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The Titanic Books Page Created 8/4/2007 Modified 8/12/2007


Book Description

An Amazon reviewer writes: "At 11:40 p.m. on the night of April 14, 1912, the White Star liner Titanic, on its maiden voyage to New York, struck an iceberg in the north Atlantic. Less than three hours later, the ship known to the world as "unsinkable" was on her way to the bottom of the sea.

The unexpectedness of the event, along with the shocking number of lives lost (more than 1500 by most estimates) and the many stories of carelessness and incompetence contributing to the disaster, cemented the Titanic into the collective consciousness of Western culture. Countless articles, exhibits, books, and movies (the most famous, released in 1997, grossed over $1.8 billion in worldwide revenue) have documented and fictionalized various aspects of the tragedy. Even nearly a hundred years later, it would be difficult to find someone who had never heard of the Titanic.

In 1955, while many of the survivors of the Titanic's first and only voyage were still alive--and before the journalistic novel became fashionable as a genre--Walter Lord researched and wrote a minute-by-minute account of what happened during the ship's final night. Called A Night to Remember, Lord's account provides an interesting blend of minute details and broad sweeping overviews in its description of what happened onboard the ship.

The book is easy to read and goes very quickly. Lord gives his prose a very journalistic feel, with short sentences and easy language. Entertaining is hardly the right word to use for a description of an event that claimed so many lives, but compelling describes the account pretty well. Lord puts readers right on the deck of the doomed ship, and then right into the lifeboats and, later, into the courtrooms and newspaper editors' offices during the aftermath of the sinking.

Chapters are entitled with snippets of the dialog that occurs within each. Examples include "There's Talk of an Iceberg, Ma'am," "God Himself Could Not Sink This Ship," "There Is Your Beautiful Nightdress Gone," and, perhaps most poignant, "Go Away--We Have Just Seen Our Husbands Drown."

The book's primary weakness is that in trying to include glimpses of so many people's experiences, Lord was mostly unable to go into much depth with any of the individual characters. Unlike later books in this genre--such as Blackhawk Down or The Perfect Storm, both of which describe in detail the experiences of a relatively small number of people during catastrophic events--A Night to Remember has to catalogue the experiences of over 2,000 individuals. Lord manages to include a lot of names, but without any background or detail, they quickly become meaningless.

Though the scope of the book (probably necessarily) minimizes the amount of emotion connected with the tragedy, there are a few emotive moments when the reader realizes along with a child or a wife that a beloved husband or father will not be coming on a lifeboat. Depictions of the wireless operator sleeping onboard the nearby Californian, panicky passengers in lifeboats violently refusing to assist drowning swimmers, and determined high-society men donning formal evening dress to "go down like gentlemen" evoke flashes of emotion as well.

Overall, the book is worth reading for its historically accurate picture of what actually happened on that cold April night. Though it's no literary masterpiece, it is informative and interesting, particularly for anyone who has seen James Cameron's movie or read Clive Cussler's book and would like to know the real story. The book contains nothing objectionable (except for the event itself), and is suitable for any reader. I recommend it without reservation."

An Amazon reviewr writes: "Calling this 'the sequel to _A Night to Remember_' is slightly misleading. Rather than the storytelling style employed to relate the story of the sinking of the Titanic, this is almost a collection of 17 1-chapter essays about various points of the disaster. Excellent stuff, but if you were expecting, say, the story of the Congressional and Parliamentary investigations of the disaster, you need to look elsewhere, e.g. Wyn Craig Wade's _The Titanic: End of a Dream_.

"Unsinkable Subject" - Overview of the popular fascination with Titanic.

"What's in a Name?" - The actual launching of Titanic from Harland & Wolff's shipyards.

"Legendary from the Start" - Titanic was indeed popularly supposed to be unsinkable, but the trend of sacrificing safety features for competitiveness had actually taken hold during her design.

"Had Ships Gotten Too Big for Captain Smith?" - Explores Smith's record, including a near-collision in harbor with Titanic's sister ship, the Olympic.

"Our Coterie" - The group of first class passengers, including Col. Gracie, mentioned in _A Night to Remember_.

"Everything Was Against Us" - Contrasts the ice warnings, lack of coordination between radio room & bridge, and lookouts, with the notion that the accident was a one-in-a-million chance.

"The Gash" - The collision itself.

"I Was Very Soft the Day I Signed That" - How and why ships the size of Titanic could legally sail while carrying so few lifeboats.

"What Happened to the Goodwins?" - Facts and figures about 1st class vs. 3rd, contrasting White Star's implication that those people down there couldn't understand English, with the Goodwin family (an electrical engineer and his family, emigrating from London to New York, all of whom were lost, including the 6-year-old).

"Shots in the Dark" - Explores the stories about Murdoch, one of the officers loading the lifeboats, and whether shots were fired.

