Book Review of The Wreck of the Mary Deare: Mystery Thriller by Ralph Hammond Innes

by DerdriuMarriner

Ships are only as bad or good as their inputs and outputs. But good ships can have bad endings. Is that all that is behind the tragedies in the novel “The Wreck of the Mary Deare”?

Becoming a successful writer generally demands writing about what one already knows -- or may become a quick study -- in ways which are appealing, relevant, and understandable to:
• Borrowers;
• Dealers;
• Purchasers.

One of the twentieth century’s most outstanding novelists indeed continues to epitomize the lucrative thrill of experience-based knowledge translating into:
• Impressive customer bases;
• Writing income.

The author in question is none other than Ralph Hammond Innes (July 15, 1913 – June 10, 1998), as:
• Author of four novels adapted into films;
• Novelist of an adventure story serialized on television;
• Writer of a fiction thriller transmitted by radio.

One of the retired journalist’s most gripping narratives remains his 1956-released, sea-savvy publication, “The Wreck of the Mary Deare.”

"Mary Deare" is beached near Les Minquiers (lower center), a group of islands and rocks about 9.3 miles (15 kilometers) south of Jersey (mid-center), largest of Channel Islands

The Channel Islands as seen from International Space Station (ISS) on May 19, 2011.
The Channel Islands as seen from International Space Station (ISS) on May 19, 2011.


Hammond Innes became a recipient of:

  • The Order of the British Empire commandership, C.B.E., in 1978;
  • The World Mystery Convention’s Lifetime Achievement Award in October 1993.

The honors came as no surprise because of the storyteller’s reputation for:

  • Accurate descriptions of real places, from six months of research and travel preceding six months of writing each book;
  • Believable plots in extreme environments and limited resources;
  • Character depictions of ordinary people in extraordinary but realistic situations;
  • Dramatic dialogues in general audience style;
  • Early interest in ecological themes.

The Innesian experience with and expertise in sea-set adventures indeed emerged as one of the most enduring appeals of the world-racing, world-traveling yachtsman’s six decades of fictional output, from 1937 onward.


The Wreck of the Mary Deare: cover of Fontana Paperbacks edition

Fontana Paperbacks
Fontana Paperbacks


The Wreck of the Mary Deare begins with first-person narrator Sands directing Sea Witch through Spain’s Bay of Biscay waters.  John falls behind Mary Deare out of Southampton, England. He subsequently enters the English Channel by way of Breton Peninsula. He finds the 40+-year-old, 6,000-ton freighter with:

  • Nobody aboard;
  • One lifeboat hanging vertically, not horizontally, from its davit (crane-like, ship-side storage).

Fellow witness Patch gets Mary Deare’s engines started sufficiently to head toward and rest upon the Minkies. John and Gideon go to:

  • England’s official inquiries regarding Torre Annunciata’s owners reporting Mary Deare missing;
  • Minkies by dinghy, Sea Witch, swimming.

They observe ebb tide-wracked reefs shattering Mary Deare, whose engines and hatches respectively are inoperative and sealed.


The enigma of real-life ghost ship "Mary Celeste" rivals mystery of "Mary Deare" and affirms that truth is stranger than fiction:

Mary Celeste as derelict ghost ship sighted by Dei Gratia on December 4/5, 1872
black-and-white closeup of tricolor engraving by Rudolph Ruzicka (June 29, 1883 - July 20, 1978)
black-and-white closeup of tricolor engraving by Rudolph Ruzicka (June 29, 1883 - July 20, 1978)



Ships and stories are as bad or good as:

  • Creators;
  • Critics;
  • Custodians.

The respectively actual and imagined shipwrecks of Mary Celeste and Mary Deare articulate this deep truth. Builders and storytellers created the actual and imagined ships in newborn beauty. Mary Celeste and Mary Deare nevertheless developed reputations after:

  • Respective collisions with ships and torpedoes;
  • Respectively controversial and wartime shipwrecks.

Both ended up worth less as serviceable ships and more as sunken vessels. Both endured accusations of:

  • Deliberate grounding;
  • Insurance fraud;
  • Wayward cargoes.

But thanks to the narrative integrity of journalists Brian Hicks and Hammond Innes, readers know who did what and why to the fictitious Mary Deare while sorting the real Mary Celeste’s sufferings in 1872.


Shipwreck of Mary Deare ~ 3D of Mary Deare (1:23 minutes)

Uploaded to YouTube on October 31, 2011 by Paul van Dinther ~ URL:



My special thanks to:

  • Talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the Internet;
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University for superior on-campus and on-line resources.


The Wreck of the Mary Deare by Hammond Innes

Hammond Innes writings

Sources Consulted


Innes, Hammond. 1956. The Wreck of the Mary Deare. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.  

Innes, Hammond; and Ambler, Eric. 1959. The Wreck of the Mary Deare. Blaustein Baroda Production Company.  

Warner Brothers. 2006. Gary Cooper -- The Signature Collection: Sergeant York, The Fountainhead, Dallas, Springfield Rifle, The Wreck of the Mary Deare. Warner DVD.


Ralph Hammond Innes: 1969 portrait by Godfrey Argent (February 6, 1937 - June 1, 2006)

Thirteen years earlier, in 1956, Hammond Innes published one of his most compelling adventures, "The Wreck of the Mary Deare."
Ralph Hammond Innes
the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

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DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 08/13/2015, DerdriuMarriner
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DerdriuMarriner on 01/14/2015

paperfacets, "The Wreck of the Mary Deare" is one of my favorite books. Its film version is also one of my favorite films. I understand about sinking ships! I am sure that you husband will enjoy this book; it's well written and its author Hammond Innes, was highly knowledgeable about the sea.

paperfacets on 01/14/2015

I know my husband will like this recommendation. I stay away from all sinking ships on TV, movies and books. An attractive review and written so well.

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