Back in high school, decades ago, Howard Pease was one of my must-read favorite authors. I’ve read a few of his books again in the last few years, and have been pleasantly surprised. He holds up very well. In some ways he may be better than I realized back then, when I thought of him as a real page-turner: when I came to the end of a chapter I couldn’t wait to get into the next. I probably had no concept of the depth of his social commentary.
The anti-racism of Shipwreck; the labor struggles in Fog Horns; the pathos of Heart of Danger (in which a young Jewish violinist, with a great career ahead, abandons all, although he doesn’t want to, to become a spy in wartime Germany) were all surprises for me when I began to reread Pease as an adult.
Howard Pease was a native Californian, from Stockton on the east edge of the San Francisco Bay area (up a long channel in the delta). He attended Stanford, interrupted for two years with an army unit in Europe, graduated and taught high school. (In the mid-40’s he was principal at Los Altos Elementary – see letter below). He had intended to become a writer since sixth grade (see Bound for Singapore). During two summers he shipped out as a wiper in the engine room of a freighter – one of the few ship jobs an inexperienced youth could get. Soon after he began teaching he wrote the first of his Tod Moran series, The Tattooed Man, using new experiences from two such voyages and a walking trip from Marseilles along the coast to Italy.
The Tattooed Man New York: Doubleday, Doran & Co, 1926. Strange adventures befall Tod Moran, mess boy of the tramp steamer “Araby,” upon his first voyage from San Francisco to Genoa, via the Panama Canal. He is searching for his older brother, who disappeared on a voyage. Based in part on a real-life episode in which a company shipped fake cargo and sank the ship in mid-ocean to collect the insurance money. The Tattooed Man is (sometimes Captain) Jarvis, who appears to be an unreliable roughneck; a vividly realistic portrayal of life aboard tramp freighters before WWII. Also a look at drug addiction in the days when it was perhaps less common.
Pease had his first short story published in 1921, in American Boy, and 22 book titles published between 1926 and 1959. Most of them have to do with the adventures of young Tod Moran, beginning as the most junior member of the crew on a series of tramp steamers, working his way up to First Mate. Looking out for him on the early adventures were two linguistically stereotyped “black gang” characters, Toppy the Cockney (also referred to as the Limey) and Sven the Squarehead. Despite his loose characterizations of the two, which might be easily interpreted as racist, they were his guideposts and safety net. There is usually an honest if distant father figure, Captain Jarvis. Many of Tod’s adventures are motivated by a search for a lost father or older brother. Might make one wonder… but the first chapter of “Singapore” gives a clue, when the protagonist by chance selects the story of young Blondel searching the desert for Richard the Lion-Hearted as the transplanted plot of his first succesful story.
By the late 30’s Pease had written eight Tod Moran novels, after his first book Gypsy Caravan (published fourth), and was wanting to write other subjects. His new editor at Doubleday Doran insisted he write only Tod Morans, so he offered his next two, the whimsical Captain Binnacle and Long Wharf, about a youth living aboard an abandoned ship in Gold Rush San Francisco, to Dodd, Mead. The editor soon realized her mistake, and they made an agreement that he could write alternate novels on other topics. Some of his best, including Long Wharf and Thunderbolt House, fall into this alternate category.
Skipping ahead 31 years …
|Shipwreck: The Strange Adventures of Renny Mitchum, Mess Boy of the Trading Schooner ‘Samarang.’ Doubleday, 1957. 237 pp. In this later book the protagonist is like a younger Tod Moran, shipping out with no allies in a probably vain attempt to discover what has happened to his father, apparently shipwrecked and lost on a vague island in the least known part of the South Pacific. Pease deals with racism in his usual manner, head-on, when Renny has to take instruction from a Filipino cook: At first young Renny shows disdain for the “brown-skinned messman”, certain that he could not amount to much. Yet as the plot unfolds, it is the Filipino messman who not only says Renny’s life, but gives him direction: the brown-skinned cook turns out to be both a skilled psychologist and the wisest person aboard. Later, when we are among illiterate savages, one of whom is a sinister menace, we learn that among all groups there are both good and bad. Without revealing the plot, there are some interesting twists, especially after the second shipwreck.|
Back to the 1930’s, a book set among labor problems:
Fog Horns. Doubleday, 1937. A mystery set on the docks and waterfront streets of San Francisco; a young man buys a seaman’s certificate to work on the Araby and is plunged into intrigue, with a strong working-man’s point of view. For one thing, I learned why the longshoremen had antipathy toward “college boys.” During the dock strike the year before, the companies had sent busses over to UC Berkeley where students were recruited part-time at top wages to take the jobs of the workers during the strike. I wonder if this is where I got my early radicalism, subliminally from reading Howard Pease? Well, it is no wonder that it was kicked it out of the libraries! A nice book.