"The Sound of Music" - An in-depth look at the "Nearer My God to Thee" myth, and the 2 bands on the Titanic. (I was aggravated to learn that that entire, touching sequence with the cornet in _Raise the Titanic!_, which I loved as a kid, was made up from whole cloth - the musicians were just as courageous as the movie made them out to be, but no cornet players.) And if you're a professional musician who thinks *your* agent is heartless, wait till you read this.

"She's Gone" - Compares the eyewitness accounts of Titanic's last moments with what we now know.

"The Electric Spark" Captain Rostron of the Carpathia, who picked up the survivors at great personal risk.

"A Certain Amount of Slackness" Discussion of Captain Lord (no relation to the author) of the Californian, in sharp contrast to the preceding chapter.

"Second-guessing" - The inquiries and subsequent litigation (Lord's treatment of Senator Smith should be contrasted with Wade's more detailed treatment, but then Wade has a whole book to play with).

"Why Was Craganour Disqualified?" What happened to some of the survivors. (Craganour, owned by a member of the Ismay family, was disqualified from winning a major British horse race.)

"Unlocking the Ocean's Secret" - The search for the Titanic, leading up to Robert Ballard's successful attempt in 1985 (written before others began plundering the ship for relics)."


An Amazon reviewer writes: "This is the most detailed writings about the idea of the Titanic, step by step through the building, along with the people involved in the process from beginning to end. It is a beautiful hardcover, very large and impressive book! The pictures included make this book an absolute must have for any fan of the real Titanic. This is by far the best collection of words and photographs combined to walk the reader through this tragedy, the circumstances surrounding it; the many answers still unkown; the myths and rumors as well the documented facts of the disaster. I can't recommend this one enough!! Trust's worth every cent!!"


An Amazon reviewer writes: "The most scrupulous of the recent spate of books on the Titanic disaster, Wyn Craig Wade's book relies on survivors' accounts to establish some startling facts, including that almost two-thirds of the first-class passengers survived while only a quarter of the steerage passengers made it to safety. And that those in the lifeboats chose to ignore the piteous cries of passengers in the water, almost all of whom perished. This chilling account demonstrates that the Titanic's sinking was in many ways entirely avoidable."


Author Wyn Wade writes: "By 1907, the time was finally right for the elite of the Gilded Age to duplicate the stunning achievement of the Crystal Palace and The Great Exhibition of 1851.  The new project was an amicably concerted effort between rich American capitalists and British Manager-Industrialists.  Marriages between wealthy Americans and aristocratic Britons had been in vogue for some time, and this new venture - comprising a union between Yankee greenbacks and British traditions - seemed assured of success where previous attempts had failed.  Like the Prince's Consort's vision, the monstrous size of the new palace required an enormous investment of capital.  Even with a huge foundation in American stocks and securities, $6 million worth of 4.5 debentures had to be marketed and, in fact, were sold with relative ease.  Like the former palace, the new one promised to be a spectacle of the latest scientific technology - a colossal showcase featuring "all that is useful or beautiful in nature or in art."  Once again it would provide a splendid setting for the celebration of the spirit of its age - presided over by Anglo-Americans, of course.  A crucial difference figured between the new and the old projects, however.  Whereas the former venture had united the civilized nations in resplendent triumph, the new one was to unite the world in an appalling tragedy.  The Gilded Age had pushed the Victorian Dream well beyond anything imaginable in 1951.  The new palace had been designed to float."

An Amazon reviewer writes: "This is the Titanic book you are looking for. Far from being one of the many novelizations or non-fiction novel type history reports, this is testimony straight from the survivor's mouths about what happened the night disaster struck. We are all familiar with C-Span senate hearings of the past few decades, but this is one of the interesting ones condensed into an exciting and informative volume. Questioning began mere days after the accident as the Carpathia pulled into New York with the few souls who made it. Even the slightly repetitive nature of the senator's questions from person to person revealed a new fact or two about the sinking of the unsinkable ship.
For those whose knowledge of the Titanic comes mostly from James Cameron, this volume is a wealth of first hand information that didn't get covered in the blockbuster film. Most shocking was that the ship, the Californian, was within sight of the Titanic and saw her distress rockets but didn't come to her aid, even though they could have gotten there before the ship sank. This volume also covers other interesting aspects of the case like the yellow journalism practiced as papers vied for exclusive rights to stories, Bruce Ismay trying to get everyone on a ship back to England before they could be questioned in America and The Wall Street Journal giving false reports that Titanic was fine so that certain stocks didn't plummet. Many of the controversial aspects of the case are addressed to a satisfactory degree, but you can see some pat answers and bet hedging in some of the testimony. Fascinating Stuff!"

