American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

ADAMS, BERTRAM MARTIN [BILL ADAMS] (1879- ). Bill Adams was born in England to American parents. He left college to go to sea at age seventeen in a career that lasted four or five years and logged seven passages around Cape Horn.* Before his sailing career was ended by ill health, he had attained the rank of mate. After retiring from the sea, he lived in the San Francisco area, where he became involved in the socialist movement and found inspiration in Jack London’s* writings of the sea.

In 1921 Adams began a modest literary career of his own, culminating in 1937 with an autobiography, Ships and Women. His early sea stories were collected in Fenceless Meadows (1923), and he published a volume of sea verse, Wind in the Topsails, in 1923. In the late 1920s and early 1930s he published several good sea stories. Although they appeared in such excellent magazines as The Atlantic Monthly and Esquire, and there were enough for another volume of stories, he never collected them. At least three of his stories appeared in O. Henry collections of best short stories of the year: “Jukes” (1927), “Home Is the Sailor” (1928), and “The Lubber” (1933). “The Foreigner” appeared in Best Short Stories of America (1932). As expressions of his socialist values, his stories often celebrate the lives of working sailors, and they are notable for their frequent inclusion of sea songs.

Bert Bender