For a list of our Howard Pease titles in stock — usually a good sampling – please inquire at email@example.com.
Bibliography, books (repeated descriptions in parentheses):
The Tattooed Man (same description as above: Strange adventures befall Tod Moran, mess boy of the tramp steamer “Araby,” upon his first voyage from San Francisco to Genoa, via the Panama Canal. He is searching for his older brother, who disappeared on a voyage. Based in part on a real-life episode in which a company shipped fake cargo and sank the ship in mid-ocean to collect the insurance money. The Tattooed Man is (sometimes Captain) Jarvis, who appears to be an unreliable roughneck; a vividly realistic portrayal of life aboard tramp freighters before WWII.
1926 New York: Doubleday, Doran &Co.
The Jinx Ship
Tod Moran, stranded and jobless, signs onto the “Congo”, a ship with a bad rep, and bang! – he’s in the middle of several mysteries. The plot jumps right to it. He and his college-type chum get a bit of a scare when captured by Caribbean ex-slaves bent on a mysterious voodoo ritual, but they’re of course rescued by the black messman from their ship. There’s much more – read it. (The 1959 cover on the right actually has more to do with the story than the original cover, shown on the left.) 1927, Doubleday, Doran
Shanghai Passage – Being a tale of mystery, adventure and mutiny on the high seas in which Stuart Ormsby is shanghaied aboard the tramp steamer “Nanking” bound for ports on the China coast. 1929, Doubleday, Doran.
The Gypsy Caravan
A change of pace for Pease, this is a time-slip novel, in which Betty and Joe travel with the gypsies and meet Robin Hood, Richard the Lionhearted, Roland and other hero figures from European history. Not among the more successful of his books, in my opinion. This was actually the first book he wrote, but the fourth published. 1930, Doubleday, Doran.
The story of Larry Matthews and his dog Sambo, forecastle mates on the tramp steamer “Creole Trader”, from New Orleans to the South Seas. What was that strange chest buried in the coal scuttle? What’s being smuggled? Or who? …. nice twists at the end.
1931, Doubleday, Doran.
The Ship Without a Crew
a ship found drifting (like the Mary Celeste, a real ship). Why? Tod and his Captain are the detectives… another mystery.
1934, Doubleday, Doran
Wind in the Rigging
Tod Moran on the tramp steamer “Sumatra,” New York to North Africa. Story based in part on a discusssion in the 1930s about whether munitions makers were a cause of war. 1935, NY Doubleday, Doran
Things happen to Tod. Who would think a simple vacation visit and short cruise with an old friend in the South Pacific would involve pirates, cannibals, a devastating cyclone? … thank goodness for kind natives! 1936 Doubleday, Doran.
Fog Horns (A mystery set on the docks and waterfront streets of San Francisco; a young man buys a seaman’s certificate to work on the Araby and is plunged into intrigue, with a strong working-man’s point of view. For one thing, I learned why the longshoremen had antipathy toward “college boys.” During the dock strike the year before, the companies had sent busses over to UC Berkeley where students were recruited part-time at top wages to take the jobs of the workers during the strike. I wonder if this is where I got my early radicalism, subliminally from reading Howard Pease? Well, it is no wonder that it was kicked it out of the libraries! A nice book.) 1937, Doubleday, Doran.
Captain Binnacle Captain Binnacle sails his ancient river boat on dry land, stuck in a field near Stockton; repelling pirates and savages with the help of three children who found the right words: “we’re shipwrecked, captain, been drifting for days – take us aboard!”. For younger children – and grownups. Very scarce. 1938, Dodd, Mead & Co.
