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First pages

Author’s Note

My intention when beginning the research for this book was to try and find a story within the story, something that hadn’t yet been revealed in the media swarm that followed after the Vanderbilt was located and brought back to shore. However, as I began to interview my subjects, it became clear to me that there was no cohesive telling of what happened on the doomed ship. In fact, every narrative seemed to skew one way or another, enough so that my plans changed in the middle of my research.

Instead of that original plan, I decided that the best way to present this story would be in narrative form, allowing differing opinions to share stories from varying viewpoints. My desire was to offer a new tale, one that would allow the reader to place blame wherever they feel it should lay, rather than on the scapegoats that were found after The Vanderbilt was finally recovered.

For this reason, I have neglected to mention the current status of my interview subjects, and I have purposefully edited out any mention of their whereabouts and legal status, with one obvious exception. The reason for this was twofold. First, I wanted these stories to be told without a presumption of guilt or untruth, and as much as it pains me to say it, as a society we tend to see a man in jail as universally guilty, and one who is not as far less so. I am not trying to pass or remove judgment on any of these subjects by doing so, my focus was solely to allow the reader a fresh look at these events with the ability to make up their own mind about what went so terribly wrong on that ship.

The second reason for obscuring the ultimate legal fate of my interview subjects is that though such facts are important, they cloud the reality of what happened on The Vanderbilt. In fact, it is my firm belief that nearly anyone on the ship could have been prosecuted and convicted for their behavior while onboard, again, with one notable exception. That is not to say that I believe that everyone on the ship is guilty, or that many of the people that should have been punished were allowed to go free. Instead, as with all things concerning this story, having an open mind is key, and I highly doubt that anyone will ever be sure of exactly what happened when it all went wrong.

So with that, I invite you into one of the most well-publicized nautical events of our times, warts and all. There are differing versions of events in this work, but it is my sincere hope that every reader of this manuscript sees things to the best of their abilities, rather than letting preconceived notions influence their opinion any further than it has already been bent by the mainstream media.

Trent Langford

Bruce Kowalski, Second Mate to the Captain, Neptune Group.

I think what you need to understand is that for as long as I can remember, my dream has been to captain a ship. I’ve been entranced by ships, sunken ships and basically anything that can float or used to float since I was a little kid, ever since I first heard of the Mary Celeste. From there it was just on, and I was reading about sunken Spanish Galleons, Oak Island, the Lusitania, and everything I could find in between. It didn’t take long for my hobby to grow into an obsession, and I was in one of the best places in the world to foster such an interest. Not quite Tortuga, but lots of stuff to read about and explore.

It was really the perfect life for a kid that grew up on Nantucket, there wasn’t a day that went by that I wasn’t at least thinking about the water, so it was a natural transition to working in it, especially once I realized that not all of the world’s oceans are cold ninety percent of the time. Before I knew it I was in college, taking any class I could that applied to my invented major, and spending summers wreck diving and searching for ships, basically anywhere that would let me tag along as long as I promised to do bitch work.

Everyone I knew told me I was crazy, that there was no money in a job like that. My mom even cried at my graduation, I was still wearing the robe and the mortarboard, and that was the first thing I saw when I went to find my family. That moment ruined me, it even made it hard to enjoy the fact that I was right and everyone else was wrong. See, what no one told my parents or friends is that if you’re one of the only people in the world that wants a certain job, there’s a good chance that there’s someone out there that will pay you for it. I was lucky enough to hook up with Curt Rogers and his wife Theresa, of the North American Oceanographic institute, a pretty fancy name for a company that was founded on pirate gold and spends the lion’s share of what it makes on finding more treasure. That was what I was doing as well, of course, but I couldn’t have cared less about a chest full of doubloons. I was in it for the discovery.

That’s the best part of finding some old wreck, you know? It’s like a time capsule, but instead of being filled with all of the stuff people wanted you to see, a shipwreck is filled with all of the stuff that just was, it’s more honest. Time and conditions will steal a lot of it, but what’s left? That’s what keeps me excited to get into work every morning. Like I said, you can hold the treasure, but an old cannon or a waterlogged chest of books? That’s just my jam.

Anyways, when I first heard that the Neptune Group was building a new line of ships, I was pretty excited, despite the fact that I knew that my work was highly unlikely to ever intersect with any of their new boats. See, the thing is that cruises are incredibly safe. I know, we’re always hearing stuff on the news about backed up bathrooms or norovirus or a million other nasty things, but we never hear about all the times a cruise ship makes it back to port sans problems.