An Amazon reviewer writes: "This Titanic book is different from most others in being told entirely from the perspective of survivors. Two of the surviving passengers and crew tell of the ship's last hours. The first story is told by passenger Lawrence Beesley, a science prof. on his way to America. His account details the trip from Southampton to New York. Beesley was a level headed individual who tells the story in an almost detached fashion, without fear or hysteria. His detail and objectivity make this my favorite eyewitness account. The writings of Lightoller and Bride are excellent as well. They do a good job of conveying the approaching terror people must have felt as the ship went down. One realizes that they knew what would happen, while many passengers did not. Archibald Gracie's chapter was less good. It begins alright, but he ends up giving us a detailed review of the lowering of each lifeboat, something any later researcher could have done. And unless Gracie was taking notes at the time, I find it hard to believe this was his experience! But all in all, this book is a must for Titanic buffs. It gives us a look into the tragedy that few other books can."


An Amazon reviewer writes: "Donald Lynch and Ken Marschall are considered two of the world's foremost experts on Titanic history. While Lynch is more the historian, Marschall's talents also lie in his magnificent maritime artwork. These men are so good and know their subject so well, that director James Cameron used both as consultants on his movie "Titanic," even to calling them in the middle of the night! Lynch even made a cameo in the film (the first class dad watching his son spinning a top). Both say to this day that they still refer to the movie set as "Titanic" and not "the set" because the details were so exact it was like being on board her in reality. I have met both Lynch and Marschall twice at Titanic Historical Society conventions, and they definitely know their subject as is revealed in this book. (Thanks to Lynch, I became interested in the black family who traveled second class. Now THERE'S a fact Cameron regretted he didn't get to use because he knew critics unfamiliar with Titanic history would have ignorantly screamed "That never happened.")

We not only find details of the White Star Line and the famous ship's history -- from her design as one of the three "Olympic" sisters (Olympic, Titanic, Britannic), but the few photographs taken on-board; charts; deck plans; and numerous anecdotes. But often, it is Marschall's recreations in his wonderful artwork that will take your breath away, especially when read alongside Lynch's narrative. To see paintings of her slowly sinking into the Atlantic; the details of her stern high in the air and the sight of tiny figures throwing themselves into the icy water; even his art based on Dr. Robert Ballard's photographs of the wreck would have to be heartless to not be affected by these. To also read the words of many of those few hundred who survived is particularly touching, especially as they watched Titanic go down, most with loved ones still on-board. This is a wonderful book for anyone who -- like me -- fell in love with her at some point in their lives, whether as a child or thanks to Cameron's movie. This book -- along with Marschall's own "Art of Titanic" (which includes work he even did as a young boy) -- will make great additions to your collection of the real life of the true "ship of dreams" and all who were touched by her."

According to the back cover bio "Here, for the first time, is the most complete story of  the Titanic - the construction of the largest and most luxurious ship had ever seen, her passengers and maiden voyage, the terrifying night of the sinking, the dramatic discovery, recovery, and conservation efforts, as well as astonishing new scientific information and artifacts gathered during recent expeditions to the ship.  Finally, answers to many of the enduring mysteries surrounding the sinking of the Titanic

The Titanic Conspiracy - Cover Ups and Mysteries of the World's Most Famous Sea Disaster - By Robin Gardiner and Dan Van Der Vat


From the back cover: "The world's most famous disaster at sea continues to fascinate.  In an intriguing reassessment of the sinking of the great ship, the authors of The Titanic Conspiracy raise many questions including:

Why was the ship's helmsman packed off to South Africa?  And why did the ship's log go down with the ship?

Why did Captain Smith accelerate into the ice field of which he had been warned many times?  And why did he wait 25 minutes to start the pumps that could have saved the ship?  The book reveals Snmith's astonishing accident records and exposes the abysmal safety record of the White Star Line.

What caused the hole near the bow?  The iceberg cracked the plates along the ship's side, but this hole looks like the result of an explosion.

Why is the position of the wreck irreconcilable with the Titanic's final SOS calls?

Was the Titanic replaced at the last minute by her sister ship, the already damaged Olympic, in a plot to recover the huge losses she ran up?  It would have required little more than switching of a few name plates.

The Titanic Conspacy sheds new light on key evidence from the official inquiries and transcripts of radio transmissions and offers new insight gained from examination relics recovered from the ship and from interviews with survivors.  The authors reveal the role of the shop's true owner J. P. Morgam (who at the last, avoided sailing on the Titanic) and that White Star covered up its own gross negligence by bribing key witnesses."

EXTRA TITANIC - The Story of the Disaster in the Newspapers of the Day



The 'Titanic' disaster as told in contemporary newspapers & magazines. Includes striking photos from Harpers, and the Daily Graphic.  This is a time capsule of the most notorious and deadly seagoing tragedy of the 20th Century.


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