Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Winner of the M.M. Bennetts Award for Historical Fiction Is....

Greg Taylor for Lusitania R.E.X! 
Congratulations, Greg!

Mike Uretsky, Professor at the New York University Stern School of Business, was contacted specifically to vet Lusitania R.E.X. Mike is a specialist and adviser to governments on international energy policy. His area of expertise provides him with an in-depth view of the part private capital has in the past and continues to play in international affairs.

Greg had to decide whether to fly from London to Denver for the presentation. We held our breath, and he did come. Perhaps it helped that he has family near Denver!

You can read Greg's biography here.

David Blixt, Steve Wiegenstein, and Greg Taylor
signing their books at the Historical Novel Society Conference

We thank the management of the Historical Novel Society 2015 Conference in Denver, CO for allowing us to make the presentation at their banquet on June 27 and for making accommodations for our needs. It was a setting Greg and the other finalists, David Blixt and Steve Wiegenstein, will always remember.

Anna Belfrage, who presented Greg's prize and then
won one of her own, stands with Greg and his scroll.

Jim Bencivenga, a retired book critic at The Christian Science Monitor, wrote of Lusitania R.E.X:

"Were it not of American origin, 'Lusitania R.E.X', by Greg Taylor, is a candidate for a BBC Masterpiece series.

"Most enjoyable are descriptions and details of the luxury ship itself. From boilers to horse stables to elevators to paneled suites puts me on board, freeing the imagination with the rhythm of ocean swells and throbbing engines (several decks below, certainly not from Alfred Vanderbilt's suite).

"War on land, in the air, or at sea is deadly business. World War I trench warfare and U boat war (novel and ever so 'ungentlemanly') with the potential for rocket combat as explored in this novel, does indeed set the tone for the modern age.

"Combine political intrigue among British and European aristocrats, the fabulously wealthy American elite, members of a secret Yale society and you have a superlative historical account about the best and worst in human beings.

"Archibald MacLeish tops my list of fascinating characters inhabiting the pages of 'Lusitania R.E.X'. Individuals do make a difference, historical differences. Taylor exploits the Newport crowd, the Skull and Bones crowd. He characterizes an era. Irish and German espionage (I have a German grandfather and an Irish grandmother whom I now understand much better), suffocating conditions in diesel powered U-boats, sex drives above and below the waves, inform this notorious crime at sea.

"The relevant lesson I take from 'Lusitania R.E.X' is how easy it is for people and nations to stumble into war. The US and India just signed a ten-year naval pact to balance the rise of China in the South China sea (in the annals of war the phrase 'balance of power' should bring dread).

"What misstep off a nameless atoll on or below the waters near the Philippines awaits its destiny. Torpedo tubes from a diesel sub, again, could down a ship and initiate a devastating nuclear war.

Final judge Edd Morris wrote:

"Exhilarating and ambitious, I found Luistania R.E.X to be a jolly ride through an impressive swathe of early twentieth century history. Although its final scenes are quite clear from the outset, the tale managed to sweep in enough imaginative intrigue to propel me to the impending disaster.

"There’s lots I loved: in particular, the bitter loss of control (and misunderstanding of the repercussions) of a life’s work. Wally was a beautiful character: rounded, warm, humane.

"The level of historical research - particularly in regard to the Luistania herself - was unparalleled, and the inclusion of real photographs is a beautiful touch.

"With an eye for exquisite detail, Luistania R.E.X marries some feverish flights of imagination with historical accuracy. It’s a pacy, readable novel, designed to impress all who choose to sail with it."

Monday, June 22, 2015

Meet our Final Round Judges

The Board of Directors wishes to thank those (listed below) who spent hours and days of reading time in the initial stages of judging the seventy-five 2014 novels. Many made comments such as that they had found new authors they liked and would be searching out their books. We hope all enjoyed the work.

The scoring and comments of each of these judges was carefully reviewed by the Board of Directors. The difficult job of selecting a small number of semifinalists took longer than we expected; there were many good books, and we wanted to adhere to M.M. Bennetts' views of literature in making our choices. We eventually reached the last stage. With additional reading by certain members and vetting by experts to whom we turned, the group at last heartily endorsed the selection of our three finalists.

The decision was turned over to a panel of three judges.

Jim Bencivenga was a book editor and worked with M.M. Bennetts for seven years as a book critic for The Christian Science Monitor. We thank the staff at the Monitor for helping us find a colleague of hers that could help us.

A writer and editor for 23 years at the Christian Science Monitor, Jim is interested in freelance writing and sharing his knowledge and expertise in the areas of education, astronomy, religion, technology and the environment.  From authoring one-off articles, to shepherding an author through a lengthy article, or even a book, he leads a life of the mind through written expression.

Jim has worked as a visiting adjunct professor of Journalism at Ithaca College, a Writer/Consultant at Thomas B. Fordham Foundation, Wash., DC, an Education Writer and Editor, Book Editor, Ideas Editor of Science & Technology, Religion, Ethics, and Books, and a Community Producer of the website for The Christian Science Monitor.

He is a Trustee of the Asher Student Foundation actively engaged in a variety of ways in supporting Christian Science students of all ages who are enrolled in accredited colleges, universities and certificate programs across the country. Jim was the Director of Information Services at the National Institute of Education in the US Department of Education for two years and was in the Ford Foundation Education Fellowship regarding Special Education in Prisons, visiting twelve prisons in eight states.

Jim was twice the recipient of the NY Times feature writing award presented by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the Director of Publications at the National Institute of Education within the US Dept. of Education. He worked as the President of a community based Group Home for adjudicated teenagers in Bozeman, MT.

Jim can be reached at Jimmyb3 at

Edd Morris is a medical doctor and the author of the full color Exploring English Castles: Evocative, Romantic, and Mysterious True Tales of the Kings and Queens of the British Isles. Edd has a passion for history, travel, and for visiting castles in the UK and in Europe.

His website,, attracts more than a third of a million visitors every year, and is one of the web's most visited resources on castles. Edd graduated with a BA from the University of Warwick, and a MA and MBBS from the University of London. He presently works as a doctor within the UK National Health Service.

Many thanks to Reader/Judges Andrew Latham, Anna Belfrage, Anne-Marie Caluwaert, Annie 'EditingPen', Arthur Russell, Audra Friend, Averil Bennetts, Charles Bazelgette, Christoph Fischer, Cryssa Bazos, Darius Stransky, Darlene Williams, Deborah Swift, EM Powell, Fiona Powell, Geri Dunlop Clouston, Glen Craney, Helen Hollick, Irene Conroy, Jacqui Reiter, Jeanne Greene, Jonathan Hopkins, Jude Knight, Katherine Pym, Kathy Carroll, Laurel Ann Natress, Lauren Gilbert, Linda Collison, Linda Root, Lisl Zlitni, Margaret Porter Evans, Margaret Skea, Mike Rendell, Mike Uretsky, Nancy Bilyeau, Pippa Elliott, Richard Abbott, Robyn Leatherman, Rose Spears, Sarah Johnson, Shannon Gallagher, Sr. Sheila, Sophia Rose, Sue Millard, Tru Denton, and Williamaye Jones. We couldn't have done it without you!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Award Finalist (and Winner!) Greg Taylor

Lusitania R.E.X, an historical novel about the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in the early days of World War I, is Greg Taylor’s first novel and a very remarkable debut. Taylor says he was drawn to accounts of the Lusitania, fascinated by the collapse of Edwardian society, the epitome of elegance, in the brutal warfare their own industrial success had made possible. Taylor's passion for history and research earned him access to private family archives never before opened to a writer, and has taken him to numerous sites that appear in the book, from the palaces of the Tsar, the Kaiser and the Vanderbilts to the battlefields of Ypres.

Lusitania R.E.X explores the events and influences leading up to the sinking, with a well argued theory as to the cause of a second, unexplained blast that doomed the ship after it had been struck by a single German torpedo on May 7th, 1915. The Lusitania sank eighteen minutes after that second, internal blast. Taylor’s book is brimming with convincingly drawn spies and secret societies, superweapons, obscure Russian physicists and playboy millionaires, including Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt I, the main character of the novel.

Since the time of her sinking, the Lusitania has been wrapped in mystery and intrigue. Experts continue to debate the cause of that second explosion. Imperial Germany immediately claimed the ship was loaded with explosives destined for the front.

Lusitania R.E.X weaves fiction around the known facts to create a plausible explanation of unresolved questions surrounding her sinking and explores how modern, mechanized war, with its zeppelin raids and poison gas, brought to an end the gilded age of Newport, Edwardian England and Imperial Germany and Russia.

The Nautilus Telegraph wrote: “Through its fictionalised treatment of historical events, Lusitania R.E.X tries to get inside the head of Vanderbilt, exploring the reasons why this rather indolent heir to a fortune could have developed into someone capable of heroism. In the best blockbuster tradition, the book features plenty of romance and glamour, as well as a Dan Brown-style conspiracy posited by the author as the real reason why the German navy attacked the ship in the First World War.”

Originally from Colorado, Greg Taylor has made London his home since 2000; he divides his investment banking and asset management career between New York and London. Lusitania R.E.X was written while the author was founding and developing his own investment management firm, Sequoia Investment Management.

Undergraduate studies in history at Williams College in Massachusetts and the University of Durham in England influenced Taylor's writing of Lusitania R.E.X., as did his work at the School of Management at Yale University, where he lived just one block from The Tomb, the headquarters of the Skull and Bones Club, which figures prominently in the book.

During his research, Taylor came to know descendants of some of the principal characters in Lusitania R.E.X. He spent some time with Alfred Vanderbilt III, including accompanying Alfred and his wife on a visit to his grandfather’s Great Camp Sagamore in the Adirondacks, described with first-hand vividness in the book. Alfred Vanderbilt I, who inherited one of the largest fortunes of America’s Gilded Age, perished on the Lusitania after giving his lifebelt to a woman passenger.

The Duke of Marlborough also took an interest in Lusitania R.E.X. His father and grandfather are significant in the story through the 9th Duke’s marriage to Consuelo Vanderbilt. The 11th Duke, whose middle name is Vanderbilt, wrote the forward to Lusitania R.E.X.

Taylor also was able to sail on the Cunard Line’s “Lusitania Remembered” Voyage in May of 2015 and participated in marking the 100th anniversary over the site of the Lusitania wreck which lies beneath 260 feet of water eleven miles off the coast of Ireland. Taylor had the pleasure of meeting a number of descendants of Lusitania victims and survivors and is hosting an upcoming event with Lady Helen Gaskell, the descendant of a survivor.

Lusitania R.E.X is published by Filament (hard bound and paperback) and Autharium (electronic formats) and is available on the book website, Amazon, and from other retailers and your local bookshop.

The book website is
Facebook page:
Taylor’s Twitter is @GregTaylor_LUSI