It’s not a good story, but the fact is that we’re talking about a forty billion dollar industry that employs upwards of four hundred thousand people. When you figure in that there’s roughly twenty million people that go on a cruise annually, the bigger picture becomes clear. Sometimes it rains at Disney World, even if you spent ten grand to get the family down to see the Mouse, and sometimes there’s tainted food on a big boat. Sucks for the people that bought the ticket, and it makes for a good story on a slow news week, but the truth is that the vast majority of people that choose to vacation on the water have a great time.

So yeah, when Neptune announced that their new line of cruise ships would be the biggest that the world had ever seen, I was intrigued. I mean, I knew they were going to be safe as hell, and more technologically sound than anything on the water save for Uncle Sam’s new toys, but I had this evil little hope that God might sink one anyways to teach man a lesson about folly. That sounds terrible, I know, but it would have been such a cool place to go exploring, and with the way modern safety measures are setup nowadays you could lose a ship like that and not a single person. Of course, any hope that I had for a schadenfreude based shipwreck was dashed once I saw the first ship on the new line, The Paladin.

To say I was taken aback would have been a massive understatement, but I wasn’t alone, for a few weeks before her first voyage The Paladin was one of those news stories that seemed like it was never going to go away. Not that it was surprising, the biggest cruise ship before The Paladin housed about 5,000 guests and was about 1,200 feet long. The Paladin tripled the passengers, and had a crew of almost 5,000 to keep up with all those hungry, needy, and thirsty guests. Not to mention the fact that she was over 3,000 feet long with a gross tonnage of about 500,000, this was the sort of boat that turned heads.

So I went all in. Instead of spending my free time bumming around beaches and bars and diving the occasional wreck, I started to get every accreditation I could when it came to running a boat. I knew what I was doing, even though I hadn’t told my friends, family or anyone else. I knew what they’d say, you see. I knew that they’d tell me I was too old, that I’d squandered that opportunity. That I’d crash and burn. I also knew that if I listened to them, even a little, that my dream would die in my heart like a caged animal. So I kept my studies to myself, stayed aloof to both friends and family, and my nose was on that grindstone. My mom told me later that she thought I was getting addicted to drugs, but didn’t want to mention it. We’ve, uh, never had the healthiest relationship.

So anyways, Curt, Theresa, and I had just finished up some work on the scattered remnants of a galleon in the Gulf of Mexico, and to say that it had been profitable was a pretty major understatement. Most of the money went to the Institute, but for once I had more than a couple of nickels to rub together. It was time, once again, to chase my heart and ignore my fears. It was time to step into that no man’s land where the greatest dreams and failures collide, the unknown. So I gave them the bad news, did a short hitch in the Navy for my resume, and applied at Neptune. Just as it had been my entire life, my fate was to be decided by the tides.

It worked, isn’t that just the craziest thing? I was hired after a couple of the easiest interviews I’ve ever done in my life, and before I knew it I was on the bridge of one of the largest sailing vessels in the world. My responsibilities were simple: shut up, listen, and make sure no one needs a coffee. Luckily I was good at all of those things, but even more luckily, I met Captain Joel McAvoy. We hit it off immediately, we both had the same fascination with ships, and we spent hours away from the bridge debating and discussing the merits and failings of the world’s most magnificent ocean going vessels. There wasn’t a thought in my mind that I could or even should exploit such a friendship, and I never needed to. From then on, no matter where my career took me as I rose through the ranks, I served with the captain.

Ironically, that friendship and fascination with the water and the things built to traverse it was to lead us to one of the worst maritime disasters of all time. It would test the bonds of our friendship and humanity, and though many have felt the right, even the need to judge the decisions we made since then, I stand by my actions aboard The Vanderbilt. Did we do everything perfectly? Of course not. No one could have. But did we save lives? Did we do our best under duress? I’ll let history judge me, but I can go to my grave knowing the truth.

Beverly Powell, Senior Ship’s Engineer, Neptune Group.

The main reason I wanted to be an engineer was to design stuff that other people said was impossible. NASA was my first goal, but even with as well as I was doing in school, I knew that was a fool’s errand. Not only was the funding down, but I knew that I wasn’t quite what they wanted. After that dream was dead, I decided that this girl was going to chase the money. I considered roller coaster design for a while, and even interned in Switzerland, but the first time I saw a cruise ship in person it was just over. It was impossible to compare, you know? A tall track that lets people have fun for two minutes, or a giant floating hotel? Of course I went for the boat.

