The Life and Mystery of First Officer William Murdoch
Murdoch and "historical fiction"
This is not the first time Murdoch has been the subject of a historical fiction novel. In 2011, great granddaughter of Second officer Lightoller, Lady Louise Patten, published a book entitled "Good As Gold," which alleges a 'family's Titanic secret' -that confusion over rudder orders had caused officer Murodch to' steer into an iceberg instead of away.' She expained during the publicity of the book that she heard this via her grandmother, Sylvia (Lightoller's wife) as Lightoller himself was warned by his employers to keep quiet and became implicit in a large cover-up which Lightoller himself publicly labeled in his autobiography a "whitewash".
While there is no particular reason to doubt Lady Patten's sincerity and even the accuracy of her account (despite the fact that she must have been aged ten at the time) the essential truth is this: while her story may well be accurate, that does not mean her grandmother did not simply get the story wrong. Neither of these women worked on ships and it is quite likely that Lightoller, in his retelling of what happened, or Sylvia later in her version, explained that 'hard-a-starboard' actually in those days meant hard-to-port. This explanation, as in a game of Chinese whispers, could have become something more than originally intended and in its repetition transformed from clarification into an what seems a most unlikely conspiracy.
On the Edge of Daylight Giselle Beaumont's historical romance novel
"On the Edge of Daylight" is a historical romance novel by debut author Giselle Beaumont, about an American female officer named Esther Bailey who falls in love with her mentor, First officer William Murdoch. Murdoch initially blames her arrival for his demotion. But later they fall in love and there are two very explicit sex scenes. It is described in its blurb as "blending fact with fiction, On the Edge of Daylight is a heart-wrenching historical romance that tells a different story of the RMS Titanic through the eyes of the crew, and shows the duty, loyalty, and sacrifice of two officers who were never supposed to fall for each other."
The author, Giselle Beaumont, likely a pseudonym, is described on Amazon as "an information systems graduate who works in Silicon Valley's tech industry and loves writing and drawing in her spare time. On the Edge of Daylight, which is her first published novel, features her own cover artwork and character illustrations. A Monterey Bay Area native, Giselle lives in San Francisco with her two cats, Shadow and Bailey."
From Fan Fiction to Published book
Her book began as fan fiction on fanfiction.net and Archive of Our Own by "whereismynovember" where it was first published on March 4th, 2017 and with encouragement from positive reviews was completed July 4ths 2017. As of writing there are 225 almost exclusively positive reviews using descriptions such as "masterpiece," "beautifully written" and general reports of tears and crying.
By the author's own admission the novel owes more to the James Cameron film that it does to history. In her historical note on Tumbler (https://edgeofdaylight.tumblr.com/historical) she mentions that it "began as another re-watch of the 1997 film during my last semester of college (which) turned into something much bigger."
The book pulls much from this website (williammurdoch.net). In response to a reviewer by the name of Sam Fraser on fanfiction.net who recommends this website the author responds, in the chapter notes:
"Thank you, that website is extremely helpful! So many fascinating details about Murdoch's life and his actions aboard the Titanic and the mystery behind his death. I'd had no idea one of his first voyages was to San Francisco too, my hometown (and Esther's!), which is very interesting to hear and will make for a great plot point later on. I will definitely be using the site for research as I continue to write. Thanks again!..."
"That's unbelievable that Lord and Murdoch met years beforehand. Such a bizarre coincidence! I'll be diving deeper into Murdoch's past travels in the next chapter, I was reading that site you mentioned earlier and it's crazy to think how many countries Murdoch visited around the world...
"Sam Fraser — I've been poring over that website since I started writing about the sinking! Tons of great info. And I will definitely be including Charles Stengel!"
So it is not surprising that there is a number of references in the book to details found only on this website.
In April 2018 the book was published with both physical and online editions, on outlets such as Amazon, Google, Barnes and Noble. It is intelligently written and in a mostly engaging style and the reviews have been almost exclusively positive.