Highroad to Adventure. Tod Moran wants to use his two-week vacation exploring the interior of his own country, buys a used car – but within two hours is off to Mexico on a secret mission, dogged by spies determined to keep him from reaching the goal, on a background of corruption and Reform, and fortunately aided by a retired couple from Iowa with an airstream trailer. 1939, Doubleday, Doran.
Jungle River. An American boy searches for his lost father in the New Guinea jungle; praos and dugouts, Papuans and, on the eve of war, Japanese. Nice Armstrong Sperry cover of a native longhouse. 1938, Doubleday Doran.
Long Wharf: A Story of Young San Francisco. I recently read this for the first time, and am not disappointed! Story of a cabin boy abandoned in a derelict ship in SF Bay in 1849: his father the Captain has left him “in charge” while he follows his crew to the gold fields… and vanishes; the young teen deals with packs of thieves, crooked vigilantes, crooked politicians; hunger and want; and finds and rescues his father… Illustrated by Manning de V. Lee. 1939, Dodd, Mead & Co.
The Black Tanker. Written just before we got into WWII. A Stanford student gets word that his father, a doctor visiting China, has been seriously injured in a Japanese bombing raid. Desperate, Ranse takes leave from college and works his way across in the black gang of a tanker carrying fuel — to the same Japanese air base in China from which the vicious bombing raids are launched; soon a murder mystery mixes with the difficult passage and intense political feelings. 1941, Doubleday, Doran and Co.
Night Boat and other Tod Moran mysteries. Seven short stories and a novella, from all around the world, based on accounts of their adventures, “as told to Pease by Tod Moran and Captain Jarvis during their rest stops in San Francisco.” 1942, Doubleday, Doran and Co.
Thunderbolt House. One of Pease’s finest novels, a mystery involving three young people on their own in San Francisco during the 1907 Earthquake and Fire; with a mystery. Winner of the California Commonwealth Book Award. How any library could dump this novel is beyond me!! Nice endpaper spread showing families fleeing the fire. 1944, Doubleday. In stock.
Heart of Danger. A spy story: The chief figure is a brilliant young Jewish violinist, with a great career ahead, who gives it all up to become a spy in wartime Germany. Tod Moran, third mate of the tramp steamer ‘Araby”” is involved in helping smuggle the young spy into the continent, and somewhat in the difficulties of his decision — An excellent story with unexpected twists; Pease again blends pulp cliche, concern for justice, and occasional flashes of literary genius. Incidentally, much of the action is around the town of Royen in France, where Pease had been stationed at an army hospital for a year and where he played first violin in a 40-piece orchestra that played locally. 1946, Doubleday.
Bound for Singapore. “Being a True and Faithful Account of the Making of an Adventurer.“ This adventure includes an autobiographical glimpse of Pease’s beginnings, decades later. he first chapter, “Prelude”, is a detailed account of how young “Chet” (Howard himself) first became a writer, how he and friends selected his first stories, and why he first shipped out, bound for “Singapore” (Anywhere), to gain experience. In this one the mystery is not about exotic dangers, only a stowaway prize-winning dachshund (Pease also raised prize-winning dachshunds) on a trip from San Francisco to a show in New York – but still with plenty of mystery and danger. While less exotic than most, it is well-written and straight-forward; a hard-to-find and interesting Pease title. 1948, Doubleday.
The Dark Adventure (reprinted as Road Kid).. Somewhat of a change of pace, a youth (and the author) asea on the roads of America. A hitchhiking boy suffers amnesia, is robbed by vicious hobos, finds himself among children peddling single sticks of reefer cigarettes in high school parking lots, which leads to hot-rodders deliberately ramming honest drivers on the highways… everything works out fine, of course. Not one of his best. 1950, Doubleday.
Captain of the Araby, Captain Jarvis, the tattooed captain with whom Tod Moran has sailed most often. The voyage from SF to Tahiti starts with a few mysterious delays, but soon enough Tod Moran and the Captain are involved in exotic mysteries, beginning with: Why have all three aboard-ship copies of Somerset Maugham’s life of Gaugain, The Moon and Sixpence, disappeared? 1953, Doubleday.
Shipwreck: The Strange Adventures of Renny Mitchum, Mess Boy of the Trading Schooner ‘Samarang.'”