So my first cruise was sophomore year of college, along with a bunch of upper classmen from my sorority. The plan was pretty basic, the trip was all inclusive, so we were going on a booze cruise. That all changed when we boarded. The rest of the girls had their adventures with bottles and boys, but I was too busy walking around with a sketch pad asking questions. I just wanted to understand everything, and I couldn’t wait until I got home for answers. Honestly, if you worked on that ship and you’re reading this, I’m sorry. I don’t think there was a person on that ship that I didn’t grill for answers, and I even got the chance to ask Captain McAvoy a few questions one night when he was out walking the deck. He was a good man, and we hit it off immediately, he even gave me a card with a number on it. That’s how I wound up interning at Neptune that summer, and from there everything sort of fell into place. Really a shame what happened to him.

Right, sorry, back on track. So when I started at Neptune the goal was to keep my eyes open and mouth shut, but after a week of that, my boss, Larry Elders, asked me what the point was of being there if I wasn’t going to talk. So the next meeting we have, we’re discussing the build on a galley for a new project, and I started tearing into the design. It was all wrong and I knew it, but by the time I was done talking, so did everyone else. What I hadn’t realized was that the Neptune Group CEO, Cheryl Hirsch, was sitting across the table from me. That could have been the end of it, but Cheryl likes to surround herself with brash people, and that might have been the brashest day of my entire life. Pardon the pun, but it was full sails ahead after that.

By the time we started working on the initial steps towards putting together blueprints on The Paladin, It was fifteen years later and I was the newly crowned head of engineering. Neptune was getting its butt kicked in those days, and Cheryl and the rest of the board of directors decided to go all in. I had no idea at the time just how bad things were, but I heard rumors, and that just made me work harder. I’ve never been scared of failure, but this was a whole new ballgame, and rather than letting the pressure get the best of my team and I, we flourished.

There was a weird freedom in knowing that if you don’t succeed on a grand scale that the company was screwed. For example, on a normal ship a mistake might set a project back weeks or even months, but when we were working on The Paladin we knew that a big enough mistake might be the last straw for Neptune. We were laughing, literally, when the first bloggers that caught wind of the project were calling it the second Titanic, joking about how it was going to be a P.R. nightmare. We knew the truth. There was no risk of bad P.R., if The Paladin couldn’t get butts in the seats we were done.

Of course, knowing that Neptune was done if we didn’t succeed was a pretty minor detail compared to actually putting together concepts for The Paladin. What you need to consider when you’re designing a cruise ship is that you’re basically floating a massive hotel into a giant death trap. Not enough food? Dead guests. Bad or spoiled food? Dead guests. No lifesaving gear? Dead guests. Pretty much anything that can go wrong, will, you know? When I first started at Neptune we had a rash of jumpers, three in one year I think, and the bad press we got from it was unbelievable, but what are you going to do, but a big fucking birdcage over the boat? Trust me, everything we do is so scrutinized, and it seems like no matter what we do for our guests, we’re either unsafe or acting like a bunch of cops.

Somehow we got that boat in the water. It was my proudest professional achievement, and I even took a couple of weeks off and went on the maiden voyage as a guest, I trusted her that much. Keep in mind that ship wasn’t just redesigned from the ground up, we’d invented things for The Paladin that no one had ever seen before. Over twenty five completely eco-friendly galleys, lifesaving systems that still rank among the best in the world, a bridge that put any other ship’s to shame, and cabins that were on par with the nicest hotel rooms in the world. Not only was The Paladin green, she was incredibly sea worthy, had the most advanced lifesaving systems on the planet, and best of all, was designed for the ultimate in opulence, regardless of how many guests she might carry.

Those first few weeks after the project went public were some of the best in my life. Neptune went from dead in the water to very much alive, and we sold out all of the berths for The Paladin’s maiden voyage in less than 24 hours after announcing they were available. We were a laughingstock, but no one was laughing now, not when this one ship could hold over three times what the next biggest boat could carry, not to mention the fact that our work made that next boat look like a floating hovel by comparison. We’d done it, and when the last hope for the rest of the assholes was that our ship would never work proved false, it was off to the races. By the time I was back in my office, less than three weeks after launch, we were already hard at work on two more.

