JENNINGS, JOHN EDWARD, JR. - American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

American Literature of the Sea and Great Lakes

JENNINGS, JOHN EDWARD, JR. (1906-1973). John Edward Jennings Jr., historical novelist, was born in Brooklyn, New York. The son of a surgeon, he began his seafaring in 1925 as a foremast hand aboard a tramp steamer traveling in the eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Jennings attended the Colorado College of Mines and New York University and studied engineering and literature at Columbia University. He was a graduate of the Washington Diplomatic and Consular Institute. During World War II, Jennings was a lieutenant commander in the navy and headed the U.S. Naval Aviation History Unit.

Jennings’ prolific writing career began with short stories, magazine serials, and travel narratives. Known for his extensive knowledge of the sea, his novels are grand in scale and noted for accurate historical detail, adventure, exploration, heroism, and romance. Thirteen of his books were considered best-sellers, including his first, Next to Valor (1939), which was translated into seven languages and was compared in style to the works of James Fenimore Cooper* and Kenneth Roberts.* The Salem Frigate (1946), his most popular novel, was published in a dozen languages and chronicles the lives of two men, a ship’s surgeon and a carpenter, the women they love, and life and adventure aboard the U.S. frigate Essex.

Among Jennings’ other historical sea adventures are Coasts of Folly (1942), a tale of freedom and liberation in South America written under the pseudonym “Joel Williams”; The Sea Eagles (1950), a story of love, daring, and privateering during the first years of the U.S. Navy; Banners against the Wind (1954), a biographical novel about Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe; Chronicle of the Calypso, Clipper (1955), a race on board a clipper ship bound for California; The Raider (1963), exploits of a German naval vessel during World War I. Under the pseudonym “Bates Baldwin,” Jennings published A Tide of Empire (1952), about a young Irishman voyaging to California in the days of the gold rush.

Among Jennings’ notable nonfiction are Clipper Ship Days (1952), written for juveniles and detailing the part played by clipper ships in the American merchant marine, and Tattered Ensign (1966), the story of the U.S. frigate Constitution and the early U.S. Navy. Jennings died on 4 December 1973.

Debra Glabeau