First Voyage

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
230 Pages
Reviewed on 07/11/2017
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Anthony Palmiotti has made a career as a licensed merchant marine officer and maritime educator. A professor of navigation and vessel operations, he goes to sea each year as an instructor and watch officer. Through travels around the world he has developed a keen interest in history, particularly maritime history. He has previously published a workbook on celestial and terrestrial navigation which is much used by merchant marine cadets and has been featured in various maritime industry professional journals.
When not involved in things nautical. Anthony likes build wooden canoes or can be found looking for wild places to hike.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite

First Voyage is an historical fiction novel written by Anthony Palmiotti. The world was still struggling back to its feet as the final death throes of the Great Depression dragged on, and Patrick Welch felt for the tired, older longshoreman whose back was bowed under the heavy weight of the sacks he was moving, as he also did for those longshoremen who didn’t get selected for work that day and would go home hungry. He had all his belongings in his sea bag and was dressed in his newly purchased clothing for his first day aboard the Arrow as the ship’s third mate. As he asked for directions in the bustling confusion of Brooklyn’s Erie Basin, he could hear the muttered undertones about the Arrow and its skipper, but Patrick was feeling good about his career path. The battered-looking and somewhat churlish Captain Van Metre chuckled as he perused Patrick’s license and papers, which detailed his graduation from the school ship and six months experience as an AB, but he still directed his new third mate to locate the chief mate who would he said would find him work. They would be embarking soon for Brazil, and Van Metre hinted that it could be a long swim if things did not work out. Setting off began with the intricate process conducted between the battered old Hog Islander and the tug that set the ship’s nose in the right direction. Then as the ship pulled away from the basin and the fresh ocean breezes began to sweep away the smells of shore, each crewman felt that sense of excitement, of renewal. As Patrick gazed awestruck at the multitude of stars that night, he knew there was no place he’d rather be at that moment. And in the morning, gazing upon the untold expanses of sea and sky, he knew he was somewhere he had never been before, and it was good.

Anthony Palmiotti’s historical novel, First Voyage, takes the reader on that first voyage along with Third Mate Patrick Welch, and it is a grand and glorious experience. Palmiotti’s own experiences as a licensed merchant marine officer and maritime educator give this book such immediacy and tension. I was continually impressed by how involved I was getting in the everyday tasks and responsibilities of Patrick and the rest of the crew. The characters in this book are larger than life as the reader sees how the crew becomes bound together into a family of sorts, one wherein sacrifice and loyalty are instinctive and natural, as seen when the Arrow is beset by a storm. From the captain to the mates and the rest of the crew, the reader becomes privy to each of their thoughts and aspirations as well as falling vicariously into their familiar and familial roles on this ship that becomes their world. As it’s 1938, the drums of war are beating yet again in Europe, and as they are bound for Hamburg, Patrick and the crew are caught up in the chaos, violence and hatred that would come to be known as Kristallnacht. The author’s focus on the genesis of and spirit that would somehow foment the ugliness, fear and inborn hatred of the other is crystal sharp and perceptive.

There’s so much to admire about this grand, rousing beast of a novel. It’s a modern day maritime novel that will make most readers wish they had gone to sea, as well as being a poignant and powerful coming of age novel. The Holocaust and the worsening plight of Jews during Hitler’s regime is masterfully addressed. Add to that First Voyage’s rightful claim as a first-rate historical novel, and you’ve got one of the best books of the year as far as I can see. Palmiotti’s writing is translucent and lyrical at times, but always highly accessible and, like a siren’s call, quite irresistible. First Voyage is a most impressive debut novel, and it’s most highly recommended.

Trudi LoPreto

Patrick Welch is just starting his job as a third mate, and together we meet Captain Van Metre; Santori, the chief mate; Reuben, the kitchen worker; second mate and not too friendly Richard Shields; boatswain Vasco Da Gamma and a crew of others. The Arrow’s first stop is delivering grain to Brazil and then they will head to Germany. Along the way they face hurricanes, capsized boats, and broken equipment. When they arrive in Germany, they become aware that the news they have been reading and hearing about is true, and Hitler and the Nazis are becoming strong and dangerous.

We learn this when we meet the Goldstein family, Judith, Ruth and Joel, and the threats and hardships they are having to now live with simply because they are Jews. When Reuben visits his family, the Goldsteins, and learns of their struggles, he devises a plan. This plan includes the help of his shipmates, who will most likely get in big time trouble for what they are about to do. The plan is to get them out of Germany to start a new life in America. It takes sneaky planning and puts the Arrow in danger. I held my breath and rooted them on, and was not sure who the victors would be; the Nazis or the Arrow crewman.

I felt as though I was aboard the old rusty Arrow freighter in 1938 as I read First Voyage. The book kept me involved and anxious to read from beginning to end. There was rarely a dull moment as the men on board the Arrow bonded and dealt with each new disaster, becoming more like family than crew and taking me right along on the journey. Anthony Palmiotti is a skilled author, putting just the right ingredients together to make First Voyage a most enjoyable read. I highly recommend this for all readers, young and old.

Raanan Geberer

First Voyage by Anthony Palmiotti is a historical novel about life on a cargo ship just before World War II and how the shipmates eventually become unwitting participants in the unfolding drama of that era. It centers around Patrick Welch, a young New York City seaman who signs up on the rusty old York Arrow as third mate. At first there are tensions, especially with the rude and abusive Captain Van Metre, but Patrick soon settles into the routine of the ship. The real action begins when the ship comes to Hamburg. The ship’s steward, Ruben, is Jewish, and he wants to smuggle his cousins on board so they can escape Nazi persecution. But one of the crew members is a pro-Nazi German-American who will do anything he can to inveigle himself into the good graces of the Nazi Party. A confrontation is inevitable—and it comes in a dramatic way!

First Voyage is very well-written and its author, Palmiotti, obviously knows quite a lot about sea life. It’s no surprise that he’s a merchant marine officer and maritime educator who builds canoes in his spare time. As far as history is concerned, the book highlights an important fact—that as late as 1938, some Americans weren’t really aware of the scope of the evil of the Nazi regime. First Voyage also shows that throughout the ‘30s, the U.S. carried on normal relations with Nazi Germany—including maritime commerce. The book is well-written and the characters are well-rounded, especially Ruben, who was a banker before the stock market crash, and the crusty Captain Van Metre. All in all, First Voyage shows another side of the pre-war period, a side that isn’t often depicted in fiction or otherwise.