24 February 2011

Welcome to maritime author ~ James L. Nelson

Multiple award-winning author of maritime history and fiction, bringing to life
America's historic links to the sea.

Jim Nelson was born and raised in Lewiston. He has always harboured a deep love of ships and the sea, though no one else in his family ever did, which leads him to believe that it is a genetic disorder and not learned behavior.

Non Fiction
George Washington’s Secret Navy is the story of the small fleet of schooners established by George Washington soon after he took command of the Continental Army outside Boston. It is also the story of how Washington, a farmer whose military experience had taken place far from the sea, came to appreciate the importance of naval power in the war he would be fighting.

George Washington’s Great Gamble
Published in the Spring of 2010. George Washington’s Great Gamble tells the story of the centrality of sea power to victory in the American Revolution, and how Washington gambled everything on the hope of a French naval victory over the British off the Virginia coast. It tells as well the nearly miraculous story of how all the elements came together to give the Americans and their French allies a situation in which they were able to capture Lord Charles Cornwallis and his army at Yorktown.


The Revolution at Sea Saga – Captain Isaac Biddlecomb of Rhode Island  is swept up in the naval war for American Independence

 By Force of Arms
The Maddest Idea
The Continental Risque
Lords of the Ocean
All the Brave Fellows

The Brethren of the Coast Trilogya series about Thomas Marlowe, a former pirate who tries to give up the old life and settle in Colonial America, but keeps getting drawn back to his old ways.
The Guardship
The Blackbirder
The Pirate Round
The Samuel Bowater Books- Set during the early days of the American Civil War, Samuel Bowater leaves his beloved United States Navy to fight for the Confederacy.
Glory in the Name – winner of the American Library Association/William Young Boyd Award
Thieves of Mercy
The Only Life that Mattered – a novel based on the lives of the pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read.
Jim’s next book will be out in March 2011. Something of a departure from his usual maritime theme, With Fire and Sword is about the early days of the American Revolution, culminating in the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Early Reviews of With Fire and Sword: 
Publisher’s Weekly: 
This rousing history rescues Bunker Hill from its folkloric shroud and pre-sents it as one of the revolution’s more significant and dramatic battles. Historian and novelist Nelson (Benedict Arnold’s Navy) calls the 1775 engagement–a struggle for high ground from which American artillery could hit the British stronghold in Boston–the revolution’s “first real battle.” Nelson’s gripping portrait of the battle caps a lively chronicle of the early days of the rebellion in Massachusetts and of the revolutionaries’ scramble to establish a government and organize an army as they edged uneasily toward independence. Nelson’s well-researched, entertaining account of the revolution’s opening chapter aptly conveys the difficulty and riskiness of the patriots’ gamble. 

Kirkus (starred review) 
A clever, often sardonic history of an iconic battle.  
Prolific historian Nelson (George Washington’s Great Gamble: And the Sea Battle that Won the American Revolution, 2010, etc.) begins in turbulent 1760s Massachusetts, which, in his often tongue-in-cheek narrative, resembles less the traditional high-school patriotic pageant than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Nelson makes an entertaining case that the American Revolution may have been won on Bunker Hill. 

A few questions:
HH Out of your fictional sea-heroes, which one is your favourite?

JLN. Ah, that’s like asking which of my kids I like the best! Isaac Biddlecomb, protagonist of my series about the naval action of the American Revolution, was my first character, so he holds a special place in my heart. However, because he was my first, he is perhaps not as nuanced some of my later characters, though I do think he has some depth. Thomas Marlowe is the pirate turned gentleman who still gets lured back into piracy, and I like him quite a bit. Samuel Bowater is the main character in the two novels I did about the Confederate Navy during the American Civil War. In some ways he’s my least favourite, insofar as he is a bit of a stuffed shirt.
 His foil, engineer Hieronymus Taylor, is one of my favourites and one of my readers favourites, and I very much like the interaction between them.

A long response, and as yet no answer. I guess I’d have to give it to Thomas Marlowe.

HH. You wrote a fabulous book about the famous female pirates Mary Reed and Anne Bonny “ The Only Life That Mattered” – do you think they were the only female pirates, or were they only ones we know about because they were captured?

Ann Bonny and Mary Read were certainly not the only female pirates. Next most famous is the Irish pirate Grace O’Malley. But Ann and Mary are perhaps the best known, in part because they sailed during the last years of the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean, and in part because they were captured and there were so many witnesses to their trial, and the transcripts as well. The “Trial of the Century” circa 1720. Also, there is a serious titillation factor with them. But no, they were by no means the only women pirates.

As I tell my daughters, piracy is still a good career option for a young woman.