The protagonist is like a younger Tod Moran, shipping out with no allies in a probably vain attempt to discover what has happened to his father, apparently shipwrecked and lost on a vague island in the least known part of the South Pacific. Pease deals with racism in his usual manner, head-on, when Renny has to take instruction from a Filipino cook: At first young Renny shows disdain for the “brown-skinned messman”, certain that he could not amount to much. Yet as the plot unfolds, it is the Filipino messman who not only says Renny’s life, but gives him direction: the brown-skinned cook turns out to be both a skilled psychologist and the wisest person aboard. Later, when we are among illiterate savages, one of whom is a sinister menace, we learn that among all groups there are both good and bad. Without revealing the plot, there are some interesting twists, especially after the second shipwreck. Doubleday, 1957.
Mystery on Telegraph Hill. A Tod Moran’s last mystery, set in San Francisco.
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In 1939 Pease gave a rather blistering speech to 400 female youth services librarians at a conference sponsored by the ALA in Berkeley and later known as the “Sayers Institute” – chaired by Dorothy Sayers. His main theme was the feminization of children’s literature: “wholly and solely a woman’s world — a completely feminine world,” which was producing disinterest by young males – “we attempt to draw over their heads a beautiful curtain of silk… but the children go on…. Let’s catch up with our children, catch up with our schools, catch up with this world around us. Let’s be leaders, not followers, and let’s be leaders with courage.” His speech was met by “a barrage of vehement defense” from the audience, according to reporters. Dorothy Sayers stressed his positive aspects; she made it clear that she agreed with Pease about the need for more realistic books for children.
The next week the Newbery Medal was awarded to Thimble Summer. During the next year the debate continued, including a series of signed editorials by C. C. Certain in the Elementary English Review. In “What Are Little Boys Made Of?” he described Thimble Summer as possessing the “faded prettiness” of a “gossamer summer bouquet” but no appeal to “the average tousle- headed American boy.”… the next year the Newbery committee over-compensated, in my opinion, by giving the award to an over-the-top aggressively American tough-boy rendition of Daniel Boone, by James Daugherty. Not a book I ever had much interest in as a boy. Howard Pease won only two awards in his career, the California Commonwealth Book Award in 1944 for Thunderbolt House and the Child Study Children’s Book Award of Bank Street College in 1946, “for a book that deals realistically with problems in the child’s world”, for Heart of Danger.
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Howard Pease’s papers are at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, and are available for research. We usually have a few Howard Pease novels in stock, other than my personal collection – I’m always looking for them. I set what I think is a fair price on them, and away they go! … so clearly there are others besides myself who still like his writing
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We keep as many of Pease’s novels in stock as we possibly can – usually around 20 or 30, in various grades. I just found a dozen more copies that have not been processed yet. Inquire for a list, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Howard Pease reread
Some 60+ years ago in 1948 or 1949, when I was either in the 7th or 8th grade, my English teacher announced that the class could earn extra credit by reading and reporting on various books in the Wilson Junior High library in Appleton, WI. Since my English grade was not the best, I took advantage of this opportunity. The first book I selected was by Howard Pease — it was so interesting that I continued with the same author and read every book they had by him.
As I read each book, I had my trusty World Atlas at my side. Since early elementary school, my hobby had been geography. By the time I was in junior high I had memorized vast volumes of geographical information. By reading all of Howard Pease’s books and tracking Tod Moran’s travels with my Atlas, I reinforced what I already had learned.
In 2009, I was writing a book outlining the stages of the lives of my classmates during their first 18 years for my 55th high school graduation reunion from Appleton High School. During that time, Howard Pease’s name came back to me. After visiting EBay, and after a period of several months, I was able to buy 8 of those books. I could hardly wait for them to arrive so I could read them once again. They were just as interesting to me as they were back in the 40s. As others have pointed out, I failed to detect the social messages he had in most of his books, but thinking back, I believe they must have influenced my thinking. As the great English statesman Disraeli once said, “Travel teaches tolerance.” The “travel” for me was my sharing the adventures of Tod Moran. Although a social conservative, I think of myself as being tolerant of others.
In the meantime, I am in the process of introducing these books to my four grandsons.
