Saturday, 26 March 2016

Really on the Rocks

Raleigh on the Rocks reads like the research packet for a novel Richard Rohmer never wrote.  212 pages of photocopies of ships’ logs, trial transcripts and interoffice memos from ass-covering war bureaucrats, thankfully long dead.  I wonder if a similar pile of papers exists for the other fiction. 

“On Memorial Day, the Admiral, accompanied by Sir Auckland Geddes, was received by President Harding at the White House where pleasantries were cordially exchanged and, very likely, there was discussion of the involvement of Pak’s illustrious ancestor, Major General Sir Edward Pakenham, in the Battle of New Orleans.”Raleigh on the Rocks

Imagine how easy it would be to turn that into Rohmer-quality action, and create a BE$T$ELLER…

“Welcome to the White House, Sir Auckland” said President Warren G. Harding, America’s 29th President.
Sir Auckland shook the Ohio-born President’s hand.
“May I present Admiral Pakenham, of her Majesty’s Navy.”
“Packenham? Any relation to Major General Sir Edward Pakenham?”
“I’m sorry to say, yes,” said the Admiral.
Harding, who would die in office several years later, laughed.
“And I’m sorry about how our Andrew Jackson – one of my shall we say illustrious predecessors – gave your relative a beating at the Battle of New Orleans!”
“Tragically, neither side knew our nations had already signed the Treaty of Ghent.”
“Yes, a shame.  But enough of these pleasantries.  Do you have an answer to my ultimatum?”

And then they’d check yes or no on the ultimatum, which would involve ownership of all the oil and gas in the arctic – and put the paper on the ship, and then it would run aground, and decades later frogmen from the Bank of Canada would have to solve the mystery by searching the wreckage.  It writes itself.  Call it Balls Up!

As it is, this isn’t a book at all.  It’s a poorly padded high school paper about nothing.  Grade F.  Note from teacher: “See me.”

(Okay, one interesting thing.  The British Navy putting all that time and effort into blowing up a ship just because it would look bad to have it sitting there, after some idiot got it stuck on a rock.  Your empire’s tax dollars at work.)

Stan, I’ll return your copy when I come to Montreal in April.  On to Ultimatum 2!


  1. His majesty's navy. No hers, in 1922. His. I'm calling my researcher at York and canning him cold. No wonder this isn't a be$t$eller.

  2. Had Rohmer been closer to the start of his writing career I have no doubt that he would've used the material for a novel. It has all the elements of a Clive Cussler thriller, complete with an Anglo-American meeting (Night Probe!) and an accord (Night Probe!) lost (Night Probe!) underwater (Night Probe!) concerning Canada (Night Probe!) and its vast natural resources (Night Probe!).

    I caught Rohmer's confusion regarding His Majesty and Her Majesty. You'd think that someone with letterhead such as his would have firm grasp of such things. The gaff that hit closer to former home concerned Barry Broadfoot, whom Rohmer imagines lives on Victoria Island in the Arctic Ocean.

    In fact, he lives in Nanaimo, two thousand or so kilometres south on Vancouver Island. Elvis Costello will confirm.

    Night Probe! is filthiest thriller title of all time, right?

  3. I was going to write something further about Raleigh on the Rocks, then realized I was running the risk of exceeding Rohmer's word count. I'll leave off by noting that one of those words is "resplendent":

    Admiral Pakenham, Captain Bromley and his senior officers - all in their formal dining uniform mess kits resplendent with gold braid, miniature decorations and ceremonial swords...

    It goes on, but not for long.

  4. I've never read a Clive Cussler, but I may have to read! Night Probe!