These photos are of an occasional table from Queen Mary‘s Long Gallery. It is 1 of only 2 known in existence. Press photos taken in 1936 of the liner’s opulent interiors clearly show 2 in a pre-maiden voyage snapshot but as far as anyone knows, there were only the 2. In addition to the stamp or branding evident on most furniture, this one also has a plastic nametag which indicated the room the piece was intended. With a ship so large, the designers devised this system so that every stick of furniture found its home. The design is called art-deco but is truly an exclusive design for Queen Mary alone. Indeed, all of the First Class furnishings could be called “one-offs”, a British term for one of a kind which was used extensively to describe the liner herself. There has never been another like her. While most liners of previous years like Titanic, Olympic, Mauretania, and Lusitania all had similar interiors reminiscent of eras like Victorian and Edwardian, the Queen was not severe and heavy but rather elegant and restrained. Over 200 different woods were used on her interior walls and furniture prompting her to be called “The Ship of Beautiful Woods”. This made her much more attractive to male passengers who had previously been relegated to the fussy, feminine decorations of previous liners. As a matter of fact, many prominent male passengers stated that she was their favorite liner, men like Alfred Hitchcock (who used footage of one of her arrivals in New York in “Dial ‘M’ for Murder”), Bob Hope, the Duke of Windsor, David Niven, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, etc.
Tag Archives: Queen Mary
In 1930, the Cunard Line laid the keel of a ship then known as #534. Cunard officials had planned on naming her Victoria since the -ia suffix was used on their liners (Mauretania, Lusitania, Aquitania, etc.) while the White Star Line used an -ic suffix on their liners (Olympic, Titanic, Majestic, etc.). In 1931, however, Cunard shut down building of their superliner due to the Depression. Over 80% complete, the hull rusted on the stocks until 1934 when the British Parliament agreed to a government loan to complete the giant with the stipulation that the rival lines merge and become Cunard White Star. The president of Cunard had a golf date with King George and requested permission to “name the ship after England’s greatest queen”. Without batting an eye, the King replied, “My wife would be delighted!” So, #534 was launched in September and christened Queen Mary by her majesty. In this way, the suffixes for each line’s ships would be eliminated. From the time Queen Mary made her maiden voyage in 1936 until her retirement in 1967, she flew a double house flag on her aft mast. In the attached photos, one can see the flags whipping high above the deck. I own the last house flags she waved and have them displayed on my living room ceiling. They are too large to mount on the wall as they are over 6 feet tall and 9 feet wide. Because of the Titanic disaster, Cunard White Star Line dissolved the corporation by liquidating White Star’s assets and became simply Cunard. The White Star Line became a memory, synonymous with the legendary disaster that befell its greatest ship.
The Queen Mary at a full gallop on her maiden voyage to New York in May of 1936. In this remarkable and rare postcard, the bow wave created by the liner’s charge at 32 knots was between 50 and 60 feet high. The Blue Riband was an international trophy awarded to the world’s fastest liner. France’s Normandie had captured the award a year earlier in 1935 but the Queen reclaimed it for England in August of 1936 by being the first ship to cross the Atlantic in less than 4 days. The two superliners both had 3 smokestacks and a cruiser stern but Normandie was considered chic and modern while Queen Mary was stately and regal. Many critics panned England for creating a liner with the lines reminiscent of an earlier era, only more mammoth. But Normandie always sailed with half of her passenger complement while Queen Mary was booked solid for nearly 2 years! Passengers absolutely flocked to her and she is, without doubt, the most successful liner of all time having served 6 years in World War II as a troop transport. She still holds the world’s record for the most passengers aboard a single ship: 16,863 GIs and crew in 1943. Painted drab grey and stripped of her luxurious furnishings, she earned the nickname Grey Ghost for her abrupt arrivals and departures when accommodating and delivering troops around the world. Her speed enabled her to outrun torpedoes yet she still zigzagged across the pond to deter a wolf pack of Nazi submarines that may have been waiting. She was delivering entire divisions to the war front at once and Hitler was furious. He offered a quarter of a million dollars and the Silver Cross to any U-boat commander who could sink her. After the war, she was commissioned to bring British war brides and their children to a new life in America. She resumed her peacetime career in July of 1947 and held the Blue Riband until the liner United States took it in 1952. After millions of miles traveled and millions of passengers transported, she was retired in 1967 due to the influence of jets that could fly across the Atlantic in hours rather than days. Too large and expensive to upkeep, she was sold to the city of Long Beach, California where she is permanently docked and serving as a hotel and tourist attraction.
