Sunday, July 31, 2011

Local Author Spins Salty Yarn of Fighting Ships

Latest e-book title for Chris
On July 8th, 2011, Boson Books of Raleigh, North Carolina released the worldwide ebook Scarborough Fair by Saltburn author Chris Scott Wilson. Better known for his local history work and his gritty westerns, Scarborough Fair shows that when Wilson forsakes the land for the sea, he is still very much at home spinning yarns to make even salty sailors smile. In Scarborough Fair he tells the story of how John Paul Jones became America’s first great naval hero.

With the onset of the War of Independence in 1775, England found herself fighting to maintain a grip on her colonies in America. Meanwhile, the fledgling US Congress was desperate to break the mother country’s domination of the seas and cripple her trade routes. King Louis XVI of France, knowing any such disruption could only benefit French trade, was eager to help. In 1778 when John Paul Jones was ordered to Paris, Louis promised to furnish and arm a ship for him, and also grant free access to all French ports.

John Paul Jones, originally from Scotland, had served his apprenticeship on the high seas, working his way up to captain. His ambition was to own plantations in Virginia, but when war was declared against England, Paul Jones had immediately volunteered to serve his adopted nation. Three years later, he was ordered to France where the American founding father, Benjamin Franklin, became his greatest ally. Offering constant reassurance, Franklin guided Jones though the murky political waters of the French Marine Ministry in his quest to secure a ship to fight the English. When the task appeared hopeless, he eventually devised a plot to force the purchase of a suitable vessel.

In recognition of Franklin’s efforts, Jones renamed his new command Bonhomme Richard, Franklin’s pen name. Promoted to commodore, John Paul Jones began to harry the English in their own territorial waters while battling the treachery of insubordinate French officers who commanded the other ships in his small flotilla. A year later, just south of Scarborough, he tackled a brand new English frigate, HMS Serapis. They fought within sight of the very shores of England, the nation whose proud boast was its invincible navy. It was at that Battle of Flamborough Head in 1779, that John Paul Jones became a legend.

Saltburn author, Chris Scott Wilson, comments, “I was researching another novel when I discovered that Paul Jones’s ship had been sighted off Whitby and the local militia turned out to man the canon on the seafront battery. Although I didn’t use that incident in the story, I later found out Jones had captured a fishing boat called Speedwell just off Whitby when he was looking for a pilot who knew the waters near Scarborough. That gave me the link to use both Scarborough and Whitby as settings in the book. It was no hardship, I’ve always loved both towns – some years ago I wrote A Flavour of Whitby to give visitors a taste of the port’s rich seafaring history.”

The author continues, “Jones was an extraordinary man whose famous cry was, ‘Surrender? I have not yet begun to fight.’ And he never gave up. It seems astounding these days to think he was only 31 years old when he fought that great battle. Although the English press called him a pirate or lampooned him as a comic figure, the pen in this case wasn’t mightier than the sword. Paul Jones’s courage, grit and determination moulded him into a hero.”

The best-selling author Clive Cussler, himself fascinated in Paul Jones to the point of financing several expeditions to search the North Sea for the wreckage of Bonhomme Richard, wrote to Chris: “Scarborough Fair is a terrific story. Of course, you English always had a better command of the language than we colonists. The Serapis and Bonhomme Richard battle was always a great adventure tale and you did it proud.”

Scarborough Fair by Chris Scott Wilson is now available in ebook format from all leading online retailers. For a sample read and purchasing details, visit and follow Fiction> Historical fiction, or visit the author’s website where Chris would be pleased to welcome you.

Read the opening chapter here.

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