Now, this is the part where I get the most contentious. There were rumors swirling when we got to work on those next ships, The Chariot and Her Majesty, that The Paladin was little more than a proof of concept, and that the next two boats were visually similar but nowhere near the quality. That old lie got dragged out again after the disaster on The Vanderbilt, but I’m here firsthand to tell you that not only was the quality not diminished, we were constantly improving those ships whenever we started work on a new one. The simple truth is that the next two boats were a significant leap forward from The Paladin, and the same could be said when we launched The Jewel and The Vanderbilt. We weren’t resting on our laurels, and we weren’t cutting corners either, we were actively working to make each ship better than the last, and in my opinion we succeeded.

To tell the truth, I wasn’t even nervous when Dan Sessions took ill, and I got the call to go aboard as a member of the captain’s bridge crew. I’d never done anything like that in my life before, but I figured, hey, what do I have to lose? I’d designed the bridge, for Pete’s sake, if there was anyone qualified to work there it was me. To be perfectly honest, I thought it would be easy work, and for a while I was right. Things go wrong on a ship like The Vanderbilt, it’s inevitable when you’re dealing with a boat that size, but I had a great crew working under me, and it was clear that Dan had done a great job training them

Is there anything I’d do differently? Sure, lots of things. For starters, pitching Bruce Kowalski overboard would have been a good step, and not having The Vanderbilt southeast of Florida when everything went wrong would have been a solid choice as well. That said, when it came to safety, we thought of everything, and what happened on that boat had nothing to do with design failures or anything else that was under our control. People have been trying to make this whole thing out to be Neptune’s fault, but what else could we have done?

There were adequate lifeboats, plenty of water and food, really anything that would make surviving a situation like that possible. The only thing that we didn’t count on was human nature. Outside of that, everything should have been fine, three months at sea or not. That’s why there aren’t stories about people starving to death. Trust me on this, everything bad that happened on that boat happened because people are awful, and those of us that tried to maintain some semblance of humanity were just lucky to survive.

Sorry, this is a tough subject for me. It’s just that after everything that happened with The Vanderbilt…I mean, I had to testify before Congress. You have no idea what that’s like, and it’s not like I had any answers. My team made that boat as safe as it could possibly be, and everything that happened afterwards had nothing to do with anyone that wasn’t onboard. It’s not like there wasn’t enough food or lifeboats or water or anything that we could have needed, but things still fell apart. Just human nature, right? That and Ben Simmons, of course. I like to imagine that if he was never onboard that things might have been different, but I don’t think that’s true. I think situations like this one always manage to find their own Ben Simmons.

Yes, thank you. Sorry. The ship. The Vanderbilt. What we built was a state of the art floating palace that was meant to not only entertain the 15,000 guests that she was carrying, but keep them comfortable, well fed, and above all, safe. That was the mission with every single ship in The Paladin line, and The Vanderbilt was just as successful in all of those tasks as her sisters were. Was everything always perfect? Of course not, it never can be when you’re dealing with that many people, but when I think about what that ship went through, she held up pretty well all things considered.

That probably sounds shallow, what with everything that happened on that last voyage, but if you really think about just how long she was at sea, things turned out pretty well when it comes to safety systems. That’s what I should have said at the hearing, instead of walking in hat in hand, tail tucked between my legs because of what I’d done to survive. I should have said that everything that we had planned for was taken care of, and that I was proud to have kept as many of my people safe as I did. It’s not like it’s a lie, I bled for Los Abajo, and I’ve got the scars to prove it. The fact of it is, when you have a military event take place on a civilian vessel, consequences are going to be dire.

You’ve heard of the Lusitania, right? I think what happened to her is very similar to what happened to The Vanderbilt. An unprovoked act of war against a civilian vessel, that resulted in an absolute disaster. Was either situation handled perfectly? Of course not, but you won’t ever hear me blaming the safety inspectors for that ship when a German torpedo sunk her. It’s the same thing with The Vanderbilt. Ben Simmons notwithstanding, I truly believe that if it weren’t for that fucking EMP there’s not a single thing that would have made that cruise newsworthy, not that you’ll ever hear the government admit to that. After all, they’re the ones that dropped the dropped the ball on search and rescue and everything else. If anything, we should have been the ones asking them questions.

Debbie Rosenberg, Real Estate Agent with RE/Max of Houston, Married to Don.

You’d never know it now, but from the second we first laid eyes on that ship, we were just struck by how magnificent she was. She really was a jewel of the sea, so resplendent and white. And the size of her, my goodness, I said to Don, “This is really something.” He agreed, of course, how could anyone argue? The Vanderbilt didn’t just seem like a ship, she was a floating city, and I could tell from the way people were talking around us that they felt the same way.