Prior to the 1950s when significant advances in air travel were made from technology gained during World War II, ocean liners were the only way to “cross the pond”. When members of the Royal Family traveled, they of course chose British-built ships and Queen Mary was invariably their favorite. The Queen Mother (Queen Elizabeth II’s mother) was not shy in stating that Queen Mary was her favorite and, likewise, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (the former King Edward who gave up the throne for “the woman I love” Wallis Simpson) held the same sentiment as well as governmental royalty such as Sir Winston Churchill who crossed aboard her exclusively in both times of war and peace. While Cunard White Star advertised Queen Mary‘s younger running mate Queen Elizabeth as the line’s flagship, passengers both royal and common flocked to Queen Mary. She simply had (and still has) an intangible essence of a living thing or soul. Alfred Hitchcock, Elizabeth Taylor, the Kennedys, and other elite passengers made her their liner of choice. But being a British liner, the officers and crew took great delight in treating the Royal Family to perks not offered to commoners, regardless of their rank and circumstance in politics, entertainment, or wealth. Above is a photo of a life preserver displayed only when members of the Royal Family boarded. There are 3 known in existence and I have 1. The other photo is a cup, saucer, and cake plate decorated in gold used exclusively by the Royal Family. While other passengers took their afternoon tea and crumpets in the famous Foley pattern reserved for First Class, the Royals were served in these ornate pieces. I am fortunate to possess a set as not many sets were made owing to the relatively small numbers of royalty making them rare collectibles indeed.
This is a crucial excerpt from chapter 3 of “The Travelers”. In 1947, the Bennetts, a World War II GI and his British war bride, left Southampton with only each other but arrive in New York as a family after a North Atlantic encounter with an otherworldly, desperate mother and her two small children. Now, in the present day, Guy Turner, a melancholy black film maker, has a haunting prelude with the now elderly mother in a corridor aboard Queen Mary which thrusts him into a supernatural mystery decades in the making.
~ ~ ~ ~
Indeed, the corridor dipped lightly far ahead of them, the paneling glowing warmly from the softly-lit fixtures in the ceiling corners while the lines of handrails on either side led the eye even farther. The cabin doors were like silent, regal sentries standing guard over a hallowed pathway that stretched into the past and was measured by years rather than feet. The deck began to rise imperceptibly into the distance, then there was the golden blur of door, panel, and handrail as they melded mysteriously into one with the final illusion of a pin-prick of darkness reaching infinitely upward.
When Guy raised a hand to rub his eyes, static electricity jumped from his fingertips to his eyelashes. Mr. Vaughn jerked his hand back when the key shocked him with a blue snap upon contact with the door knob. “For Heaven’s sake,” he said, and Guy watched as he began examining the keys again with infuriating slowness. Guy had decided to lie of a previous engagement and make a hasty exit when he heard an unusual sound down the corridor; a soft, rippling sound like water running over rocks in a shallow creek. He turned and a figure appeared distantly, walking toward them through the slashes of golden light given off by the light fixtures.
“Mr. Vaughn, I really need to run,” he said. “I’m sorry, but I still have quite a bit to do at the studio tonight.”
Mr. Vaughn half turned with what Guy assumed would be an appeal to stay, but instead the keys fell to the carpeting with a metallic whimper and he whispered, “Good Heavens.” Guy followed his gaze and with pure and absolute astonishment watched as the figure grew clear: an old, long-haired woman, completely naked, approaching with small, tentative steps.
