The White Star Line’s iconic though ill-fated super liner has long been a favourite subject for writers of both fact and fiction, but never more so than in the run up to the 2012 centenary of her sinking, and we may expect a rash of Titanic books to emerge this year. Broadly speaking however, Titanic novels fall into 5 categories:

  1. Fiction, or more aptly perhaps faction: stories woven around recovered artefacts or real people connected with Titanic, favourite subjects being Bruce Ismay, the crew members, the bandsmen, the passengers – first class or steerage, or indeed their ghosts.
  2. Pure fiction: tales using Titanic and her sinking as an emotive backdrop for stories involving wholly fictional characters, including fictional detectives such as Sherlock Holmes, or even featuring a dog as hero.  These range from whodunits, through romances (especially trans-class, such as gentlewoman – or gentleman – falls for handsome young Irishman), crime thrillers, teen-lit, Christian-lit, sci-fi, the supernatural and horror.
  3. Loose-connection: stories of Titanic’s sister-ships, Titanic Twos, prequels (people’s imagined lives before the disaster) and sequels (Titanic space ship adrift,  ‘back from the future to save Titanic’ scenarios or people’s imagined lives after the sinking), all having one thing in common  – the word ‘Titanic’ in the title.
  4. ‘What if?’ and conspiracy-based stories: what would have happened had she not sunk?  What Thomas Andrews would have achieved had he survived. How Captain Smith deliberately scuttled her, and how, in any case, she was the Olympic pretending to be Titanic.


[This overview from D.J. Kelly, author of A Wistful Eye – The Tragedy of a Titanic Shipwright]

See also Richard Lee’s feature on Beryl Bainbridge. Every Man For Himself is one of the best novels of the Titanic.

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