The most glaring issue, excluding the extra officer/female officer addition, is the love story itself. Of course, Murdoch was happily married to Ada at the time of Titanic's voyage. But to make the adjustment, Giselle describes Murdoch as divorced. The book explains by having Murdoch say the following:
"We divorced a year ago... She wanted to start a family. Settle down in the country. But I was always at sea, sometimes for months at a time you understand. I kept correspondence through letters as often as I could, but it was never enough. She wanted me to quit my job. Leave seafaring behind. I refused... In the end, we simply couldn’t move past our differences. We divorced last year, and I’ve not regretted the decision since.. She was a right beauty, and I do miss her at times... if I truly loved her, I’d have chosen her over my career. Without a doubt.”
In the author's notes on fanfiction.net the author references that "Murdoch didn't divorce his wife butttt we had to have him single to fit the narrrative. Ah well haha."
Love Scenes, Language and Ending (Warning Spoilers!)
It is somewhat pleasing to see that this website has helped an author write a book, despite its ficitonal nature. However, what spoils the book, other than the divorce fiction, are two very explicit sex scenes, some bad language and an ending in which Esther is accidentally shot by either Murdoch or Wilde (it does not seem to indicate which) when they are brandishing guns during the loading of collapisble A. Ultimately this leads to the love struck couple dying in the water, although they are later reunited in the afterlife. If this sounds familiar then yes, it is clearly very close to the 1997 movie version of events, as is most of the 'history' in the book.
And it is here where I believe that the author has missed a potential plot point that would have kept it within the bounds of history without diverting into the unnecessary. There is actually a documented moment in history in which a woman publicly expressed what was clearly more than simple admiration for William Murdoch, a married man. On day two of the United States Inquiry, a woman, possibly by the name Miss Harding, blew open the doors to the Myrtle Room and "a woman judged near hysterics barged in, weeping, and asking those nearest if they had any information about Officer Murdoch. Apparently no one had the nerve to tell her that the first officer had perished. (The Titanic, Wade, more information here). The identity of the woman has remained a mystery. But there is a possible connection to a letter Murdoch wrote in 1907, several months prior to his marriage to Ada, to someone named "Miss Nancy". There is no need to invent a female officer, or 'kill off' Ada in a divorce; Murdoch clearly had female admirers already (for more information check here)
The author is also quite an accomplished artist, drawing the artwork for the front cover as well as a series of images depicting Esther and Murdoch in various stages of romance (including kissing), as well as the Titanic's officers and the end 'afterlife' sequence.
A drawing by the author, of Murdoch and Bailey embracing. (Click image to enlarge)
A drawing by the author of the officers, most likely based on the actors playing the officers in the 1997 film. (Click image to enlarge)
Quite clearly she has based her depiction of her Murdoch on actor Ewan Stewart's portrayal of First Officer Murdoch in James Cameron's 1997 film version of the disaster, as she has the other officers. This is reinforced by a fan trailer she has created on her website, which depicts Ewan Stewart in the role of first officer, with various excerpts from the 1997 film, and actress Marion Cotillard playing the role of Esther.
Giselle Beaumont's fanfiction trailer:
The reviews have been almost exclusively positive, such as this from Publishers Weekly:
"In this beautifully crafted historical romance about the journey and eventual sinking of the Titanic, debut author Beaumont weaves facts with fiction to create a transcendent tale. The author modestly points out that the novel is not a 100% accurate portrayal of the tragedy, but it’s close enough that readers will feel as if they have experienced the disaster personally.
Amazon reviews almost all very positive, one of the few negative reviews (2 stars out of 5) makes an interesting observation. "Mrs Giggles" states: "Ironically, I feel that if the author had allowed this Murdoch to be a married man, and the whole love story is basically one borne out of desperate, adulterous passion or other nihilistic elements, then this story would have worked."
A drawing by the author, showing Murdoch and Bailey meeting in the afterlife, clearly based on the 1997 film. (Click image to enlarge)
For more information on the book please see the following links: