BUSHNELL ON THE BOOKS: “The Wreck of the Portland” and “Muddled Through”

THE WRECK OF THE PORTLAND: A DAMNED SHIP, A SEVERE STORM AND NEW ENGLAND’S WORST MARITIME DISASTER by J. North Conway; Lyon Press, 2022; 200 pages, $19.95; ISBN 978-1-4930-5946-1.


On Saturday, November 26, 1898, the sidewheel paddle steamer SS Portland left Boston on its usual nine-hour trip to Portland, Maine, carrying over 200 passengers and crew. He was never seen again.

“The Wreck of the Portland” is journalist J. North Conway’s dramatic story of the “Portland Gale, the Storm of the Century” that ravaged the New England coast, killed 400 people and sank 200 ships, including the luxurious Portland. Conway wrote 15 nonfiction books, but this one stands out as a story of maritime disaster rivaling the gripping drama of Walter Lord’s 1955 classic “A Night to Remember” (Titanic). This was originally published in 2019 by Lyons Press, now available in softcover.

There were no survivors of the wreckage of the Portland, but there are records and stories that Conway used to tell this tragic story. He took some literary license to describe the people and events aboard the ship, but does so with care and deliberation, imagination and historical context.

As he recounts, Portland fell victim to two converging storm systems that collided over New England, producing 110mph winds, 60ft waves, heavy snow and freezing cold. glacial. Portland’s captain received timely and accurate weather reports, but decided to sail anyway with an ominous starting comment: “Maybe we have a good chance.

The controversy always revolves around the disaster. Did the company order the captain to stay in port or go ahead and sail? Did other captains tell him not to go? Why did he defy marine warnings and weather forecasts? Nobody knows how many people were on the Portland. The only passenger manifest was on board. Conway also discusses the National Weather Service, superstitions at sea, and details about the lucky few who canceled their trip and survived.


When 30-year-old single Julia Snowden broke up with her boyfriend, got kicked out of her apartment, and moved back in with her mother, she probably thought it was a particularly bad day. She was wrong; it will get worse.

‘Muddled Through’ is Portland author Barbara Ross’ 10th book in her popular ‘Maine Clambake Mystery’ series set in the fictional coastal town of Busman’s Harbor and starring the fearsome Julia as an amateur sleuth and sleuth. the Snowden Family Clambake tourism business. Ross has always put together delicious “comfortable” mysteries with timely plots, colorful characters, excitement and suspense. And this one is a success.

While feeling sorry for herself, Julia is asked by her sister, Livvie, to investigate destructive vandalism at a local high-end pottery store. She learns of a bitter feud between store owner Zoey Butterfield and her neighbor

BLURRED THROUGH: A MAINE CLAMBAKE MYSTERY by Barbara Ross; Kensington Books, 2022; 269 ​​pages, $8.99; ISBN 978-1-4967-3569-0.

business owner, the villainous Phinney Hardison. The gossip mongers take sides and most people laugh, until someone gets their throat slit and the body is found in Zoey’s basement workshop.

However, the local cops and state police detectives aren’t laughing and immediately suspect Zoey of being the killer. Julia isn’t convinced either way, but there are a few things that just don’t add up. She is intrigued and begins to ask some probing townsfolk and sketchy strangers some penetrating personal questions, and there are surprising answers.

His investigation reveals details people would prefer to remain hidden, including an almost exact duplicate murder years before in another state. Even the police think something is wrong. Julia is an attractive and intelligent young woman. she recognizes the danger she is in, but fails to see that she has also attracted two unexpected and ardent suitors. Good for her.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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