We were on the Swan Deck, which was in First Class and cost a pretty penny, I can guarantee you that. We didn’t have even the slightest inclination to think that it might not be worth it however, the way that ship looked. The smell coming off of the ocean was just icing. Oh, I can just picture it now, shiny and new. Even better, as we waited to board we were surrounded by our sort of people, the other residents of Swan Deck. Not that Don and I aren’t progressive, but when you pay a certain amount of money, you expect things to be done a certain way, and limiting exposure to some of the less well-off passengers can make all of the difference.

I know, that sounds horrible, but you need to remember that our room cost upwards of five thousand dollars a night, and there were rooms on the Vanderbilt that were less than $200. Can you even imagine? They had access to most of the same activities, the main deck, and even two of the pools, so the only respite we could get was in our cabin or at dinner. That was what attracted Don and I to The Vanderbilt in the first place. We’ve been on plenty of cruises before, but none of them ever offered anything quite like the Swan Deck. Pearls, the restaurant on the Swan Deck was run by Rickard Stark, the captain dined with us nightly, and the food was just exquisite.

The rooms were amazing as well, our cabin was just shy of twelve hundred square feet, with a beautiful panoramic view of the ocean through the floor to ceiling port window. The bathroom was immaculate, the TV had all of the latest movies, and we even had access to a private deck by the bridge. Like I said, it was just perfect.

Yes, I suppose some of that exclusiveness might have led to some disillusionment, but I never saw anyone from Swan act abusively to the staff or any other guests. For the most part we were perfectly content to stay among our own kind, socializing and enjoying the break from real life. In that regard the trip was perfectly acceptable, no complaints whatsoever. While, some of the staff could have been a little more deferential to our needs, and there wasn’t a single interaction with the lower decks that I enjoyed, but overall I felt like it was worth the money spent to come aboard. Maybe not as nice as we’d expected for the money, but certainly the nicest cruise that we’ve been on to date.

The key really was staying with our own kind. Even after the trouble started we kept to ourselves, we didn’t need to get involved in what was happening below. At the time, we truly believed that most of what we hearing were probably just rumors anyways, just the less fortunate complaining about the bed that they’d made instead of just enjoying the world for what it is. If you ask me, that’s a universal problem, there are so many poor people out there that just can’t seem to accept their station.

Of course, the situation got worse, there was that mess with Captain McAvoy, and we heard a lot of nasty things about Ben Simmons, but to tell you the truth, most of what happened was overblown by the media. Don knew what to do, he always does, you see. His mother was in the Holocaust, she lost everyone she knew, so when things started to get a little ugly Don began to make friends. We already knew a good amount of the people on the Swan Deck, but while most of them wringing hands and gnashing teeth, Don and I were preparing for the worst. I always loved that about him, his ability to adapt no matter what. That adaptability was what saw me through to the end, and I learned that from him.

All in all, it was a long time to be at sea and I was very happy to leave the boat, but some of the passengers act like it was this horrible thing, when it wasn’t. The trip only became horrible when some of the less-moneyed members of the lower decks started to get frustrated and lash out at us. If they would have just listened to instructions everything could have been fine for everyone, but it’s just like those inner city riots you see on TV. No one’s thinking, and all they want to do is tear something down because they don’t understand it.

That’s why it was such a shame that there was so much of that crowd aboard compared to the more civilized guests on the Swan Deck. Had there been, I know in my heart that none of that ugliness would have happened and my husband would still be alive. For what we were paying there should have been more security aboard, more assurances that we’d be safe, but that just wasn’t the case. Instead, everything plunged into chaos, and our E-ticket on the world’ most beautiful ship was little more than a trip to hell. I suppose if there’s a blessing, it’s that after the lawsuits are finished I’ll likely come out a fair bit ahead.

Jennifer Rogers, Oncology Nurse, Mother to Ethan and Owen, married to Christopher.

When we first started talking about taking a trip on one of the big boats it was just a joke. The first one, The Palladium or whatever it’s called was on TV all the time, and Chris and I would talk about how fun it would be to leave the boys with my folks and go off on an adventure for a few weeks. I don’t know if you have kids or not, but raising twins will seriously change your schedule, and it was pretty typical for Chris and I to fantasize about trips we’d never take and houses we’d never buy after the little guys were finally asleep. It was just parental catharsis, nothing serious at all, but still necessary to maintain some semblance of sanity.

