Dead Men by Richard Pierce

Dead Men by Richard Pierce

Birdie Bowers is a woman with a dead man’s name. Her parents had been fascinated by Henry Birdie Bowers, one of Captain Scott s companions on his ill-fated polar expedition. A hundred years after the death of Bowers and Scott, she sets out to discover what really happened to them… The discovery of Captain Scott s body in the Antarctic in November 1912 started a global obsession with him as a man and an explorer. But one mystery remains why did he and his companions spend their last ten days in a tent only 11 miles from the safety of a depot that promised food and shelter? Dead Men tells the story of two paths. One is a tragic journey of exploration on the world’s coldest continent, the other charts a present-day relationship and the redemptive power of love.

Many, many years ago – far more than I care to remember – I was given a small hardback book by my father. I can’t remember the title or the publisher but the subject matter has remained with me to this very day – The Race to the South Pole – Scott versus Amundsen. I vividly remember the book patriotically siding with Scott and despite his failure to reach the Pole ahead of the Norwegian he was the true hero of the story, or at least that’s how the book portrayed the race. It was – and still is – a captivating and romantic story.

Dead Men by Richard Pierce – is an extraordinary debut, it works on so many levels and is incredibly emotive for numerous reasons. Written to celebrate the 100th anniversary marking Scott’s death on the 29th March 1912 the book charts Birdie Bowers’ efforts to solve the mysterious deaths of Scott’s party and why they failed to return home to safety.

Robert Falcon Scott, along with Oates, Bowers, Wilson and Evans arrived at the South Pole on the 19th January 1912 to discover Roald Amundsen had beaten the British explorer by 33 days on December 14th 1911. Exhaustion and a lack of fuel led to their deaths and the British group died just eleven miles outside a food depot and safety. Amundsen and his team returned to Framheim on January 25th, just four day before Scott succumbed to the elements.

I am just going outside and may be some time – Lawrence Oates 16th March 1912

Dead Men is a story of two timelines, that of 1912 and 2012, a tale of hope, intrigue, exploration and love. The narrative, told mostly through the eyes of computer expert Adam Caird, is magical and taut – such a wonderful surprise given this marks an authorial debut for Pierce, the work is assured and the research sublime, a credit to this historical race of endurance and speed. It’s fairly obvious to me that this is a work of passion, Pierce is captivated with both Scott and the South Pole and that clearly comes across, the author leaving his soul deeply embedded in this manuscript.

One of the things I loved about this book was the way Pierce took me back to 1912 and I was completely immersed in its history. I felt every frosty breath, every ice caked step taken and the ghostly chill in the air. I was firmly ensconced in the region and I truly believed that had I closed my eyes at any point I would have found myself in a small tent huddled around a small stove fighting for survival. Pierce effortlessly blends fact and fiction to give his spin on an age old story and a voice to the intrepid explorers.

Johansen heard thousands acclaim him in one voice, with one song, unknown and yet familiar. This was no desolate wasteland. This was home.

The Terra Nova Expedition at the South Pole, photograph taken by Lieut. H. R. Bowers on 17 January 1912. The two sitting are Evans and Oates, with Bowers, Scott and Wilson standing behind them. Printed from negative recovered when bodies were found.

The Terra Nova Expedition at the South Pole, photograph taken by Lieut. H. R. Bowers on 17 January 1912. The two sitting are Evans and Oates, with Bowers, Scott and Wilson standing behind them. Printed from negative recovered when bodies were found.

Talking of characters, the modern part of this story revolves around two people who fall in love, namely Adam Caird and Birdie Bowers. It’s an unlikely match and for me I was confused at the beginning. I found myself going through a wide range of emotions as their relationship developed. I was frustrated, intrigued and captivated at the same time. I wanted to throw my book at the pair in the initial stages, they were wet, uncertain, fragile and vulnerable but what transpires is not only a journey of discovery in what occurred in 1912 but an exploration of two lives inevitably drawn together by serendipity. It’s a voyage of hope and desire, a lot of desire! As much as I enjoyed Scott’s history, I revelled in the growth of Adam and Birdie and Pierce handles the development with aplomb.

A remarkable debut, Dead Men deserves to be read. It’s as simple as that. It will educate and entertain simultaneously, a clever blend of old and new, meticulously morphed to bring together a time forgotten. Told with tenderness and a respect I found touching this is one of my top reads of the year so far. Loved it.

Publisher – Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd – Available in Paperback & Kindle.

284 Pages ISBN-10: 0715642960 ISBN-13: 978-0715642962

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1 Response » to “Dead Men by Richard Pierce – Book Review”

  1. […] for something a little different I give you Dead Menby debut author Richard Pierce. Dead Men is an extraordinary debut. Written to celebrate the 100th […]

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