Monday, August 29, 2016

Nonfiction Monday: Mystery & Mayhem: Survival and Pirates and Shipwrecks by Tom McCarthy

 I'm looking at two titles from the Mysteries & Mayhem series, published by Nomad Press, today.

Survival is, of course, a collection of true survival tales. It includes both familiar and more obscure tales in the selection of five historical episodes. The first story is Shackleton's attempt to cross Antarctica, which resulted in he and his crew being stranded for months. It includes both the hardships they suffered and Shackleton's ability to inspire and sustain his men. The second chapter covers Captain Bligh, set adrift with a handful of sailors, after the famous mutiny on his ship, the Bounty. The third chapter covers William Lewis Manly, who, along with the party he was guiding, was lost in Death Valley when they were traveling west. The fourth story was new to me; Mademoiselle Picard and her family were victims of a horrific shipwreck and then stranded in the Sahara. Finally, the well-known drama of the Donner Party rounds out the book.

The stories are each introduced with a map and end with the results of the adventure; Continued controversy over Captain Bligh's actions, Mademoiselle Picard's life after rescue, etc. There is also a list of historical facts for each chapter, to put the events into context. There is a glossary but no sources or bibliography.

The second book I'm reviewing, Pirates and Shipwrecks, presents a shipwreck and encounter with pirates for sailor Daniel Collins, and the mysterious disappearance of Captain Franklin's expedition to the Arctic. It also includes the stories of two pirates; Mary Reed and Barbarossa. There is also a story of shipwrecks on the Andamans and encounters with the hostile indigenous peoples.

This book also includes a glossary, but only the story of Daniel Collins mentions a source.

Survival is not particularly unique, but does include a reasonable variety of stories including various people and ranging from well-known to more obscure. Pirates and Shipwrecks is very troubling in its depiction of native peoples, especially "The Wild Men of the Andamans." That particular chapter ends with this quote "A group of Wild Men watched the rescue from their hiding place, then turned and disappeared. They were probably disappointed to have missed out on a good meal." Um.....what? While this was the most glaringly outdated reference to indigenous cultures, both books in general have an "Adventures for Boys" 1950s feel, focusing primarily on action sequences and imagined feelings and thoughts of the historical figures and presenting an extremely stereotyped and outdated depiction of indigenous populations.

Verdict: The lack of sources make these titles additional choices at best, but the depiction of indigenous peoples made me cringe. Not recommended. There are many better choices for fans of survival stories and history. I frequently purchase the titles from the "Explore" series from Nomad Press and I'll be sticking to that series from now on.

ISBN: 9781619304802

Pirates and Shipwrecks
ISBN: 9781619304758

Published October 2016 by Nomad Press; Review copies provided by the publisher

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