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Tales of the Seven Seas: The Escapades of Captain Dynamite Johnny O'Brien

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  • Posted April 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A riveting read of high seas adventure.

    If you enjoy the work of Patrick O'Brian or C. S. Forester you are going to love this book. Plus it has the advantage of being true. It would almost have to be - I am not sure I would accept a captain in fiction going into a dark hold to deal with two bears that have broken loose from their cages and are threading to eat up the cattle that make up the rest of the cargo. But that is just what Captain Johnny O'Brien did. His crew lowered him into the hold in the dark clutching a lantern with two pistols and a knife in his belt.

    Captain Dynamite Johnny O'Brien, the name resulted from his preventing a cargo of explosive from destroying a ship, was a working seaman from 1866 till his death in 1931. Over 60 years of following the sea. Starting as the lowest "boy" before the mast and ending up as a captain of huge steamships. He worked and mastered every type of vessel in service during these years.

    Throughout this fine book which was assembled from his own journals and logbooks by Dennis M. Powers we see the scope of the man himself. A powerful man who believed in doing the right thing and as the author states feared noting but God. The addition by the author of newspaper clippings and writings about the captain by others serves to round out the portrait of the man.

    Through the course of his career he met and influenced many powerful men both in the world of shipbuilding and development and in the general world as well. He was good friends with Jack London and may have provided him with some of the material for The Sea Wolf. At the close of his seafaring days he also served as a technical advisor for Buster Keaton's film The Navigator.

    But the real power and strength of this book does not lie with great deeds or powerful friends. It is with the insight into the day to day work and danger that made up a life at sea during the late 19th and early 20th century.

    This is a stunningly good book and I would recommend it to anyone who loves a good yarn.

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  • Posted April 7, 2010

    Another riveting book by Dennis Powers

    Once again, Dennis shows he is a master of research. His enthusiasm for learning a subject, studying that subject and then conveying a great story to his readers is impressive. We've known of the exploits of Capt. Johnny O'Brien for years, a favorite of maritime history buffs but the detailed description Dennis Powers provides breaths new life into the events.Dennis captures the true grit of Capt.O'Brien and all men whose lives were branded by life at sea.

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