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ANNAPOLIS by William Martin

ANNAPOLIS

By William Martin

Pub Date: June 14th, 1996
ISBN: 0-446-51511-6

 A big beach book is on the way with this sturdy, generation- spanning chronicle from Martin (Cape Cod, 1991, etc.), now telling the story of an archetypally American family bound to the US Navy and to its Maryland roots from colonial times to the present. From the start, the Staffords (who arrived in the New World in 1634) went down to the sea in ships and did business in great waters. Settling in both the Patuxent River Valley (to raise tobacco) and Annapolis, the tidewater family prospered. After the US gained independence, scions of the clan were blooded in the nascent Navy's campaign against Barbary Coast pirates and in action against British ships of the line during the War of 1812. Midshipman Jason Stafford survived these close encounters (as well as an idyllic stopover in the South Pacific's Marquesas Islands) to achieve high rank. During the Civil War, his sons served on Union gunboats and on Confederate raiders. Their largely male descendants went on to play supporting roles in the Spanish-American War, the founding of the Naval Academy, the Battle of Midway, and other turning-point events that marked America's emergence as a dominant naval power. Staffords also fought valiantly in the riverine jungles of Vietnam and, flying carrier-based attack planes, in the unfriendly skies over the Persian Gulf. Martin's long story is artfully kept within comprehensible limits by the latter-day activities of a maverick Stafford, liberal journalist Jack, who's writing a painfully detailed account of his family's odyssey, and by a distant cousin assigned to produce a PBS-TV special on the family. Their colloquies and inquiries provide continuity and perspective in a narrative whose serial protagonists are steeped in the tradition of doing violence with honor. A lively, engrossing saga that brings epic chapters of US history out of the archival hold into the bracing air of the quarterdeck. (Literary Guild and Doubleday alternate selection; author tour)