Thursday, March 15, 2018

Guest Post: My Inspiration for the Ocean Liner by Marius Gabriel

I came across the story of the SS Manhattan's dramatic voyage while researching for ideas in newspapers of the period.

The idea fired my imagination: a magnificent luxury liner, the largest ever built in the United States, pressed into service to carry hundreds of desperate refugees from the war in Europe to safety in the US, and having to make the perilous Atlantic crossing through submarine-infested waters.
On board were almost two thousand souls, some of them penniless Jews, leaving Nazi Germany with no more than a suitcase, some of them rich and celebrated.

Among the famous were the great composer Igor Stravinsky and the famous conductor Arturo Toscanini, both of them at a crisis in their lives. Both were marked down as enemies, and either man would have been killed out of hand by the Nazis, if captured.
Arturo Toscanini

Igor Stravinsky
Also on board were the children of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, including Bobby, who would be assassinated on his way to the American presidency in 1968, and Teddy, whose own presidential ambitions ended at Chappaquiddick in 1969.

Teddy and Bobby

Influential newspaper owner Lord Beaverbrook was another passenger, on a top-secret mission to see his old friend President Roosevelt, and hopefully talk him into supporting Britain in the war against Germany.
Show-business figures were also on board, including 7-year-old Elizabeth Taylor, on her way to America for a screen test with Paramount, which would launch her on a glittering career. At the other end of the scale was fading beauty Fanny Ward, a star of the silent screen, now in her 70s, and still clinging to her soubriquet, "The Girl Who Wouldn't Grow Old."

Young Elizabeth Taylor

Fanny Ward

It fascinated me to imagine these vivid characters interacting with each other on the long, dangerous voyage; and the opportunity to introduce some fictional characters of my own, and see what happened, was irresistible.

Writing the book was thrilling. I tried to keep each character, real or fictional, true to their identities. It was part reconstruction and part invention. I spent many months of board the Manhattan, and I will never forget them!

The Ocean Liner by Marius Gabriel is published by Lake Union Publishing on 20th March 

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