HH. Do you think you’ll write any more fiction novels?

I would love to wrote more fiction, but I don’t see it happening anytime in the next few years. A lot of editors have this idea that historical fiction aimed at a male readership is dead. You can write as many novels as you want about Anne Boleyn and they all seem to get published, but something that is aimed at a male readership? No interest. Now it is certainly true that women read a lot more than men (another reason they are the superior gender) but I think the publishers are wrong on this. [HH I absolutely agree!]

However, I will say that I enjoy non-fiction as much as fiction. It is an entirely different animal, and a real challenge to make the pages turn when you can’t make things up, but I like it. And it’s frankly easier to get review and media attention, as well as speaking gigs, all things one has to consider when supporting five people who insist on eating regularly.

HH. Your next book is ‘With Fire and Sword’ – not your usual maritime sort of work. What prompted you to write it?

I’ve been writing maritime history, both fiction and non-fiction, my whole career. It is certainly my passion. But I am also passionate about the American Revolution. With Fire and Sword is about the opening year of the Revolution, culminating in the Battle of Bunker Hill. It’s a fascinating story. Most Americans would tell you we won the Battle of Bunker Hill, which we did not. But it also was the event, coming right on the heels of Lexington and Concord, that let the British army know that this would not be the stroll in the park they envisioned. And I also want to give a good account of both sides. The British, of course, were not monsters, and Thomas Gage, the British commander, was about as fair a man as one could ask, but he was in an impossible situation. Great stuff.

HH. Let’s pretend you are a Captain aboard a grand Royal Navy Vessel. You have been instructed by the Admiralty to invite 10 guests to dine.
You can have anyone – alive or dead – who would you choose and why?

Oh boy…

Okay, Jesus would be one, how could you miss a chance like that?
Shakespeare, he’d probably be a lot of fun to party with. And Mary Read. Maybe Ann Bonny.
Benjamin Franklin, to be sure. He might be first on the list. George Washington, certainly. You would think I would say Horatio Nelson and John Paul Jones, and certainly I’d have to consider them, but brilliant as they were, I don’t know if they’d be my first choice for a dinner conversation.
Certainly I would invite Ernest Hemingway and C. S. Forester. And probably Teddy Roosevelt.
And of course my wife, Lisa. I couldn’t let her miss such a gathering, and I would clearly need help with the small talk!

Thank you Jim (please can we have some more adventures of Biddlecomb and Marlowe…… ?)

A personal note from Helen
Relevant to this guest spot – Jim is my “red pen” when it comes to editing the nautical detail of my Sea Witch novels.
I had read all his fiction books – loving both Marlowe and Biddlecomb as characters – and I e-mailed him to say thank you for the super reads. WE struck up a bit of an friendship and I confided in Jim that I was writing Sea Witch, but I knew it would be rubbish as I am no sailor (never been aboard a tall ship – or even a short ship – in my life!)

Jim offered advice and to edit; I am so grateful to him for his professional help and cheerful friendship.

Jim's website
Jim's Blog

He graduated from UCLA with a degree in motion picture/television production and for several years pursued a career in the television industry. Finally, finding that despite being in Southern California it was a damp, drizzly November in his soul, Jim took the cure Melville recommended and decided to sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.
The Rose
(aka Surprise)
For six years he worked on board traditional sailing ships including a replica of Sir Francis Drake's Golden Hind the Lady Washington (known to Pirates of the Caribbean fans as the Interceptor) and the Revolutionary War frigate HMS Rose (better known as HMS. Surprise in the movie Master & Commander)

Jim went aboard the Rose in 1991 and a year later the urge to write a novel overwhelmed him and he started his first novel - By Force of Arms, was written mostly in the third mate's cabin of the ship, and on the great cabin table.

“ I was working on deck one day when the idea for my first book came to me, just one sentence, just like a bolt. I stood up and jotted that one sentence down, and that was the seed of the book."
Jim at work in the
Great Cabin

By Force of Arms incorporates much of the history of the original Rose when she was on patrol in Narragansett Bay, and some of Nelson's own experiences aboard the modern replica.

Finally realizing it would be easier to write about sailing rather than actually doing it, he came ashore and began a full time career as a writer.

Jim is the author of fifteen works of maritime fiction and history. His last book, George Washington's Secret Navy won the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval History.
He currently lives in Harpswell with his former shipmate, now wife Lisa and their four children

Nex time - 10th March
John Baird, author of the thriller Chasing Shadows
and chair of the New Writers uk group
dedicated to excellence in Self Publishing

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderful article about an amazing man! And yes, Jim is great for answering nautical questions.


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