Wednesday 28 February 2018

The Luckiest Thirteen by Brian W Lavery @brianlavery59 @BarbicanPress1 #TheLuckiestThirteen

A true-life drama of an intense battle for survival on the high seas. 
The Luckiest Thirteen is the story of an incredible two-day battle to save the super trawler St Finbarr, and of those who tried to rescue her heroic crew in surging, frozen seas. 
It was also a backdrop for the powerful stories of families ashore, dumbstruck by fear and grief, as well as a love story of a teenage deckhand and his girl that ended with a heart-rending twist. 
From her hi-tech hold to her modern wheelhouse she was every inch the super ship the great hope for the future built to save the fleet at a record-breaking price but a heart-breaking cost. 
On the thirteenth trip after her maiden voyage, the St Finbarr met with catastrophe off the Newfoundland coast. On Christmas Day 1966, twenty-five families in the northern English fishing port of Hull were thrown into a dreadful suspense not knowing if their loved ones were dead or alive after the disaster that befell The Perfect Trawler. Complete with 16 pages of dramatic and poignant photographs from the period.

The Luckiest Thirteen by Brian W Lavery was published in hardback by Barbican Press on 9 November 2017. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

A while ago I heard Brian W Lavery, the author of The Luckiest Thirteen speak about his previous book; The Headscarf Revolutionaries, which was published in 2015. He is a fascinating speaker and kept his audience spellbound. When I heard about this latest book, I was intrigued by the subject and determined to read it.

The Luckiest Thirteen is a true-life drama, Brian W Lavery tells the horrific story of what happened to the St Finbarr and her crew during those two freezing days of Christmas 1968.
Apart from the fact that I knew that Brian W Lavery would write this story with compassion and empathy, there were other factors that made me want to read it; I'm familiar with Hull as I live just over the border in Lincolnshire and my mother comes from a family of trawler men who fished off the north west coast of Ireland. I was brought up to both fear and respect the sea.

What I enjoyed the most about The Luckiest Thirteen (although 'enjoy' does seem the wrong word to use when talking about such tragic events), is the fact that the author enables his readers to really get to know the characters. He details their home lives, tells us about their families, and their backgrounds. We are privy to their hopes and their dreams. It is this that makes this a stand-out read, whilst the facts are impeccably researched and written with authority, it is the humanity of the story that is most compelling.

Ordinary, hard-working men from Hull. Men who braved the ferocious seas, year in and year old, in order to provide for their families are depicted so well. The streets of Hull, the pubs and the whole community are brought to life through the author's colourful and vivid writing.

Sadly, the sinking of the St Finbarr is not remembered by many people, yet it was a tragedy that affected the whole of the city of Hull. Brian W Lavery's book will enlighten and will shock and is a very worthy tribute to the men who died.

Brian W Lavery was born in Glasgow’s East End in 1959, the fourth of six sons. His father William was a sheet metal worker and his mother Margaret a shop assistant. 
He has been a factory worker, car valet, market trader, waiter, university dropout, VAT officer (very briefly) and latterly a journalist, university tutor and writer.
After more than twenty-five years of various senior roles in national and regional journalism he returned to higher education and gained a first in English literature and creative writing at the University of Hull. His first book, The Headscarf Revolutionaries (Barbican Press, 2015) – now optioned by a major television production company – derived from a funded PhD at that university, where he taught creative nonfiction. 
His latest book, The Luckiest Thirteen (Barbican Press 2017) hit the shelves in November. In 2017, he has contributed to End Notes, a collection published by the University of Hull as part of its Crossing Over project; and Hull: Culture, History, Place (Liverpool University Press, 2017) – with a chapter about trawler safety campaigner Lillian Bilocca. 
His programme for BBC Radio 4’s Four Thought series, entitled Courage and Effect, was also drawn from his doctoral research. The Oxford University National Dictionary of Biography (‘the biographer’s Bible’) commissioned him to write the entry on Mrs Bilocca, aka Big Lil. 
Planet Publications (Wales) and Umber has published his short fiction over the years, and Other Poetry, About Larkin and the Larkin Press have published his poetry. 
Dr Lavery has lived in Hull with his wife Kathryn for more than thirty-five years. They have two grown-up daughters, Catriona and Rose, and a border collie called Dylan. 
He is an honorary research associate at the University of Hull and works as a writer, journalist and creative writing tutor. He is proud to teach with the Workers’ Educational Association. 

Find out more at
Follow him on Twitter @brianlavery59

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