If you look at the front cover of The Titanic Document you will see the words The Truth Is About To Surface. From my author’s perspective the intention is to intrigue potential readers about what they might discover within the pages of my book. Will this truth reveal something about the sinking of that great ship? Unlikely, as this is a work of fiction. Reading the text on the back cover makes it clear that it is a political thriller, so perhaps this is an implication of how truth can be a threat to politicians?
My simple (and truthful) answer would be that it means both those things.
When looking for an angle on Titanic that I felt would lend itself to my genre, I had several options. Many authors have been inspired by her tragic history, and I had no wish to trot out one more book that trivialised hundreds of deaths in the pursuit of a fictional thrill. For me, a conscious respect for those directly affected by the tragic event would influence my handling of “The Truth”. I needed to look at arguments presented by historians and established aficionados. One opinion that intrigued me was the idea Titanic had been secretly swapped for her sister ship Olympic, and that the owners had planned an insurance scam that went tragically wrong. This was a theory championed by Robin Gardiner in his (non-fictional) Titanic – The Ship That Never Sank? The book was published in 1998 and the switching of ships theory has since been largely discredited. But Gardiner did convince me of one thing: somebody’s plans HAD gone wrong (causing unintentional loss of life), but what exactly were those plans?
Answering that important question was the key for me to build my fictional story: My librarian character of Billie Vane could do some research in that direction. All I had to do was build a plausible theory for him to find.
The politics of 1912 provided more material. Ambitious men of power in an era of turmoil between nations – the stuff of life that is as relevant today as it was in the years preceding the Great War. The American entrepreneur J P Morgan was the ultimate owner of Titanic and Olympic. He pulled all the strings, held vast wealth and influence in business circles, but found himself frustrated by those walking the corridors of Westminster. He had ambitions for dominating the profitable Atlantic shipping route, in direct competition with Cunard, and he was not one to give up without a fight. Think Elon Musk today!
If plans affecting the fate of Titanic need attribution to anyone, who better than the ship’s owner? John Pierpont Morgan was a man who sought fortune before fame, and was content to keep a much lower profile than Mr Musk. Factual accounts of his activities are scarce. To present a realistic yet controversial stimulus, I invented a boardroom scene featuring Morgan chairing a meeting that included the ship’s builder Lord Pirrie and White Star Line’s Bruce Ismay. Following the severe damage caused to Olympic while Titanic was still under construction, it was inevitable such a meeting would have taken place, and no doubt there would have been written notes. But no such record is in the public domain. My fictional version of those notes forms the basis of “The Document” in my story.
This, as they say, is where the plot thickens.
And, like all good thrillers, there’s a delicious twist!
No spoilers here, but while weaving facts into interesting strands to build a story from my imagination, I stumbled on a discovery that was NOT fictional: historical detail that appears to support my own “conspiracy” theory! I read plenty of contemporary accounts in my attempt to make the story as authentic as possible, including the records from the British Inquiry following the disaster. Within those pages are the words of Bruce Ismay himself, and at one point he makes a statement that, taken on its own, has no apparent meaning. But when read in the context of the fiction I’d created myself, has a more curious connotation. Could I have accidentally stumbled on another Truth? You can make up your own minds by reading the extract featured within the pages of The Titanic Document.
Please remember that I wrote this story as entertainment. I do not seek to participate in a serious debate on what happened to Titanic in April 1912, but I remain convinced that what I have presented for public consumption is a good basis for an argument. You can judge for yourselves, but whatever you believe IS The Truth, I do hope you enjoy the way I’ve told it.
Finally, while 28th March 2021 is the official publication date for the paperback version of The Titanic Document, there is every likelihood that retailers will receive physical copies earlier than that. It is simply a matter of when the printer delivers, which I understand can be up to two weeks before the advertised date. Don’t be surprised if (after placing an advance order), you receive your copy before the month end!
Need to know:
(I don’t just write fiction.