Kenneth Roberts Books: “Boon Island” Advanced Review Copy

It appears that every year around my birthday, I find a unique Roberts collectible. This year did not disappoint. Today I received an Advanced Review Copy of Boon Island.  Below are some photos:

imageimage imageimage

I must admit that, at first, I was unsure whether this was the real thing. But Ken Lopez, at his website, has a helpful post that discusses uncorrected proofs and advanced review copies. According to Lopez:

While most collectors don’t often have a chance to acquire the manuscripts of their favorite authors’ books, they do have ready access to a preliminary state of the book that precedes the first published edition— that of the “uncorrected proof” or “advance reading copy.” Publishers have long issued advance copies of forthcoming books, prior to the book’s publication date, for a number of reasons: they want reviewers and periodicals to have a chance to read them and schedule reviews to coincide with publication, even given the long lead times many magazines require for production; they want to get the opinions of important buyers who are likely to purchase large quantities of the book if they believe in it — buyers for the major wholesalers, the chain bookstores, and the large independent stores around the country; they want to get early copies to the author’s friends and peers — preferably well-known ones — who can give comments about the book that the publisher can use for promotion, on the dust jacket as “blurbs,” in ads, and in the promotional literature sent out to the news media as press releases.

How the advanced review copies (ARC) were presented has changed over time. Lopez states that “the typical advance copy was a set of typeset sheets, bound directly into the dust jacket — that is, identical to the finished book with the exception of the lack of hard covers.” Publishers began changing how ARCs were presented in the 1950s that it began to be commonplace to distribute paperback, uncorrected copies of the book for promotional purposes (Lopez, n.d.). But, “By the Sixties, the major publishers were routinely doing bound softcover volumes of ‘uncorrected proofs’ — which, for a time, were called ‘Cranes,’ after the printing company that had proposed them.”

Though, with my limited resources, I did not have much to go on regarding the Boon Island ARC, what was posted on eBay seemed legit. So, I bought it (plus, it was at an excellent price). Upon receiving the ACR today, I have no doubt that what I have is the real thing. Judging by the aging of the paper, the creases and fraying of the binder, and how the font was set on the paper, what I have is a unique piece of Kenneth Roberts memorabilia. I hope to have the story behind my particular copy, which I will share.

I must confess that Boon Island has not been my favorite Roberts novel in the past. However, as things have fallen in place, I’ve found today several articles published in the past several years regarding the true events that served as the basis of Boon Island. As I continue to read upon the fateful wreck of the Nottingham, I find the story fascinating as one side blames the captain of the ship, and another side blames certain crewman for spreading false reasons for the wreck (Roberts took the latter side). The wreck of the Nottingham is so intriguing that papers and websites in Maine (in particular) and New England (in general) still write about it. In light of this, Boon Island is quickly becoming one of my top Kenneth Roberts’ novels.

Keep your eyes open; I’ll be writing on this intriguing story soon!

Boon Island Three Centuries after the Nottingham Galley Wreck

My recent contact with Stephen Erickson, co-author of Boon Island: A True Story of Mutiny, Shipwreck, and Cannibalism, inspired me to re-read Roberts’ Boon Island. I hope, in the near future, to compare Roberts’ novel to Kirkland’s recent work on the account of the Nottingham.  Until then, a refresher of Roberts’ account was in order. 

One thing that stands out to the reader is the barren and rugged conditions of the island. Shipwrecked for 24 days that spanned December and January, the castaways encountered frigid cold, thick ice, and snow on an island devoid of any shelter in the form of vegetation or land forms. Roberts does a great job in describing the harsh conditions the men encountered, but if you’re like me, I need to see where they wrecked. Thankfully, for those who do not live near Maine (like me), Stephen Erickson has allowed me to post pictures of his visit to Boon Island. Enjoy the following pictures, and hopefully they’ll make Roberts’ novel come alive the next time you read it.

Disclaimer: The photos are the property of Stephen Erickson and are posted by the written permission of Stephen Erickson. These pictures may not be copied in any form nor used for any purpose for personal gain (monetary, notoriety, etc.) If you want to use any picture, please contact me and I will notify Stephen Erickson.

According to Erickson, this is perhaps the spot where the crew hauled wreckage to shore and possibly where Cooky - the ship's cook - died.

According to Erickson, this is perhaps the spot where the crew hauled wreckage to shore and possibly where Cooky – the ship’s cook – died.

