Author: G. J. Lau
ISBN: 978-1-465948342 (E-book); 978-1469919928 (Paperback)
Page count: 153
Genre: Historical Fiction
Price: $0.99 (E-book); $6.99 (Paperback)
G. J. Lau was born in a small town near Boston. He was raised on a steady diet of family, politics, and the Red Sox. After graduating from Georgetown University, he spent two years in the Army, including a year in Viet Nam in the 1st Infantry Division. He worked in as a radio operator and had the opportunity to serve in many varied locations including a battalion night defensive position, a special forces camp, and an indeterminate piece of real estate populated by scorpions and Montagnards. He then worked for the Federal government in Washington, D.C. until retirement. Since then he has done a stint in retail and now works in elections. He has volunteered as a literacy tutor, a hotline listener and as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) for children in need of assistance. He currently resides in a small city just far enough from Washington DC to be somewhere else.
Tell us about your book:
Requiem for Ahab is a 30,000 word novella set in 1863, using Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick as a springboard for a tale about fathers and sons, war and its warriors, suffering and reconciliation.
Anyone who has read Moby-Dick knows that Captain Ahab and his crew die hunting the white whale, Moby Dick. The only survivor was a sailor named Ishmael, who tells his story and then disappears. What most don’t remember is that Ahab left behind a young wife and child, Hannah and Thomas. Ahab’s life has ended, but their lives must now go on without him. They move to a small town near Boston, where she meets and marries Aaron Stoddard. The years go by, and Thomas Stoddard grows into a young man. Ahab’s memory recedes deeper and deeper into a past seldom revisited by either mother or son.
When the Civil War breaks out in 1861, Thomas enlists in the 2nd Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and sees action at Antietam and Chancellorsville. Then comes the Battle of Gettysburg, where Thomas is wounded and has his leg amputated. He can’t help but remember Ahab’s fate, and he wonders if he too will go mad. Thomas realizes he knows very little about his father’s death … or life. There is only one man who can help him discover the truth about his father’s madness—the sailor who called himself Ishmael
The search for Ishmael leads Thomas first to New Bedford and then to a small town in central Massachusetts where Thomas finally meets the elusive Ishmael, who has found that life on land can be as perilous as chasing after Ahab’s white whale. Thomas and Ishmael find common cause in laying Ahab’s ghost to rest once and for all.
How long did it take to write the book?
It took me about 5 months to write this. One thing I like about novellas is that the time commitment isn’t as great as for a novel. It took me over a year of steady effort to produce a 99,000 word novel.
What inspired you to write the book?
I first read Moby-Dick in high school. It became one of those books I would read every few years. Each reading brought out something new about the book and myself. I was looking through it a few months back and came across a couple of brief references to Ahab’s wife and son. I immediately got the idea to write about the son as a young man coming of age during the Civil War and losing a leg at the Battle of Gettysburg. I wondered how that would affect him, knowing his father’s history. It seemed to me that this was relatively unexplored territory, and I wanted to try my hand at it.
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
I try to do something to move the book forward every day, even if it is rewriting or editing. That keeps me going through the inevitable dry spells. When it’s going well, I write in the early morning and when I get home from work, usually about an hour a day. I also dictate notes into my cell phone and maintain several files for notes and character development. I spent many hours doing research into the various historical topics covered, including the Civil War and the whaling industry, as well as various town histories and other contemporary documents and memoirs.
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
I hope young readers will come away with a renewed interest in Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, which remains one of the greatest American novels ever written. I also like the idea that we might see the 1860s as a much more plugged-in world than we might imagine. We talk today about the global economy, but the merchants and whalemen of New Bedford back in the 1850s and 1860s would have been right at home with that. They followed developments in Europe and Asia closely, although in hindsight, the big story was the discovery of petroleum oil in Pennsylvania, which proved to be the undoing of the whaling industry, an outcome feared and much discussed at the time.
Where can we go to buy your book?
The book is available on CreateSpace and Amazon.com, in paperback and Kindle formats. Beginning in early April 2012, Requiem for Ahab will be available in all formats through Smashwords and many other e-book distributors, including Sony and Barnes & Noble.
Any other links or info you’d like to share?
Excerpt from book:
Below is the opening paragraph:
I was not quite seven years old when my father died. His name was Ahab, and he was captain of the whaleship Pequod out of Nantucket. She sank off the Solomon Islands in March 1843, with all hands lost save for one sailor who was picked up two days later by another whaleship—the Rachel, captained by Josiah Gardiner—that was searching for its own lost crewmen in yet another of the mishaps that made whaling a dangerous and often fatal enterprise. The Seamen’s Bethel in New Bedford never lacked for new names to be engraved on the markers that adorned its spare white walls … markers that would never see a graveyard, memorializing sailors who would never again see the land. My father’s name was not among them. Ahab was an outcast, this being the result of the unspoken sentiment of a whaling community that resented the loss of ship and sailors not in the normal course of a dangerous trade but rather because of one man’s madness … or so it was said. The only available facts were collected during a brief official inquiry into the loss of the Pequod, facts derived mainly from the testimony of the lone survivor, a sailor identified only by the name Ishmael.