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MARTIN, WILLIAM

MARTIN, WILLIAM (1950– ). History and the sea are the subjects of
the fiction of William Martin, contemporary novelist and screenwriter. Born
in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and earning a B.A. from Harvard University (1972) and an M.F.A. from the University of Southern California (1976),
Martin has spent much of his life on or near the coastal waters of Massachusetts. He is a member of an old Yankee family, and his work conveys a
deep sense of the sea’s prominence in shaping New England history, character, and landscape.
Back Bay (1980), the author’s first novel, is a work of historical suspense
that takes its title from a section of Boston built on a swamp in the nineteenth century to accommodate the newly wealthy merchant class. Told
through the eyes of a contemporary history student, Martin’s story employs
historical detection and marine archaeology to forge present-day links to the
thieves, privateers, shipowners, and merchants of Boston’s maritime past.
Cape Cod (1991), Martin’s fourth novel, turns to a theme of historical
intrigue along New England’s outermost shoreline. Once again, the sea is
a central element in the novel, against which Martin offers detailed views of
Cape Cod’s* history, waters, and environmental conflicts. From the landing
of the Mayflower passengers, through the age of sail, and into the present
era of whale-watching, the sea mirrors the constancy and change experienced
by Cape Codders from one generation to the next.
In a more recent novel, Annapolis (1996), Martin moves away from New
England but continues to dramatize life at and near the sea, chronicling the
perfidies, tragedies, and ambitions that form the history of the nation’s naval
institution and one of its prominent families. As with his earlier fictional
work, Martin’s novel is not only about the sea and our relationship with it;
it is about our relationship to history itself.