Authors on Characters
Penmore Press authors offer a rich and entertaining array of short reflections on characters and how they were created in the novels. READ
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Mark A. Rimmer
Mark A. Rimmer was born in London and grew up on the south coast of England. Since as far back as he can remember there have been two passions in his life – tall ships and writing.
Not surprising, then, that he took full advantage of an opportunity to sail aboard a square-rigger in New Guinea when he was 16, then went on to join the British merchant navy as an apprentice navigation officer on cargo ships worldwide. After graduating with his Mate’s license, he moved to Hong Kong to teach sail training aboard a brigantine in the South China Sea, voyaging between Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Japan.
Since then Mark has spent many years engaged in sail training in the Old School fashion aboard a variety of tall ships, teaching naval cadets and civilian trainees how to traverse the world’s oceans using only wind, stars, a sextant and a compass. From the complete re-rigging of the replica galleon Golden Hinde to achieving four transatlantic crossings aboard a full-size clipper, Mark is presently one of only a handful of captains worldwide who is qualified to command a fully-rigged ship the size of the clippers he writes about in his debut novel The California Run.
A lifelong fan of such authors as C. S. Forester and Patrick O’Brian, Mark understood at an early age that fighting sails occupy a significant proportion of the Nautical Fiction genre. As a merchant mariner, perhaps Mark might be forgiven for having subscribed to that inherent bias which prevails among his peers, that your average historical naval vessel is all but identical to any merchant ship of its time, except with more guns and bigger hats. Besides, as Mark’s own experiences have shown him, and as events in The California Run portray, life aboard a merchant ship and the interactions between those who sail them can be equally as exciting, if not as terrifying, as any full-on naval engagement.
Mark has also enjoyed his share of adventures, having so far survived three hurricanes, one typhoon, been bombed, shot at, shipwrecked, assisted numerous yachtsmen in distress, helped rescue the crew of a burning oil tanker mid-ocean, and has led one successful mutiny aboard a storm-tossed brigantine in the middle of an Atlantic hurricane.
Mark finally stranded upon the shores of America, quite literally, after being shipwrecked himself off Bermuda, rescued by a passing Greek tanker and landed ashore in Long Island in only the clothes he stood up in and a soggy ‘tenner’ in his pocket. His original US immigrant status of Shipwrecked Mariner is one that, as a proud seafarer, he displays on his wall to this day. Mark has been living in Oregon ever since.
The California Run
New York, 1850. Two clipper ships depart on a race around Cape Horn to the boomtown of San Francisco, where the first to arrive will gain the largest profits and also win a $50,000 wager for her owner. Sapphire is a veteran ship with an experienced crew. Achilles is a new-build with a crimped, mostly unwilling crew. Inside Achilles‘ forecastle space reside an unruly gang of British sailors whose only goal is to reach the gold fields, a group of contrarily reluctant Swedish immigrants whose only desire is to return to New York and the luckless Englishman, Harry Jenkins, who has somehow managed to get himself crimped by the equally as deceitful Sarah Doyle, and must now spend the entire voyage working as a common sailor down in Achilles‘ forecastle while Sarah enjoys all the rich comforts of the aft passenger saloon.
Despite having such a clear advantage, Sapphire‘s owner has also placed a saboteur, Gideon, aboard Achilles with instructions to impede her in any way possible. Gideon sets to with enthusiasm and before she even reaches Cape Horn Achilles‘ chief mate and captain have both been murdered. Her inexperienced 2nd Mate, Nate Cooper, suddenly finds himself in command of Achilles and, with the help of the late captain’s niece, Emma, who herself is the only experienced navigator remaining on board, they must somehow regain control over this diverse crew of misfits and encourage them onwards and around the Horn.
But it is the ladies on board Achilles who finally regain control of the situation. With the help of their passenger complement, which include a French Madam and her three girls, Emma and Sarah do all they can to manipulate this crew as they in turn confront sea, weather, a murdering saboteur and one another as they struggle to reach their destination ahead of Sapphire.
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