In my days back at Madison – especially around the first release of James Cameron’s movie – we produced a huge number of Titanic-themed books. With the 100th anniversary of the sinking coming up on Sunday, one that has been pulled repeatedly off the shelves is Last Dinner on the Titanic, a cookbook that re-creates recipes and Edwardian table-setting tips from the ill-fated voyage. The rest of the Madison crew and I even got to take part in a fancy dress-up dinner inspired by the book. My costume was white tie combined with a shawl and a napkin folded to look like a baby – my accessories carefully chosen to ensure a place in one of the lifeboats.
My then-boss High Brewster also donned white tie, completing the ensemble with an always-in-style canvas life jacket. The jacket came from the set of A Night to Remember, the original Titanic movie based on Walter Lord’s book.
Amid a flood of Titanic-related material (including one zombie-dominated volume) that’s been released for the centenary, I think Hugh’s RMS Titanic: Gilded Lives on a Fatal Voyage is a real standout. Hugh was long-time editorial director at Madison, which means he knows as much about the ship as anyone living, and like me has since gone on to write books rather than edit them. His approach, concentrating on the human stories of the people in first class and seeing the ship as a a metaphor for Edwardian life, is a fresh take on the epic tale – not excepting zombies.
The book’s available on-line and at your local bookseller. Meanwhile, Hugh discusses the tragedy and its lasting fascination in the on-line Wall Street Journal.