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In the Wake of Madness

The Murderous Voyage of the Whaleship Sharon

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After more than a century of silence, the true story of one of history's most notorious mutinies is revealed in Joan Druett's riveting "nautical murder mystery" (USA Today). On May 25, 1841, the Massachusetts whaleship Sharon set out for the whaling ground of the northwestern Pacific. A year later, while most of the crew was out hunting, Captain Howes Norris was brutally murdered. When the men in the whaleboats returned, they found four crew members on board, three of whom were covered in blood, the other screaming from atop the mast. Single-handedly, the third officer launched a surprise attack to recapture the Sharon, killing two of the attackers and subduing the other. An American investigation into the murder was never conducted--even when the Sharon returned home three years later, with only four of the original twenty-nine crew on board.

Joan Druett, a historian who's been called a female Patrick O'Brian by the Wall Street Journal, dramatically re-creates the mystery of the ill-fated whaleship and reveals a voyage filled with savagery under the command of one of the most ruthless captains to sail the high seas.

Publishers Weekly Review

Apr 28, 2003 – Nonfiction accounts about whaling tend to intone Melville's name like a mantra, and Druett's volume about the bedeviled 1841–1845 voyage of the Sharon is no exception. By any measure, the expedition was a catastrophe, with mutiny, desertion and the mid-voyage murder of Capt. Howes Norris by South Pacific Kanaka tribesmen. "It is probably no coincidence," Druett writes, "that Captain Ahab found disaster in the same empty tropic seas where Captain Norris was killed." New Zealander Druett, a well-known maritime journalist (She Captains; Rough Medicine; etc.), doesn't focus on Norris's death. She's more interested in plumbing the "crucial questions" that "lurk unanswered," foremost among them: what caused the severe discontent among the crew? The answer turns out to be, unsurprisingly, Norris's beastly and sadistic treatment, mainly his frenzied persecution of black steward George Babcock. Druett draws on recently unearthed journals from the voyage to assemble a terrific account of an unusually eventful voyage. She has the good sense to maintain a light touch on the events, and manages a perfect balance between telling the story in an unfussy yet dramatic manner and honoring its complexity.
In the Wake of Madness
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Transportation
  • Published: Jan 04, 2004
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books
  • Seller: Workman Publishing Co., Inc.
  • Print Length: 304 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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