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Flight to the Sea

By James Pattinson

The year is 1937 and the Second Sino-Japanese War has begun!

The invading Japanese have broken through the Great Wall of China and all those in the port town of Penyang, North of Shanghai, are trying their best to get out.

The only remaining ship in the harbour, however, is the ageing rust bucket, the Orient Queen, A British ship, captained by George Wright and his second in command, Edward Crane.

It’s compliment of passengers is a mismatch of class and background, from Madame and her young mistresses to an American Missionary and his pious wife.

On the morning that the ship is set to sail, the beginning of a series of disasters strikes as Japanese bombers rain hellfire down upon the town.

On his way to the ship, John Cooper is caught in the middle when the bombs start falling. He is confronted with the harsh realities of war; a sight that he cannot easily forget.

When the delayed Cooper finally makes it through the carnage to the boat, it becomes clear they’re missing their pilot! How much longer must they wait?

Tensions rise within the boat itself as the missionary couple clash with the brothel girls, who the couple deem to have no place on the ship with them and in insult to their beliefs.

From being run aground in low tide, to be being strafed by strafed by low-flying fighters, there is no end to the problems plaguing the voyage of the Orient Queen.

It is only when the boat is boarded by soldiers who appear be Chinese irregulars, that things take an interesting and surprisingly positive turn.

The soldiers, who are looking for food and satisfaction, force the crew to allow them to take, among other things, the cargo under the guise of lightening the heavy ship’s load.

Those on the Orient Queen must choose their moment wisely.

This tense and thrilling piece of historical fiction takes place during an often forgotten, early and brutal part of the Second World War.

James Pattinson (1915-2009) was a full-time author who, despite having travelled throughout the world, lived in the remote village where he grew up. He wrote magazine articles, short stories and radio features as well as numerous novels including Crane and The Silent Voyage.

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