What’s with the name?

posted in: On writing | 0

More than one person has asked me why I called the book Die a Dry Death. Why not “The Wreck of the Batavia” or something equally prosaic?

For a start, Batavia means a few different things; the Roman occupied area which eventually became part of the Netherlands, the capital of the Dutch East Indies which is now called Jakarta and the famous, doomed ship. Then again, in my novel the story starts with the shipwreck and moves on from there. Very little of the action actually takes place on the ship itself.

But then, what to call it? ‘Die a dry death’ is a quote from Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest’.

Now would I give a thousand furlongs of sea for an acre of barren ground, long heath, brown furze, any thing. The wills above be done! but I would fain die a dry death.

It seemed so very appropriate. You can imagine people on a doomed ship praying for a piece of land – any land. They don’t want to drown, they want to die a dry death. And as it happens, for many of them that’s exactly what occurred. I suppose we’ll never really know for certain who died how on this fateful voyage. Pelsaert himself estimated seventy people died when the ship was wrecked. Some were flung into the sea, others flung themselves in their attempts to escape the stricken ship. In any event, round about one hundred and eighty souls made it to Batavia’s Graveyard, the scrap of land now called Beacon Island. Of those, Pelsaert calculated that Cornelisz and his henchmen murdered near on one hundred people.

So the title is apropos and also sadly ironic.

cover of To Die a Dry Death

To Die a Dry Death? I switched publishers and produced the e-book under a slightly different name. It’s the same novel, but it has an addendum explaining the background to the book and the reasoning behind my slightly different interpretation of some of the evidence.

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