The Californian Incident.
That's how the whole affair covered by this book is usually described, an ironic title to give an event characterised more by what was not done than what was. Or so it seemed until Paul Lee, after years of research and consideration, wrote this new, highly intriguing book. For the author displays is that there were, and are to this day, a considerable number of people who put a lot of energy,thought, intelligence and, regrettably common, sheer imagination into describing and analysing what happened on that Night to Remember.
The book begins not on the North Atlantic with the officers of the Californian watching, or not watching if such is your stance, the Titanic sink, but with the arrival in Boston of the ship. This has two major advantages - first it introduces the major player - that bewildering Captain, Stanley Lord - and it allows the reader to follow the unfolding of his story as he told it at various stages of his life. Thus we find his extemporising to the newspapers as he puts himself on the world stage at the centre of events, and of his increasingly desperate attempts to shuffle back out of the limelight when he discovers that perhaps he is not the hero he seems to have believed himself to be.
The book then covers the growing inconsistencies that emerged over the years that required of his defenders increasingly convoluted manoeuvres to clarify, or obscure, what his part in the tragedy of the Titanic was - if any - and of the equal energy of those who regarded the man with suspicion. We read of the bizarre behaviour of various researchers down through the years to both interpret what occurred that night and of their sometimes self-defeating attempts to stop one another's works being publicly aired. Long after Lord himself was dead otherwise sensible men would go to great lengths to protect or vilify the man, often at considerable cost to themselves, a process that continues to this day.
In his own analysis of matters Dr Lee proves to be a man who can see straight to the heart of matters, but is aware that the general reader may have trouble on occasion following complicated questions of ship positioning and manouvres. Thus the book is alwaya careful to describe in lucid, step-by-step stages various arguments and counter-arguments without falling into the trap of weighting evidence towards one side or the other. For llike all good historians or criminologists Dr Lee allows the evidence to dictate the verdict rather than selectively present a case for either the defence or the prosecution. He is, at the end of the day, an expert witness rather than an advocate -when he has an opinion of his own, Paul confines it to the footnotes, the better to keep the text factual - and if the reader is led to a conclusion then he or she can be sure that this is a product of the facts and not of a writer pursuing an agenda. He does provide his own verdict, quite correctly, but by the time it is delivered the reader has had ample opportunity to make their own mind up and can agree or disagree - there is more than enough in the text to do either.
So if you are at all interested in the Titanic, and in particular in The Californian Incident on whatever side you may fall you need to own this book. Self-published, well written, lucid and very, very rich in fact and opinion from all sides this will be a book that will be referred to for many a year to come. Probably not the last word by any means, by presenting the facts so frankly and clearly Paul Lee has provided a solid foundation for future researchers. This will be much sought after in years to come so buy it now whilst you can, it's worth every penny of the price.