McCORMICK, JAY W. (1919– ). Jay W. McCormick was born and grew
up in the small Lake Huron port town of Harbor Beach, Michigan. His
father was a Great Lakes* ship captain, and the younger McCormick spent
considerable time sailing the Lakes with him. After he graduated from the
University of Michigan in 1942, he became a reporter for the Detroit News
and ultimately taught English at Wayne State University.
Of his two published novels, November Storm (1943) is the more critically
acclaimed and successful because of McCormick’s close association with, and
knowledge of, its subject. Originally written while he was a senior at Michigan, it won a prestigious Hopwood Award in creative writing from that
institution in 1942. The story, considered by some critics to be the best
portrayal of life aboard a Great Lakes ship, concerns a teenage boy who
takes a job as deckhand on an ore carrier. In this rite of passage, an awkward
and naive young man is initiated not only into the life of a sailor but into
life as an adult as well. The confined and claustrophobic space of the ship,
its own microcosm, forces him into contact with a number of characters,
many of whom are deftly drawn. The crew are only ordinary men, but the
very ordinariness of their lives brings out desire, pettiness, jealousy, and
violence. The dramatic climax of the novel comes when a terrifying autumn
storm descends upon the ship in Lake Michigan.