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Simon Ships Out. How one brave, stray cat became a worldwide hero: Based on a true story Paperback – October 1, 2014
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About the Author
Jacky Donovan might not have nine lives, but she does have a few. Having become bored of being a 'Stepford' housewife in Southampton, Jacky packed her bags and headed to London just over a decade ago. She's now an established author and, more importantly, curious about cats. Her latest book "Simon Ships Out: A heroic cat at sea" - the memoir of the world's first celebrity cat! - has just been published to great acclaim in the UK. She is a regular contributor to Huffington Post and Sabotage Times. In between her writing she has recently trekked to see Mount Everest; tandem jumped from a tiny plane; been on Canarian TV due to her crazy long fingernails; run a lesbian dining club; escaped from a yoga holiday in a dinghy; and regularly does charity work for Breast Cancer and Gay Pride. She currently spends her time between London and Gran Canaria.
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To fully appreciate this novel, based on fact, and narrated by the cat named Simon, a bit of history helps appreciate the extensive research Jacky has done. `Simon was found wandering the dockyards of Hong Kong in March 1948 by 17-year-old Ordinary Seaman George Hickinbottom, a member of the crew of the British frigate HMS Amethyst stationed in the city in the late 1940s. At this stage, it is thought Simon was approximately a year old, and was very undernourished and unwell. Hickinbottom smuggled the cat aboard ship, and Simon soon ingratiated himself with the crew and officers, particularly because he was adept at catching and killing rats on the lower decks. Simon rapidly gained a reputation for cheekiness, leaving presents of dead rats in sailors' beds, and sleeping in the captain's cap. The crew viewed Simon as a lucky mascot, and when the ship's commander changed later in 1948, the outgoing Ian Griffiths left the cat for his successor Lieutenant Commander Bernard Skinner, who took an immediate liking to the friendly animal. However, Skinner's first mission in command of the Amethyst was to travel up the Yangtze River to Nanking to replace the duty ship there, HMS Consort. Halfway up the river the ship became embroiled in the Yangtze incident, when Chinese Communist gun batteries opened fire on the frigate. One of the first rounds tore through the captain's cabin, seriously wounding Simon. Lieutenant Commander Skinner died of his wounds soon after the attack. The badly wounded cat crawled on deck, and was rushed to the medical bay, where the ship's surviving medical staff cleaned his burns, and removed four pieces of shrapnel, but he was not expected to last the night. He managed to survive, however, and after a period of recovery, returned to his former duties in spite of the indifference he faced from the new ship's captain Lt Cdr John Kerans. While anchored in the river, the ship had become overrun with rats, and Simon took on the task of removing them with vigour, as well as raising the morale of the sailors. Following the ship's escape from the Yangtze, Simon became an instant celebrity, lauded in British and world news, and presented with the "Animal Victoria Cross", the Dickin Medal, as well as a Blue Cross medal, the Amethyst campaign medal, and the fanciful rank of "Able Seacat". Whilst in quarantine, Simon contracted a virus and, despite the attentions of medical staff and thousands of well-wishers, died on 28 November 1949 from a complication of the viral infection caused by his war wounds.'
The reason Jacky's novel works so well is her courage in telling the historic incident through the eyes and actions of the cat Simon. She has a gift for selecting `cat speak' that makes the story flow like a novel rather than a reconstruction of the events. Her manner of creating the atmosphere on the ship and the incidents that surround it offers a memorable tale about another aspect of war as well as insight that pauses to bring to our attention the manner in which animals view our human frailties. A truly wonderful book for all ages and another feather in the colorful hat of Jacky Donovan. Highly recommended. Grady Harp, February 15
Well written, the author's manner of speaking through Simon is captivating and believable and Simon becomes my hero too. Do yourself a favor and delve into Simon's adventures.
George soon is asleep, snoring along with other humans nearby, and a bit later a furry dog (Peggy) appears - she's a regular on the ship and not like the mean dogs on shore that bark and chase cats. Simon then follows Peggy for a tour of the HMS Amethyst, a destroyer that had made it through WWII.
Peggy's friendship with Simon quickly convinces the Captain that Simon should be treated well, and the danger of being thrown overboard as an unwanted stowaway passes. He's then assigned the duty of 'rat catcher' and given the rank of Ordinary Seaman. And then everyone prepares for patrol duty to protect British interests around the Straits of Malaysia.
Simon quickly ingratiates himself with the crew, particularly through his skill at catching and killing rats. There was no doubt what was happening - Simon would often leave presents of dead rats in sailors' beds and sleep in the captain's cap.
Official orders than mandated that the Amethyst travel up the Yangtze River to Nanjing. Once there, Communist guns opened fire, with one round landing in the captain's cabin - killing the captain and seriously wounding Simon. Simon's burns and four pieces of shrapnel made his recovery unlikely, but with help from the surviving medical staff he did survive. Meanwhile, the ship had again become overrun with rats while anchored in the river. Simon was soon back to work.
Simon also became a celebrity, lauded in world news, presented with the 'Animal Victoria Cross,' the 'Dickin Medal,' and promoted to 'Able Seacat.' Thousands of letters were sent to him, and he was presented with additional honors at every port.
Most recent customer reviews
Simon Ships Out is an unusual book that immediately began to offer me an unusual perspective on life.Read more