Monday, July 13, 2009

Brief Book Review

I just finished reading Stephen Chapin Kinnaman's The Most Perfect Cruiser. I was asked to review this book for the Nautical Research Journal. This will be the third review I've written for that journal in the past 18 months (previously having reviewed biographies of John Paul Jones and Gustavas Vasa Fox).

I have to admit that I was very skeptical about this book from the outset. I had never heard of Dog Ear Publishing, so I did a little research. I assumed they were a vanity press, but found out that the company actually is just a self-publishing organization. They will publish any manuscript for anyone, and have varying packages depending on how much the author wishes to pay. This fed my skepticism even more. However, aside from some flaws that I attribute to the publishing process, this book isn't really all that bad. In fact, I was impressed with the author's focus, clarity, and research. Rather than simply relating the exploits of the CSS Alabama (I mean, do we really need another one of those books?), the author focuses on the construction of the vessel, and secondarily, other Confederate vessels in England. The book deals mainly with politics, logistics, and personalities. It really is a quite pleasant and engaging book to read.

The aforementioned flaws include a number of typos, an often too conversational style to the narrative, and other simple stuff like that, as well as a non-professional endnote style (but at least it has endnotes!). This book could have been published by any number of presses with a little reformatting and better editing. While not an academic jewel, it's still worth a read.


Andy Hall said...

Looks like a great book. If you're not familiar with it, though, one Alabama book you do need to see Andrew Bowcock's C.S.S. Alabama: Anatomy of a Confederate Raider (2002, Naval Institute Press).

Bowcock, a retired naval architect at Cammell Laird, teases out a full technical history of the ship, with extensive line drawings, diagrams, specification lists and reprints of contemporary documents. He analyzes three well-known models in the Liverpool area, each slightly different, claiming to be the "true" shipyad model of the vessel. His research also uncovered two remarkable photographic finds: the only known overall photographs of the ship, taken at Singapore; and the realization that the famous image of Semmes standing on the ship's deck is actually two images forming a stereo pair; Bowcock publishes these together for the first time. It's quite an amazing book.

AsurvivorKid said...

Hello my name is Arryn. I love the civil war. I have a blog on it: it isn't great but hay I'm only 12!
I also have a hiking website called
If you could check them out you might like them. Oh and you can use any tip that you see on it just put a dedication on the bottom.
P.S. love the website keep up the awesome blogging!

Andrew Duppstadt said...

Andy, thanks for the tip on the Bowcock book. I'm sure I've heard of it before and it just slipped into the vast wasteland of information that flies around in my brain. I'll have to check it out.

Arryn, thanks for the comment. You may only be 12, but I hope that you continue to be interested in history, Civil War or otherwise. Unfortunately, I think history is a field that most folks come to enjoy only as they get older. I like to see young people like yourself who have an interest. My personal interest in history started when I was about 10 years old. Keep it up!

Stephen Chapin Kinnaman said...

Dear Andrew,
I wish to thank you for taking the time to read and review my book, 'The Most Perfect Cruiser'. Your readers may be interested to know that, following my trip to Liverpool to attend the Irvine Stephens Bulloch grave rededication, I released a revised version of the book, with various corrections (including typos) and a full bibliography. One of the advantages of self-publishing is the ability of an author to timely update his work.
Best regards,
Stephen Chapin Kinnaman

Andrew Duppstadt said...

Thank you for your comments Mr. Kinnaman. Glad to hear there is a second edition of the book out. Obviously, you were able to accomplish that much quicker than any academic press would.