Those persons with an interest in ships, and more specifically ocean liners will no doubt be aware of the author John Maxtone-Graham. They may also have read that he sadly passed away in Manhattan in July of this year aged 85.
He was considered by many to be the doyen of those writers who have specialised in matters maritime.The New Jersey-born former Broadway stage manager and thereafter naval historian’s books and shipboard lectures evoked the lost glamour of trans-Atlantic ocean liners. He wrote about 30 books, including possibly his best known work Liners to the Sun. Other well received publications include Queen Mary 2: The Greatest Ocean Liner of Our Time, the SS United States: Red, White and Blue Riband, Forever. Also on many bookshelves will be his definitive works on the Normandie and a later publication on the France/Norway.
His favourite ship was the Normandie, and he confessed to “a hypnotic fascination” with the vessel, which he described as “the quintessential ocean liner: beautiful, fast, huge interiors (the like of which have never been duplicated), stunning décor.”
I first met John Maxtone Graham in the late 1980’s. He and his wife Mary were on the Vistafjord which called at the Isle of Man as part of the vessel’s cruise itinerary. His reputation preceded him and having acquired a copy of his Liners to the Sun a few months earlier, I was keen to make contact with him when he visited the island that I had recently moved to myself, to take up a tourism post.
We spent an enjoyable few hours touring the island followed by afternoon tea. They were a charming couple and John was an articulate communicator with no end of amusing recollections of his time spent working on Broadway. He also expanded on his new found ‘career’ linked to ocean liners of the past and the current new emerging cruise industry which, in the 80’s was beginning to make its presence felt. A few years later, during a visit to New York, I was able to meet him and his wife at their ‘brownstone’ on Manhattan’s West Side. Their elegant home was filled with maritime mementos, a number of which were, not unsurprisingly, from the Normandie.
During his onboard lectures, Mr Maxtone-Graham entertained his audiences with anecdotal gems related to transatlantic ocean liner travel – recalling that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor routinely traveled with as many as 135 pieces of luggage, and that news photographers would charter tugboats to ambush arriving celebrities.....along with a host of other relevant ocean liner and cruise industry related tales.
Survived by his wife Mary and four children, he will be sorely missed by ship aficionados and never forgotten. Our deepest condolences to his family.