R. L. Crossland is a recently retired naval captain with 35 years service, active and reserve, in the SEALs ("one cold war and two hot ones.") He has extensive experience in Far East and the Pacific in general. Widely published on maritime unconventional warfare and naval history, he holds a merchant marine captainís license and is a practicing trial lawyer. He resides in New England.
From Spring/Summer 2007 issue of “Pull Together” newsletter of the Naval Historical Foundation:
JADE ROOSTER – The Next “Pug” Henry?
Editor’s Note: Fiction can be an effective means to introduce audiences to naval history. HNF members William White and Herman Wouk have published well-researched fictional works that have placed readers on American warships during the early days of the U. S. Navy and World War II respectively. Recently retired Capt. Roger L. Crossland has taken his turn in this genre and has published an early 0th Century manuscript set in the Far East.
PT: What was it about this period and place that inspired you to set your story in it?
RLC: Jade Rooster is set in 1913, at the height of the Naval Renaissance period. Navies were on everyone’s mind. Rarely was the United States Navy the focus of so much attention. Every young boy had a sailor suit. Far East school uniforms were patterned after naval uniforms, the symbol of progress. Warships were the greatest mobile convergence of technology of the time and steel magic carpets to exotic places. Recruiting posters of the period oozed adventure and displayed sailors with parrots perched on their shoulders.
PT: What is your book “Jade Rooster,” all about?
RLC: Dave, at its essence it is a mystery set at the intersection of several competing cultures: the West versus the Far East, sail versus steam, navy regulars versus naval militia, and the crew of a sparkling white ship of the line versus the crew of a gritty black pariah collier.
The central story describes a Quartermaster Third Class – with his own demons – and a civilian shipping agent as they search for a merchant barque lost under mysterious circumstances.
The United States Navy is just coming to grips with its new role as a global player with first rate manufacturing technology. The reader knows what is to come as the United States Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy eye each other uneasily. Each country is beset with new problems and responsibilities, as Japan administers Korea and the United States administers the Philippines.
PT: Although this is historical fiction, we assume much research went into this to give it authenticity?
I spent long hours at the Naval Historical Center at the Gun Factory delving into logs, naval pubs, and letters, but I also spent a good deal of time reviewing the social history of the period. I realized that Jim Crow policies did not grip the Navy until the ‘20’s, but that minstrel shows were the equivalent of our amateur nights, and coal left its smudgy mark on the Navy.
Mining history was the fun part for me. I graduated from Columbia College with a degree in history and served a reserve tour as a naval historian. I have written numerous articles for Naval Institute Proceedings on historical subjects. I always found it difficult to leave the NHC’s photo collection.
It was a spectacular period in which we first begin seeing plentiful documents from the deckplate sailor.
PT: Do you feel you benefited from experience as a retired SEAL officer in the writing of this book?
RLC: With 35 years service, active and reserve, it was easy for me to project some of the tensions that would have existed at the time. Jade Rooster depicts “hard hat” diving sequences, a pulling-boat cutter race, and awkward situations involving foreign nationals, each of which could easily occur today.
PT: How do historical fiction works like yours and Patrick O’Brian generate interest in naval history?
RLC: Like it or not, naval historical fiction stokes the fires of naval history scholarship. Forester, O’Brian and others captured the public’s imagination and whetted its appetite for the real thing. It is the naval fiction readers who pack the museum displays and who purchase a significant number of nonfiction books. I’d like to think that naval historical fiction such as Jade Rooster serves a great booster for historical scholarship.
PT: How would one purchase this book!
RLC: Jade Rooster is distributed by the Ingram Book Group to Barnes & Noble and other chains, and available online at Amazon.com. Or drop by my website http://dreadnaughts-bluejackets.com