I’m in my mid seventies and have mainly worked in marine related trades. It amazes me when, in discussions with colleagues, the influence Pease had on so many folk’s eventual career choices.
Wow! And I thought I might be the only living soul who had read (and remembered fondly) the wonderful writings of Howard Pease. They were such an influence in my early life waaaaaay back in the mid-late 1950’s. Years later while teaching in North Carolina I found some of his books in our school library. Eventually they were taken from the shelf and I was able to rescue them before they were tossed away. I re-read them many times in the 1980’s and 90’s and now have them carefully shelved at home. By the way, does anyone remember a book from the 40’s or fifties titled “One Against the Sea?” It too was a boys adventure book about an orphan who went to live with his grandfather “Billy Whiteboots” on the English coast. I’d love to find a copy.
One Against the Sea
You may have the title right. By Betty Bowen, 1954. “…his mother dies, leaving him, and his baby sister Merrie, to go to their grandmother in a small town on the North Sea Coast. At Flamborough, Bill struggles with the very things his nationality [u.s.] and situation make – being friends, after a bad start, with the local boys, seeing to Merrie’s emotional well being, earning money to repair a wrecked sailboat while knowing that the sea wall around Gram’s house is sadly in need of repair….” There are copies at abebooks.com
One Against the Sea
I can’t believe it! One post and information I have sought for years just pops up! Thank you so much Truman! This is beyond wonderful! 🙂
I would but say to you all
I would but say to you all “impressive information”
(Sorry, marble polishing, but we don’t allow embedded links unrelated to books. Thanks for your comment. Suzanne)
Although I had been reading Hornblower and The General since the age of seven, I bumped into Pease’s Highroad to Adventure at age ten or so, in the Berkeley library, and then read several others of the Tod Moran stories. Pretty good stories, those. I still remember the description of the first watches as brand-new fireman in the heat of the boiler room.
I have three electric-powered radio-controlled ships in scale 1:96, two destroyers and a tug. The tug is painted in Moran colors and is named Tod Moran, a name that Moran Towing never owned.
Howard Pease – school principal
My heart jumped up when I stumbled on this page. I am a woman in my eighties who grew up in the Bay Area. My uncles “went to sea.” I read every Howard Pease book I could get my hands on. When my family moved to Los Altos in 1944 and my younger siblings enrolled in Los Altos Elementary School, Howard Pease was the school principal. What a thrill! I don’t see that in the biographical notes. I am not an unsophisticated reader; taught college English for 25 years. He made such a difference to me – helped form my view of life. More than just a kid’s adventure writer. I wish I were at an age when I was acquiring books.
He made such a difference –
What a wonderful letter! I think Pease helped formed my view of life, too. Thank you – Truman
Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
All afternoon I have had the phrase “Wind in the Rigging” running through my head. I am on the waterfront on a stormy winter day. The wind is indeed singing through the riggings. Then Captain Jarvis . . .. A Google search on both resulted in nothing. But when I typed in Tramp Steamer there you were with your wonderful list of books. My mother introduced me to Tod Moran and Captain Jarvis. I spent many rainy days chugging around the world with them. Thank you for bringing back the memories.
Howard Pease was an American
Howard Pease was an American writer of adventure stories from Stockton, California. I have read most of his stories long back. I read most of his books like Secret Cargo, The Gypsy Caravan. I want to to thank you for this great information!! Bookmarked your website to see the new stuff you post in the future.
Thank you!I just acquired
I’ve become an avid Pease collector – whatever sale I go to, I look for Pease first, and I’ve been able to find more copies, some unusual… probably have new ones with some regularity =
Heart of Danger was one of my favorite books and has stayed with me for the past 40 years. I must have checked it out of the library five or six times. The ending, I recall, blew me away. It’s been 40 years.
When I was a teen, Thunderbolt House was my favorite book (I’m now 64 years old). I just now started re-reading it and it holds up very well. I have an autographed 1st edition which I look forward to sharing with my grandaughter when she is old enough to read.
In my opinion, Thunderbolt House would make a good movie. Have any of Pease’s books been turned into movies? With screenwriters and producers hungry for good stories, it’s surprising none have picked up!
I’m in my mid seventies and have mainly worked in marine related trades. It amazes me when, in discussions with colleagues, the influence Pease had on so many folk’s eventual career choices.
