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Updated: Sep 26, 2023

The paintings on the covers of my books are by marine artist Mark Myers. I like them because they seem to create a window into a time when sailing ships were the vehicles of commerce and warfare. Mark Myers is a talented artist, with an expert knowledge of sailing ships.

An American now living in Cornwall, Mark's boyhood passion for square-rigged ships led him to write to Alan Villiers, the famous author and owner of sailing ships, who found him berths at sea on several different traditional craft. He spent a couple of years as bo'sun of a 17th century replica (the Nonsuch Ketch) and worked as a rigger for the Golden Hinde replica, which was built at Appledore and is now in a drydock in Bankside, London. He painted between trips to sea, and settled down with the brushes rather than the marlinespike after moving to England in the early 1970s.

The Weymouth Bound cover painting is the Dolores off Salcombe Bar. I believe the Dolores carried fruit from the Canaries or Maderia to market in England, a trade requiring a fast weatherly ship to ensure the perishable cargo arrived in good condition. To me the painting conveys the tension of guiding the ship across the unpleasantly breaking Salcombe Bar in a stiff onshore breeze. I am sure that the skipper of the Dolores knew what he was doing, but for the amateur, with only a couple of hundred yards of breaking waves between him and the calm estuary under his lee, there is always a temptation to abandon prudence and attempt the entrance, rather than waiting until the wind drops or the tide turns.

Not by Sea’s cover is H.M. Ships Cossack and Comet Landing Troops at Santander, 23 June 1808. This painting had to be cropped, and only Cossack features on the cover. At first glance, the painting seems to depict a calm scene, but closer inspection reveals signs of tension - the ships have their guns run out, and they are hove to, not anchored, ready for a quick departure. It would undoubtedly have been a tense situation – the ships’ boats are about to set off on an expedition to destroy the forts overlooking the harbour entrance, and a French army is fast approaching. The operation was successful – the guns were spiked, the magazine blown up, and the ships escaped unharmed.

A successor to the 6th Rate ship in the painting, the Tribal Class destroyer Cossack, was the main participant in the Altmark Incident, when in 1940, Cossack’s men boarded the German tanker Altmark in neutral Norwegian waters to rescue captive British seamen.

My third novel is well advanced, and we have already chosen the cover – another painting by Mark Myers.


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