Thursday, February 2, 2017

Celebrating the life of Douglas Reeman (who also wrote as Alexander Kent), 1924-2017

With this post, I regretfully take note of the passing, last week, of the renowned and prolific author Douglas Reeman, who also wrote as Alexander Kent.

This is an unusual post for me. I haven’t created this kind of post before, but then I’m not sure when a fellow author has had as much influence on me, my life, and my writing. I want to celebrate his life, and honor his work.

Douglas Reeman's first published book was "A Prayer for the Ship," in 1958.

As The Telegraph (London, UK) states in the obituary, Douglas Reeman’s book sales exceeded 34 million worldwide. The Telegraph goes on to state that, “The typical hero of a Reeman novel is an amiable but bloody-minded sailor who sidesteps attempts by his bungling superiors to prevent him from engaging with the enemy on his own terms, and scores a famous victory against the odds.” 

Lieutenant-Commander (Royal Naval Reserve) Douglas Reeman was a sailor himself, serving in World War II and the Korean War. His pseudonym of Alexander Kent was apparently the name of a friend and fellow naval officer who died during the Second World War. One does not have to speculate where he got the material and inspiration for much of his work; he lived it. Some of the best advice for an author is to write what you know. Douglas Reeman certainly did just that.

As a sailor and small ship captain myself, I had taken note and read some of Douglas Reeman’s books. But, it was discovering the books he wrote (1968-2011) as Alexander Kent that really woke me to his writing. I have to admit that I read Alexander Kent’s books voraciously.

Douglas Reeman's first book written(1968) as Alexander Kent was  "To Glory We Steer." This book, and a number of others, take the title from the lyrics of "Heart of Oak," the Royal Navy march, also adopted by the Royal Canadian Navy.

I had read books by other ‘tall ship’ and seagoing authors, but the Richard Bolitho series really resonated with me. I like that Alexander Kent wrote about the humanity of his characters. As a reader, I really got to know, and to like, Richard Bolitho. What I most liked about the protagonist was that he was a decent human being, a good and loyal friend, and an effective and enlightened leader. In reading about Richard Bolitho and his times, one soon realized that there were many tyrants and bullies in the Navy and the society of his time. The same could be said about our societies in the more recent era. There were life lessons in those books, and many of them still apply in today’s world. 
When asked about Richard Bolitho, the author Douglas Reeman said, “I always feel that he was already there, that he discovered me. I have come to know and recognize him as a friend, and am often moved by the views and beliefs he expresses.” To paraphrase Douglas Reemans’ further words, Bolitho refused to accept injustice towards those he was leading. He was a man without conceit.

I personally have visited HMS Victory, the flagship of Lord Nelson, in its current stationary location at Portsmouth, England. I have wondered at the men who sailed her, and those who lead and commanded her. In writing of the lives and times of those ‘tall ships’, Douglas Reeman has helped me with my life. His words helped me in my dealings with difficult people, and inspired me in my efforts to be a true and loyal friend (and relative). His writings eventually encouraged my own writing, and I can only aspire to a small fraction of his skills and talent.

"In the King's Name, " written under the pen name of Alexander Kent, was the final book published by Douglas Reeman, in 2011. 

These past few days, after learning of his passing, I re-read the first three books of the chronological Bolitho series. I have re-learned to appreciate those books as much as I did in the first and second and additional readings of years past.

I have also come to think, again, about those life lessons. We could only hope and wish that some of the leaders in today’s world might have some of those same qualities of humility, sensitivity, compassion, bravery, honor and a lack of conceit  as those brought to life by Douglas Reeman in his character of Richard Bolitho.
I close this post about Douglas Reeman by paying tribute to his life, and his writing, and the thankfulness that I was able to discover those books. I commend them to you. You can start the search to find them here…  

Whether you read my books, or Douglas Reeman's, or the books attributed to Alexander Kent, I wish you

Happy Reading,


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