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All Posts, Seaforth

Author Guest Post: David Ellery

Author, David Ellery.

There are three questions I’m most often asked when it comes to my latest book. The first concerns how I first became interested in the liner Queen Mary. The answer is ‘almost by chance’. Just over 30 years ago I was working as a young feature writer, producing articles on anything I could for county and national magazines in the UK. I persuaded the editor of one of the nationals I regularly worked with to commission a couple of celebrity profile pieces and so off I went… to Hollywood – or at least a less expensive location close by! The interviews took only a short time out of my seven-day stay; the rest of the time I was a tourist.

The hotel in which I stayed offered trips to Queen Mary in nearby Long Beach. It sounded an interesting way to spend a morning. I had no idea the impact this short visit to look round the old liner would have. I was bowled over by the sheer size, grandeur and sense of history I encountered. A few months later, in passing, I relayed my experience to someone in publishing, adding casually that I would love to write a book about the ship. To my surprise and delight he replied (just as casually) ‘that would be good; if you’d like to, we will commission it.’ That led to the first edition of RMS QUEEN MARY the World’s Favourite Liner, numerous magazine articles for publications like Woman & Home, The Daily Express and Ships Monthly, umpteen talks, including as guest aboard the ship, and an award-winning documentary for BBC Television. Looking back, it turns out that first chance visit was rather significant!

The second most common question I’m asked of late is ‘Why has the second edition of the book taken so long?’ It’s a good question. Following its launch in 1994 the book was received very well and sold very quickly, but the small publisher who published it was sold before the book could be reprinted. At different times over the ensuing years I mooted the question of a second edition but by then I was working in television production and had less time to pursue the idea with the vigour it deserved. It wasn’t until 2022 that a conversation with Steve Dent who works with Seaforth Publishing (part of Pen and Sword Books) led to the all-new version of the book which was launched just a few months ago.

That leads me neatly to the third of the trio of most recently asked questions: ‘How does the new book differ from the original?’ My initial idea was to simply update the story of Queen Mary – a great deal has happened in the three decades since I first wrote the book. However, as I re-read the original, I realised my style of writing has changed considerably over the years. Consequently, there is hardly a paragraph I didn’t rewrite or change in some way. I had also accumulated literally dozens of additional firsthand interviews since the first version of the book was published. These were recorded for various articles and the documentary film; some were with people such as maiden voyage passengers and former captains and crew, many of whom are sadly no longer with us. The new version of the book provided the ideal opportunity to convey their stories collectively. Lastly, I had also amassed a wide range of additional images spanning Queen Mary’s rich history. What was originally going to be a quick update with an extra chapter or so morphed into a complete revamp! In short, the new version of the book still features the essence of what made it popular in the first place but is now new and improved, completely updated and much more comprehensive throughout. To mark the difference for anyone who happens to recall the original, I was keen for the new book to have an all new and distinctive jacket. Seaforth kindly agreed to commission an original piece of artwork which would reflect the stylish travel posters of the 1930s. We spent a little time finding just the right artist, who turned out to be Bradley Hutchings. Steve Dent put together a rough layout by compositing photographic images and I sent Bradley various colour reference pictures. I think the outcome of Bradley’s work is stunning.

Following the release of the book it seemed appropriate to also revisit the documentary film. It was broadcast by the BBC some years ago but has not been viewed since. With this year seeing the 90th anniversary of the ship’s launch I have extended the film from its original 29 minutes to approximately 47 minutes by adding more interviews, more shots of the ship in Long Beach, and further archive, including recently rediscovered footage of the maiden voyage in 1936. Amazingly, it had laid in a box unseen for 80 years!

I’m sure there will be lots more questions concerning the new book and film, and many more interesting QM-related anecdotes from people’s personal experience or from family members of past generations. If so, it will be lovely to hear from you. You can get in touch through www.davidellery.co.uk

Order your copy here.