Who currently owns the rights to his books?
I also read his books as a kid in 6th grade. I’m female and I just loved the suspense and looked forward to finding his next book at the school library. Kids don’t know what they’re missing today. I am going to try to get every novel he wrote. I love him still!
thanks for information.
Even as a small boy the sea always attracted Howard Pease. Maybe because he lived on inland soil, out of sight of the fogs of the coast, yet on a river that flowed into San Francisco Bay. Born in Stockton, California, he finished high school there and then entered Stanford University.At the end of his freshman year he found himself enlisted in a university unit which was sent early to France. Two years later he returned to Stanford where he remained off and on until graduation.Writing had been Mr. Pease’s main object and interest ever since the sixth grade and because he had no wish to write and starve in a garret, he now chose teaching as a profession, sice it gave him long vacations in which to work at his typewriter.The sea, too, still attracted him. One summer he shipped out as a wiper in the engine room of a freighter-one of the few ship jobs an inexperienced youth can get.
(The above “comment” is quoted from the flyleaf of The Tattooed Man,) – Truman
American writer of adventure storie
Most of his stories revolved around a young protagonist, In addition to writing children’s stories Pease taught high school, contributed to journals and reviewed books for the New York Times. I read most of his books like Secret Cargo, The Gypsy Caravan, Jungle River, Mystery on Telegraph Hill etc. I was very happy that I found this site. I want to to thank you for this great information!! Bookmarked your website to see the new stuff you post in the future.
It’s interesting to see that Pease taught high school. His version of pre YA books seems so much more on target than modern ones focussed on teen problems. From these comments and our own observations, he really introduced young people to the world. Writing these long articles is a fascinating, but they take a while. Thanks for the motivation! Suzanne
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, and Howard Pease was must reading in my school. “Long Wharf” was assigned reading for local history, and I loved it. When the foundations for the Transamerica pyramid were excavated, the hull of the Niantic was uncovered, and the story of Dan Mason, his family, and “The Atlantic” came rushing back.
Apart from some language which is mildly inappropriate by today’s standards (the word used for the chinese in San Francisco at the time), I would gladly recommend this or any other of Pease’s books to kids today.
I posted but its not here. I had said that like Andy I read under my covers also. Howard Pease books with Tod Moran & Captain Jarvis was page turner to me. It was what made me ship out from NYC I was 17 & headed to Hong Kong. I lived my dream.
Page turners –
Was it Tattooed Man that had two parallel threads, in alternate chapters? I couldn’t believe, way back then, how much suspense would be left hanging at the end of each chapter.
I tried to take the high road, and sent for application papers to the US Merchant Marine Academy at Kingston NY. Folks talked me out of that one.
by Andy Corbett (not verified) – 2010-10-24 23:08
RE: Truman Price article on Howard Pease. I could mirror your account of your initial readings of Howard Pease’s books. I was in 7th grade when I first found his books in my elementary school library. I would often sit up late at night with a flashlight under my covers to read his adventures on the high seas in the bellies of tramp steamers. The life of wipers, oilers, bo’suns and life in the fo’c’sle fired my imagination and gave to my young mind an awakening to the ethos of other worlds than mine. The school I went to in Chicago had been around for 50+ years when I attended, and had walls covered in Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite artwork enough to fire up a ‘romantic’ imagination. I had been fascinated with the life, manners and mores of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian England, and HP’s books opened my mind to very different sensibilities. Your article brought back some very fond memories. I had looked for copies of these books years ago without success. the age of computers and internet search engines has really opened access. I look forward to reading these treasures again.
Me also Andy. I read him younger also under my covers at night with flashlight. I never enjoyed reading more,
Andy — Didn’t our parents ever wonder why those flashlight batteries gave out so easily? Mine was a little square box thing with a good big light on the side. Many thanks for your addition, you nailed the fascination of Pease right on!
Its hard too believe. I read most of his books about Captain Jarvis & Tod Moran when I was Kid–Im 77 now & enjoy finding him on Net. He was great and am sure he would hold up.
I also loved Howard Pease novels as a young boy. I am now in the process of
collecting all my old favorites to read, and eventually give to my grandson.
I also think his novels would make great movies !