Out of the corner of his eye, Guy saw Mr. Vaughn shakily lift a cell phone to his ear. “Security to Main Deck,” he said in a low tone. “The Churchill Suite.”
She was a deeply lined, dark-skinned woman with feet horribly misshapen by arthritis. Her gray hair swung behind her waist as she walked, her shoulders raised and rounded. Her hips sagged ponderously, more from age than extra weight, and her breasts hung like pears against her chest with dark, olive-colored nipples: the return of Eve after five hundred generations.
Then she stood before them like a timid deer, her eyes pensive as she looked from one man to the other, perhaps in the hope of detecting compassion. She settled her dark eyes on Guy and moved closer. Her eyes did not reflect the depths of madness or dementia but rather an incessant plea. She swallowed before speaking as though choosing her words carefully in fear of misunderstanding. When she opened her mouth, the voice that fell from her lips was deep and strong though she spoke slowly in a language Guy did not recognize. It sounded faintly Latin with many l’s and t’s and when she finished, she begged him with her eyes.
Guy could only return a stare of incomprehension to her and she brought a hand to her face in anguish. She looked down and mumbled softly to herself, and when he saw that her lids were brimming, he too shared in her frustration. Suddenly her facial features were resolute and she met his eyes again with more determination than before: another approach had obviously occurred to her. Raising her hand without moving her eyes from his, she held before him a plastic name tag upside down in her fingers, the recessed letters yellow with age. Then, with pronunciation as clear and resonant as the peals of a bell on a cold, crisp morning, she uttered the name on the tag: “Bennett.”
And the effect on Guy was a needling tingle in the small of his back that whirled up his spine to the base of his skull and down again.
“I don’t understand,” Guy said inadequately, in a voice he could hardly hear but she evidently understood this by his blinking expression and turned to Mr. Vaughn who could only regard her with his mouth agape. She turned back to Guy. She repeated, even slower but with greater urgency, emphasizing each syllable, “Ben-nett, Ben-nett. BEN-NETT!” She looked up to him imploringly, but when she obviously recognized the futility of communication, her arm fell limply, even angrily, and she began weeping. The two men were helplessly dumbstruck as she stood before them for a moment, a portrait of despair, then she turned and began walking back down the corridor, sobbing softly.
Though shocked, Guy had no impression of the supernatural. She was a mortal who spoke in a foreign tongue. But time as he had always known it stalled when she began her retreat. Halfway down the corridor her feet did not seem to fall on the carpeting, as though she were walking up an invisible incline that did not match the true rise of the deck. There was the rippling sound again, then she shimmered like a heat wave rising from pavement and quite simply disappeared.
Now there was no time, just a dislocating sense that he was being pulled into deeper waters of reality than he was ever meant to encounter. An undertow of fear dragged him along, his stream of consciousness flowing faster and deeper until he thought he must surely pass out. The utter reality of the experience crashed in waves upon him until there was nothing in his existence but her pathetic eyes holding his; those dark, helpless, searching eyes that overwhelmed everything, past and present. The empty corridor already haunted him, or rather the memory of her departure from it haunted him, playing over and over in his mind in the eternity of frozen time. Then, far away, he heard his heartbeat beckoning him, louder and louder, marking the seconds of a world changed forever, and time abruptly tumbled into its proper march with his heart and mind racing wildly to keep up.
Mr. Vaughn was collapsing against the door with a dazed, uncomprehending expression when Guy returned to the present. The bewildered man reached for Guy’s arm as he sank and brought a hand to his chest and began gasping for breath. Two security guards rounded a corner from the opposite end of the corridor and broke into a run with guns drawn when they saw Guy standing over the fallen man. “He’s having a heart attack!” Guy said irritably, and some semblance of normality returned. As one knelt beside Mr. Vaughn, the other called for an ambulance. Ozone hung heavily in the air.
It required his greatest act of courage to look back down the corridor. It was quiet and undisturbed as though years had passed since those bare feet had padded down the carpeting and, for a moment, he wondered if it had really happened. He noticed something on the carpeting where she had stood before them and when he squatted to retrieve it, his knees trembled so violently that he had to balance himself with a hand on the wall. He stood and looked down at the name tag in his palm, contemplating his own newly found Rosetta Stone and the long journey he was about to embark upon.
