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Transatlantic Crossing on QM2 Inspires Novel Set On Board The Flagship

September 13, 2012


Posted in: Guest Stories, Special Guests

During a Transatlantic Crossing between Southampton and New York you’ll often see guests reading in the Library, the Commodore Club or out on the open decks. And they’re not just reading paperbacks any more, Kindles and iPads have become increasingly popular, they’re a great companion for any techno-savvy cruiser.

One of our regular guests Gary Nicholson so enjoyed his trip on board Queen Mary 2, he was inspired to write his first novel, The Transatlantic Lady Carisbrooke. Much of the book is set on board and it is now available to buy an an ebook on Amazon

We caught up with Gary to find out a bit more about the book and where his inspiration came from…

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I’m Gary Nicholson. I’m 52 and I was born inSouth London. In 1972, my parents moved toWinchester, and I have been here ever since, apart from 4 years at college inCanterbury, and 5 years’ working inItaly. I’ve spent most of my career in publishing, mainly in Sales and Distribution, but now I work for a training organisation, teaching European business people and politicians (including some quite famous ones!) how to present and negotiate in English. I live in Winchester with my wife, Karen, and our 8 year old house rabbit, Budleigh

How many times have you sailed with Cunard?

Karen and I went on our first Cunard voyage in 2007, crossing from New York to Southampton on QM2 after a few days in the Big Apple. We enjoyed it so much, that in 2008, we made the round trip, leaving from Southampton, spending 8 hectic hours inNew York– it’s amazing how much you can do when you plan and book ahead – and returning toSouthampton. In June 2012, we came back for a Westbound crossing, and returned to London via JFK. We’ve been on other cruises and crossings, but for all sorts of reasons, the QM2 remains our favourite.


When did you decide to write the book?

On our return journey on board QM2 in July 2008, Karen and I found ourselves sipping cocktails and watching pilot whales in the Commodore Club, late one afternoon. We can’t remember how it happened, but we found ourselves talking about two imaginary characters – Lady Carisbrooke, an eccentric late middle-aged woman with a fondness for a drink or two, and her rather plain, enthusiastic and naïve paid companion, Clarice. When we got back to the UK, I wrote a couple of chapters just to amuse myself. I added a few more in the next year, but it was only in early 2010 that I realised a full-length novel could be the eventual outcome

How long did it take?

I wrote the first chapter of The Transatlantic Lady Carisbrooke in August 2008 and finished the first draft in June 2010. There then followed around 16 revised versions, with the now published title (May 2012) being the 17th. So almost four years in total, although I’d say that most of the first draft was written in only 3 months, between March and June 2010.

Where is it available to purchase?

It can be purchased from Amazon. It’s only available as an eBook through Amazon’s Kindle programme. That doesn’t mean you need a Kindle to read it, however. You can download the Kindle reader (free) for PC, iPad, iPod etc and then read it on your device of choice. If it does well, I’ll produce a print version.

What is the book about?

In a nutshell, I wanted to make people laugh, conjure up the unique Cunard atmosphere, and write a crime novel. It’s mainly set on board QM2 during a crossing from the UK to New York. Lady Carisbrooke and her household make the trip in order to attend a wedding. This has come about after Clarice accidentally falls from the 3rd storey of Lady Carisbrooke’s London residence onto a passing car, and while in hospital, makes friends with the bride-to-be (who happened to be in the car).. Lady Carisbrooke simply wishes to avoid spending another tedious weekend with her detested oldest friend, Baroness Fremsley, whom she has recently shot twice – also accidentally. Then, darker forces emerge. It’s really an Ealing Comedy about revenge and cocktails.


Are any characters based on real people?

Ooh, the tricky questions last, eh?! Let’s just say that if you were a crew member or passenger on board QM2 in July 2008, then you may recognise aspects of some of the characters (exaggerated for comic effect of course). One of the protagonists, Charlie Walsh, is an amalgam of all that’s bad about TV chefs, celebrity gardeners, interior designers and reality TV stars. And as for Lady Carisbrooke – well she changed a lot over the course of writing the book. She’s now a combination of Judi Dench as M in James Bond and Judge Judy!


Which locations of QM2 are featured in the book?

Well, around 40 or so of the 58 chapters are set on board, so we get to see The Royal Court Theatre, The Chart Room, The Regatta Bar, The Queens Room and many more. Even the kennels and the medical centre are featured. Naturally, The Commodore Club has a prominent place.  The only thing that is invented is a rather curious restaurant, which gave me a chance to imagine some rather radical dishes, none of which, I promise you, really feature on board the QM2.

Thank you Gary for giving us an insight into your novel, it certainly sounds like an entertaining read! To find out more about The Transatlantic Lady Carisbrooke take a look at Gary’s website here: http://www.ladycarisbrooke.com/ and his interview with Entertainment Director Keith Maynard on Queen Mary 2’s morning TV show:

The video cannot be shown at the moment. Please try again later.

  1. Joseph Goodrich says:

    Congratulations to Mr. Nicholson. I look forward to reading his book.

    There’s something about a Cunard crossing that prompts literary activity. In the spring of 2007 I received a travel grant to do research for a play set on an ocean liner, and I sailed on the QM2 in that fall. I started the play when I returned home. I sailed again in the fall of 2008—and finished the final version of the play while heading from Southampton to NYC. Sailing made all the difference to the play; there are things in it that I never could have thought of unless I’d actually had the experience of being on the waves.

    All best to Mr. Nicholson and to the wonderful Cunard folks.

  2. The book as outlined sounds quite bizzare as a story! Perhaps the influence of the delicious QM2 cocktails added to the extraordinary creative writing.

    I would enjoy reading the sections in which the settings are described and where the “action” takes place. The places named are all my favourites… especially The Chart Room & The Commodore Club!

    Looking forward to reading the book when available on NOOK or in paperback.


    Stephen Normand

  3. Kenneth Eden says:

    Cunard ships serving as vehicles for novels is certainly nothing new, Cunard ships have been a valuable setting for many good reads.

    It is wonderful to know that the Queen Mary 2 has become a focal point and hopefully many will read about her and enjoy an “armchair cruise”, or book or relive a sailing.

    I am looking forward to Mr. Nicholsons book!

    ps The cover is splenid

  4. Lois Herr says:

    On the last link of a world cruise in 2009 I proofread the final copy of my book – Dear Coach: Letters Home From WW II. In fact, the Cunard staff came through in excellent fashion by making sure that the final proof found me when I boarded the Queen Mary 2 for the final leg of the trip. I found the Queen Victoria (on which I traveled from New York west to Southampton and the Queen Mary 2 to be fine environments for literary work and am looking forward to future trips and future books.

  5. Rob Holloway says:

    This has to be one of the more unique updates on this blog I have read in a long time.
    Well done and to Mr Nicholson , all the best in your writing futures. Perhaps we will see your house rabbit featured in your next book on a Cunard crossing.

    Cheers :)

  6. Hmm,

    Funny you should mention that, Rob…..

    (Taps side of nose, knowingly)

    Many thanks to everybody for all your kind words.

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