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."

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