With the release last Monday of my novel “The Travelers” then the contract offer on Friday for my novella “Castles Burning”, I’d like to discuss my own approach to writing and my Queen Mary collection since so many have emailed me. I went to college in the early 90s and was taught that the proper steps for an author were creating, revising, editing, revising again, query letters with chapter excerpts via USPS with SASEs, and, of course, the dreaded rejection letters. The internet was not prominent at all back then and the idea of submitting query packages electronically was unheard of. I am amused by the though of my mentor’s reaction today in the world of Kindle, Nook, and iPad. Every single publishing house I queried required electronic submission. I even signed my first contract with Champagne Book Group electronically. I personally feel that this electronic approach is superior to the bulky packages mailed through the local post office. One editor who requested a full manuscript replied that “slush piles” are a thing of the past. An author still has the harrowing wait for a response but it comes much more quickly. I am pleased to be part of the ebook phenomenon.
As for “The Travelers”, it was completely hand-written on yellow legal pads, revised again and again before lastly being typed on Word. The “Big Six” in New York are no longer the only means of becoming a published author by a bona fide publishing house. Many, if not all of my friends, unknown fans, and family members prefer the electronic editions they can purchase and download in minutes then take their devices and read at the beach, work, air flights, etc.
I scratch notes of lyrical sentences, dialogue, and plot turns on any piece of paper available whether it be a grocery bag, calculator tape, or even the backs of junk mail envelopes. When the idea hits, write it down immediately as I promise you will not remember it for a later, more convenient time. I have even woke up in the night with dialogue or a scene description in mind and scrambled to the tiny notebook I keep on the nightstand. So, my author’s desk is anywhere and everywhere a literary thought occurs. That’s not to say that sitting in front of a blank computer screen and contemplating what to type is not a perfectly valid method for writing. But I want that physical presence of the written word first and foremost before entering the new, phenomenal world of electronics.
I have been a collector of furniture and memorabilia from the 1930s luxury liner Queen Mary since the third grade. My love (compulsion, really) of writing took hold of me at the same time and I ferociously wrote juvenile tales involving the great liner. “The Travelers” is a product of that lifetime obsession in the fact that the retired liner permanently docked in Long Beach, California plays a very pivotal role in the plot. Urban Fantasy intertwines with the liner’s history to form an enigmatic portrayal of her personality. (And, believe me, she still has a soul that no other liner possessed, not even Titanic. I know because I have vacationed and spent nights aboard her in magnificent staterooms! She has a quality of alertness that refuses to be ignored.)
Although the novel has substantial fantasy elements, it is essentially a character-study of a World War II GI and his British war bride who just happen to have an extraterrestrial encounter with an otherworldly, desperate mother and her two small children. My college mentor read the manuscript before I began querying and was impressed and encouraging. He told me that if “The Travelers” were made into a movie, it would be a David Lynch version of the film Ordinary People!
So, I am pleased to be a part of an electronic publishing house in the age of ebooks and pray that the phenomena continues to explode.
In 1947, the luxury liner QUEEN MARY transmits a message which is intercepted by an extraterrestrial intelligence. This errant radio signal serves as a beacon for a North Atlantic encounter between James and Jess Bennett, a GI and his British war bride, and an otherworldly desperate mother and her two small children. The Bennetts left Southampton with only each other but arrive in New York as a family. In the present day, Guy Turner, a melancholy, black filmmaker, finds himself at the center of a supernatural mystery after a haunting prelude with the elderly mother in a corridor aboard the retired liner in Long Beach, California.
Standing at the edge of eternity, the old woman and the Bennetts have the complex task of setting certain aspects of the past in order as the doors to their lives are closing. Guy is thrust into an unexpected and unwanted voyage of self as he is solely enjoined to bring the three together one last time. “The Travelers” is a journey to the limits of anxiety, despair, grief, and joy that are common to every human experience of suffering and growth.