Boon Island Landing. Notice the seals laying on the rocks. The castaways longed to catch a seal for a meal, but could not.  Miles Whitworth, the character who narrates the story, tells of how he saw two seals playing with a floating object, and "then they abandoned it, and lay offshore, rising high in the water, puffing out their whiskers and watching us from round staring eyes. I would have given anything I ever hoped to own if I could have got my hands on one of those seals, though I well knew I could never had held him" (120).

Boon Island Landing. Notice the seals laying on the rocks. The castaways longed to catch a seal for a meal, but could not.
Miles Whitworth, the character who narrates the story, tells of how he saw two seals playing with a floating object, and “then they abandoned it, and lay offshore, rising high in the water, puffing out their whiskers and watching us from round staring eyes. I would have given anything I ever hoped to own if I could have got my hands on one of those seals, though I well knew I could never had held him” (120).

Here Stephen stands at the point of the islands where the castaways saw sail coming out the Piscataqua. They waved their arms and yelled, but to no avail. According to Miles Whitworth, "they might have been fishermen or coasting schooners, but at least they were vessels-the first sign of a sail we had seen; and to me, who had felt sure that no fishermen would venture out of port at this season of the year, they were a sight that sent through me a choking surge of hope." The ships would eventually slip beyond the horizon, leaving the men to return to their endless task of picking oakum (140-41).

Here Stephen stands at the point of the islands where the castaways saw sail coming out the Piscataqua. They waved their arms and yelled, but to no avail. According to Miles Whitworth, “they might have been fishermen or coasting schooners, but at least they were vessels-the first sign of a sail we had seen; and to me, who had felt sure that no fishermen would venture out of port at this season of the year, they were a sight that sent through me a choking surge of hope.” The ships would eventually slip beyond the horizon, leaving the men to return to their endless task of picking oakum (140-41).

Notice how uneven the island is. There was no flat area on the island; rather, it was full of crags and sharp rocks. The men constantly were slipping and falling on ice-covered rocks.

Notice how uneven the island is. There was no flat area on the island; rather, it was full of crags and sharp rocks. The men constantly were slipping and falling on ice-covered rocks.

The island had an abundance of seaweed that covered the rocks. The seaweed served as a source of sustenance for the men and as a hazard as they walked the island.

The island had an abundance of seaweed that covered the rocks. The seaweed served as a source of sustenance for the men and as a hazard as they walked the island.

Boon Island_Erickson 7

Notice the seagulls in the distance. Langman, the antagonist in Roberts' novel and the First Mate of the Nottingham, caught a seagull by using seaweed as camouflage. This was the only time the castaways were able to eat one of the animals that visited the island. The did so, however, without the luxury of roasting the meat over a fire (163-67).

Notice the seagulls in the distance. Langman, the antagonist in Roberts’ novel and the First Mate of the Nottingham, caught a seagull by using seaweed as camouflage. This was the only time the castaways were able to eat one of the animals that visited the island. The did so, however, without the luxury of roasting the meat over a fire (163-67).

A closer shot of the seagulls. When the men chopped up Chips for meat (after he died), they hid much of the meet in deep crevices and covered it in three feet of seaweed to keep the gulls from stealing their precious food.

A closer shot of the seagulls. When the men chopped up Chips for meat (after he died), they hid much of the meet in deep crevices and covered it in three feet of seaweed to keep the gulls from stealing their precious food.

If you look closely, the two dark spots in the water are seals bobbing in the ocean.  A sight that became all too familiar for the castaways.

If you look closely, the two dark spots in the water are seals bobbing in the ocean. A sight that became all too familiar for the castaways.

Boon Island_Erickson 12

Today a lighthouse stands atop the highest point of Boon Island. The castaways would have loved to have such shelter from the bone-numbing cold, bitter winds, snow, and ice. (The person in the photo is Stephen Erickson.)

Today a lighthouse stands atop the highest point of Boon Island. The castaways would have loved to have such shelter from the bone-numbing cold, bitter winds, snow, and ice. (The person in the photo is Stephen Erickson.)

K.R. In Current News: 300th Anniversary of the Wreck of the Nottingham Galley

The Maine State Museum is honoring the 300th anniversary of the wreck of the Nottingham Galley, the subject of Kenneth Roberts’ Boone Island.  Take a look at the brief write up of the exhibit here.  If you’re in Maine, go visit and let me know how it is!

*Update: Here is a blog post on Kenneth Roberts’ account of the Nottingham Galley wreck, which particularly focuses on the cannibalism that occured while the men were stranded on the island.

%d bloggers like this: