The Midnight Watch – David Dyer

A book about the night the Titanic suck? Yes, please. The Midnight Watch tells the story that fateful night from the perspective of the crew of the Californian, the boat closest to the sinking Titanic that failed to come to their rescue. The ramifications of their actions were huge in light of this bi-continental disaster. Dyer tells the story of the men of the Californian. His well researched novel tells the story as truthful as can be ascertained from an event occurring over 100 years ago. The novel containing excerpts of verbatim transcripts from the official inquiries in both London and Washington. Ultimately the motivations, personalities and different events are a work of fiction, however, most of the characters are based on the historical figures. The book follows John Steadman (one of the few fictional characters), a reporter who is on a quest for a story, but it becomes much more than that, it becomes a quest for the truth, for the 1500 lives lost that night.


The book starts in such a way that completely took me by surprise, especially as what hooked me in had nothing to do with either the Titanic or the Californian. The back story of Steadman is confronting and unique. His motivations for pursuing the story are introduced early so they reader can understand what keeps him searching for the whole story, rather than just doing his job, which is writing a story to see papers. The creation if this character to help tell the story was well thought out and really sets the scene for pondering the real questions: what really did happen that night? What went through the mind of the crew members of the Californian? How did everything end up such a mess?


What I enjoyed most about the book was the complexities of the relationships and delicate balance of a ship at sea. The pecking order, how people relate to each other, all the rules and regulations, both formal and informal. Dyer did a great job of giving the crew members such vivd colour and life. Their motivations, decisions and actions all made so much sense thanks to the rich descriptions given that I have a hard time thinking that anything different could have happened that night. Captain Lord and Second Officer Stone were intriguing characters and in particular their relations and interactions was what drove a lot of the suspense throughout the novel.


The Titanic will forever be one of those events that people obsess over and can’t seem to let go. In Dyer’s case it turned out very well as he wrote a great book out of it. Anyone who has an interest in the events of that night back in 1912 will find this book highly fascinating. I definitely recommend picking it up if you get the chance as an quick-paced interesting read awaits. I give The Midnight Watch thee white whales representing Second Officer Stone’s fixation with Moby Dick.


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