Aussie David Dyer has done the unthinkable with the unsinkable… and come up with a new Titanic angle…
You might think that there’s not much more to say about the Titanic. In the century since the ship went down, there have been countless retellings of the tale, in books and documentaries, via a Broadway, musical and video games. Hell, you might area be familiar with a little 1997 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. All of that mania makes what Aussie author David Dyer has alone with The Midnight Watch all the more impressive, coming up as he does with a new angle to view the disaster that claimed some 1,500 lives in the North Atlantic one fateful April night in 1912.
See, as the Titanic was going down, she fired eight distress rockets, all of which were spotted but ignored by the crew of the Californian, a steamer stuck in an ice field just a few miles away. The how and why of this inaction and its terrible consequences and subsequent cover-up are the subject of Dyes historical fiction, which depicts the real-life Californian crew and has them investigated by a fictional journalist John Steadman in the aftermath of the sinking.
Dyer is no dilettante. He trained as a ship’s officer at the Australian Maritime College and then sailed on some of the world’s largest merchant ship. Remarkably, he then did a law degree and worked in London for Hill Taylor Dickinson, the very firm that represented the Titanic’s owners back in 1912. But Dyer’s obsession with the sinking goes even further than that. As a child, he was fascinated with the event after seeing the 1958 film A Night To Remember on TV and, in fourth grade, penned a five-page story which referenced the relatively obscure Californian event. As an adult, he devoted years to research to writing the novel, doing a PhD at UTS and even participating in a 2012 centennial cruise to the Titanic’s final resting place. To call The Midnight Watch his life’s work isn’t an exaggeration.
All of that nautical knowledge would be for nought, of course, if Dyer couldn’t write and sustain a story. But his book unfolds beautifully, with the new perspective offering up suspense, mystery and a surprising emotional wallop. Experience and research blend seamlessly to create an authentic setting and atmosphere that places the Titanic in context with the suffragette movement, yellow journalism and Marconi radio advances that turned its sinking into the first global media event. It’s truly fascinating stuff.