So even though we’d been sort of kidding each other about a summer in France or a New Year’s Eve in the Big Apple, we hadn’t ever really considered an adult’s only trip. At least that is until my parents told us that they wanted to take the boys to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for a two week cowboy camp. I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised, Dad’s been watching westerns with the boys since they were old enough to pay attention, and Chris loves old cowboy flicks too. Ethan and Owen have been obsessed with the idea of cowpoke gunslingers for as long as I can remember, and combined with my parents recent retirement I guess I should have seen it coming, but we were blindsided all the same. Suddenly, those jokey conversations became real, and instead of just spending our nights half snoozing through Shark Tank we sat in front of my computer drinking wine and contemplating the options that were available.

The two most paramount considerations were price point and timing, after all the Jackson Hole trip was already booked, but even though settling on a budget was easy, picking a place to go wasn’t. First of all, the timing wasn’t really ideal. We wanted to go somewhere and be a part of something, not just sit by a pool behind a half full hotel. In our life before kids we were constantly going on adventures, and even though I’m too old to ever backpack Europe, we both agreed that it had to be something that mattered, and the sort of thing that the boys wouldn’t feel left out of.

The cruise just sort of fell out of nowhere. It wasn’t anything that either of us had really considered-despite the joking from before-but The Vanderbilt’s second trip overlapped perfectly with our free time. I told Chris there was no way that we could afford it. We were doing well, but not that well, but I was wrong. We could afford to go on one of the biggest ships in the world, and better yet, the trip was all inclusive. Grant you, we weren’t going to be on one of the top few decks, we sure as hell couldn’t afford a window, and from the map I could tell we were going to be doing a lot of walking, but the more we considered it the more excited we both got. Neither of us had ever been on a cruise, but we both loved the idea. Next thing I knew, the tickets were bought and we were ready to go. To be honest, it was like a dream come true.

I expected the next few months to drag by, but the winter was mild, the boys were adjusting well to fifth grade, and somehow the days were slipping by with almost no friction at all. Chris and I, well, our relationship was better in those months than it had been in a while. We were fucking like when we’d first gotten married, getting it on like a couple of horny teens any chance that we had, and we kept telling each other that the trip was going to get us ready for the years of young adulthood to come. We never really said it, but it was sort of like getting our first taste of being empty nesters, and as much as I love raising Ethan and Owen, I liked the idea of it just being the two of us again. We both did.

So when we finally saw the boys off with their grandparents, it felt like a rebirth. That must make me sound like a terrible mother, but it’s been ten years, and we were ready for a break. Luckily, our trip down to New Orleans was completely uneventful, and we even had a day to kill before boarding. So we went to explore a city we’d never been to before, with the excitement in us built to a fever pitch. It was like that moment before you buy a thing that you’ve been lusting over, before the shine wears off and you’re stuck with just another bauble. We both knew that the trip would be in the rearview before long, so were ready to make the most of it, starting right then.

So Chris and I went out for po’boys and just sort of walked around the Quarter, drinking beer and eating beignets, feeling like we were on top of the world. I’m not sure exactly when I realized that I was drunk, I’d guess it was a couple of hours past the dinner that we’d skipped, but in an instant I went from having a happy little buzz to being butt face wasted. I soldiered on though, even when I knew the right choice would have been to just get some rest. Chris was cutting loose too, but it wasn’t until we finally began to stagger back to the hotel that I realized how polluted we both were. My last thought before I passed out next to the toilet was that I was going to have a Class Three hangover, but I had no idea just how bad the morning was going to be.


About me

Aric Davis is married with one daughter and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan where he worked for sixteen years as a body piercer; he now writes full time. In addition to reading and writing, he also enjoys roller coasters, hockey, and a good cigar. Aric is the Amazon best selling author of eight novels: From Ashes Rise: A Novel of Michigan, Nickel Plated, A Good and Useful Hurt, The Black Death: A Dead Man Novella, Rough Men, Breaking Point, The Fort, Tunnel Vision, and Weavers.

Q. Which writers inspire you?
Stephen King, Andrew Vachss, Richard Stark, Gillian Flynn, Joe R. Lansdale, and many more.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
At my rarely updated website,
Q. What did you learn while writing this book?
I always learn a great deal while writing a new manuscript. While writing The Vanderbilt I learned a massive amount about the cruise industry and the incredible amount of work that goes into making a floating hotel function for all aboard.