The Midnight Watch

The Midnight Watch

David Dyer

Penguin 2016


Published in 2016, The Midnight Watch is a historical fiction novel by David Dyer, a former London lawyer who now writes and teaches in Sydney.

The novel is set in 1912 and takes place during and after the sinking of the RMS Titanic. We all know of this infamous ship that sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean after colliding with an iceberg. But not all of us know about the SS Californian: the closest ship to the Titanic while she was sinking, but failed to come to her assistance. If the Californian had come, many or perhaps all of the 1,500 people who died could have been saved.

Why didn’t the Californian come to Titanic’s assistance? This is what John Steadman, a fictional American journalist, endeavours to find out. It turns out that Herbert Stone, the Californian’s Third Officer, saw the Titanic firing distress rockets on the horizon from midnight onwards, and he wasn’t the only one. The Californian’s captain, Stanley Lord, was notified, but didn’t issue any orders until 5am the next morning, when it was too late (the Titanic sunk at 2:20am). Lord’s explanation as to why he didn’t go to Titanic’s rescue immediately changed over time, and Steadman finds that pages from the Californian’s log had been torn out. This motivates him to discover the truth, no matter what.

The novel is well-written and is historically accurate. It’s clear that Dyer heavily researched everything to do with the Titanic. In fact, he lifted quotes from original letters, witness statements, and inquiry testimonies, along with other primary documents, and used them in the novel’s dialogue. The story is told from multiple points of view, which I found jarring at first, but I quickly became accustomed to it.

The novel’s themes are easily identifiable. The main theme is perhaps truth versus point of view. The truth can easily be warped by people’s point of view. As Obi-Wan told Luke in Return of the Jedi: “Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view”. This is certainly evident in Stanley Lord’s case, as his version of events confused many but obviously made sense to him.

But being a former journalism student, the theme that stood out to me the most was miscommunication. Early press reports in the immediate aftermath of the Titanic’s sinking gave false information. For example, it was thought at one stage that the Titanic, heavily damaged from the iceberg, was being towed to the nearest port by another ship. This obviously wasn’t the case. But back in 1912, they could only communicate using Morse code on one wireless frequency, so it was easy for information to become jumbled. Steadman came across as an admirable journalist, as he goes to extreme lengths to uncover the truth.

Despite being set in 1912, all the characters are believable in the sense they’re relatable and realistic. They are written as human beings, not as stereotypical twentieth century people who come across as two dimensional. They all suffer grief, internal conflict, anger, confusion – the list goes on!

I thoroughly enjoyed The Midnight Watch, and would strongly recommend it, especially to other history buffs.

5/5 stars


Words by Callum J. Jones

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Creative, honest, and reliable, Callum J. Jones loves writing fiction and non-fiction. In his spare time, he likes to read, watch movies and TV shows, and going on walks.

You can follow him on Facebook.

‘Our Nation’s Infrastructure is Crumbling’ by Charlotte Hammond

I was born in a golden age. Progress, prosperity, steel grazing the sky. Because I come from that time, I think, I have immense pride in what I do. I’m no beauty; I’m no masterpiece. But. I’m solid. I’m vast. I have multitudes coursing through me.

That’s not to say it’s been easy. I’ve known hardship, known abuse. Fourteen major hurricanes. Fifty-three blizzards. Unbearable heat, fire, smoke. Exploding glass and metal. Screams. Obscenities. Cigarette butts and beer bottles to the side. And worse.

I’ve known love, too. Or, I’ve contained it. I’ve felt it come, watched it go. Seen a man help a despondent woman to safety. Housed families of birds. Carried people singing to each other at the top of their lungs.

From my place, I can see a tall lady in green. At night she glows. I’ve never seen her face, but I think I might love her. Or maybe I just love that she’s always there, always staring into the distance at something I cannot see.

I woke at dawn to a sharp ache in my middle. Then very intense pain. Part of me fell. No one was hurt, but it caused a serious delay. It lasted hours and hours and then people were furious. That was when I heard the radio of a man in a Chevy Impala. It was me they were talking about. My name, for the first time. The Newark Bay-Hudson Extension Bridge. I’m not surprised I was never popular with a name like that.

After a full night of drilling and grinding, I’m back on again. It’s bitter cold and frost creeps all around me. The pain hasn’t gone away. The part of me that collapsed feels like it won’t ever heal completely.

I used to hope that a golden age would come again. More than for myself, I wanted it for the people I see every day. For the families of birds and the trees and the city and the tall, noble lady. I wanted it for me, too. I wanted to feel new again. I dreamed of a long-lasting spring.

I don’t know how much longer I can stand.

The winter is a busy time and sound, I’ve noticed, carries best when it’s very cold. The air is sharp and the echoes are bold, insistent. I tune out everything else and listen. That sound is me. I’m reverberating music. It’s steady, gentle, connective. The percussion echoes off the water below and creates wonderful rhythm. In this song, briefly, I feel vast.

Multitudinous.

Everlasting.


Words by Charlotte Hammond

Art by Rhianna Carr

JuanitaHong_4Charlotte Hammond is a writer living in New Jersey with her husband and one-eyed cat. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Capra Review, River River and The Blue Hour.