Three Harbours

Sea stories have always been a very minor sub-genre of men's adventure fiction in the United States, where the cowboy, the soldier, the private detective, and even the policeman are much more popular as pulp heroes than the sea captain. Think of the great sea novels by American authors: Moby Dick, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Caine Mutiny, Mister Roberts. Think of the popular affection for pirates. We, (native American white folks), are essentially a nation of mutineers.

Nautical fiction is only really popular in the Northeast, with its historical links to England, to whaling, to merchant shipping, and to that sport of the rich, yachting. The recent enthusiasm for pirates has not been accompanied by the appearance of pirate fiction, (with the notable exception of Neal Stephenson's massive Baroque Cycle), being apparently only cinema, video game and festival based.

F. Van Wyck Mason is good example. A Boston blue blood and Harvard educated, he wrote serial pulp "intrigue" fiction before breaking out with Three Harbours, a sprawling historical novel, in 1938. A sequel to Three Harbours, The Stars on the Sea, was a top-ten bestseller in 1940. This cover is from a 1952 paperback edition, and it promises more than the book actually delivers in the way of "good parts".

I can't make out what is going on here. The tankards and counter in the background suggest that they are in a tavern, he holding her possessively aloft, to her obvious delight. But what is that brown, striped cloth at the bottom? And where are her legs? Are they, in fact, in bed, fully clothed?

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