Anchoring the past: Eric Jay Dolin’s ‘Rebels at Sea’ captures national attention

Nautical history author Eric Jay Dolin embodied Marblehead’s maritime spirit in his last book “Rebels at Sea: Privateering in the American Revolution.”

Dolin’s 15th book has been racking up awards since its publication last year, including the 2023 Fraunces Tavern Museum Book Award and the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for Naval Literature. This coming May, Dolin will release his 16th book “Left for Dead: Shipwreck, Treachery, and Survival at the Edge of the World.”

“Rebels at Sea” recounts the largely untold story of colonial privateers and their role in the Revolutionary War. According to Dolin, privateers commissioned by the American government to attack British vessels played a crucial role in colonial victory. Dolin commented that before beginning his research for the book, he had never heard of American privateering and felt that it was a story that deserved telling.

“Privateering was one of the reasons we won the American Revolution,” he told the Current.

Instead of focusing on one niche of maritime history, Dolin has explored a range of topics throughout his writing career. Some of his previous popular books include “Leviathan: The History of Whaling in America,” “A Furious Sky: The Five-Hundred-Year History of America’s Hurricanes”  and “Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates.”

Dolin’s much lauded works have collected numerous recommendations over the years, such as spots on the Massachusetts Center for the Book’s yearly “Must Read” list and various editor’s choice awards.

Dolinwill receive the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for “Rebels at Sea” from the New York Commandery of the Naval Order of the United States on Nov. 13. “That impressed me alot,” said Dolin of the award, which according to the Naval Order is given to an author “who by his published writings has made a substantial contribution to the preservation of the history, heritage and traditions of the United States Sea Services.”

Additionally, “Rebels at Sea” has achieved the rank of finalist in the running for the New England Society Book Award and the Julia Ward Howe Award.

In addition to writing, Dolin has given talks on various subjects all over the country, especially New England. After experiencing a wide variety of jobs over the years, including working for the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Wildlife Federation, the National Marine Fisheries Service, then Senator Lowell Weicker of Connecticut and as an environmental consultant stateside and in London, Dolin realized his dream of becoming a full-time writer in 2007 with the help of his wife. Jennifer Rooks Dolin who was born in Marblehead, where the couple went on their first date and still live today. Dolin always credits his wife for his success due her financial and moral support throughout his writing career.

Though Dolin is incredibly grateful for his success, he admits that writing is not an easy industry.

“If you are scared of failure, writing is absolutely not the career you should pursue.”

His advice to aspiring writers is to have thick skin when it comes to sharing work, and to “not let better be the enemy of good enough.” After years of perfecting his craft Dolin has his writing process down to a science, usually taking about eight or nine months to research his topics and two years in total to write a book. However, it took years of saving money to write full time, countless rejections slips from publishers and unending support from friends and family to get where he is today.

In his upcoming book “Left for Dead,” Dolin is excited to share his take on the story of five men marooned in the Falkland Islands during the War of 1812. The story will be split between the three threads: a British merchant ship, an American sealing ship and a British warship. In order to craft his narrative, Dolin used original documents from court cases, other books written on the topic and original memoir of one of the survivors of the ordeal.

Dolin believes that true history is just as strange and entertaining as fiction, and hopes that his books appeal to readers who appreciate both.

Benji Boyd
+ posts

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: