to many and varied places around the world including libraries and sites of interest in New York, Boston, London and Liverpool.
‘I spent days reading Lord’s papers in the archive of the Merseyside Maritime Museum, the highlight of which was my finding of the original letters of the Californian’s second officer and apprentice, written within days of the disaster, in which they describe the rocket-firing ship they saw. Tears came to my eyes as I held these flimsy letters in my white-gloved hands. ‘I observed a white flash apparently on her deck,’ writes the apprentice, ‘followed by a faint streak towards the sky which then burst into white stars…” These rockets were, of course, a desperate cry for help.
(Author information as taken from penguin.com.au)