Instructor in English Randall Peffer Publishes Latest Book Titled “Seahawk Hunting”

The “three lives” of Randall Peffer, Instructor in English, collided on Thursday during the release of his new book, Seahawk Hunting, at the Andover Bookstore. In addition to serving as an Instructor in English, Peffer is a professional mariner and writer, each of these careers adding up to “three lives.” Seahawk Hunting is the sequel to Southern Seahawk and the second book of a trilogy about the exploits of Raphael Semmes, a Confederate pirate during the Civil War. Seahawk Hunting focuses on Semmes’ acquisition of his ship, the CSS Alabama, and his attempts to sabotage the Union War ships. Peffer was instantly attracted to Semmes’ story after reading about it in a historical journal. Semmes was an elderly Washington bureaucrat who wanted to reinvent himself at the beginning of the Civil War. “Seahawk Hunting is the story of an underdog, it’s a story of a guy with a mid-life crisis who has no clue who he is and says ‘it’s my last chance for glory.’ It’s a story of a come-back kid and it’s a story of redemption,” said Peffer. Semmes convinced Jefferson Davis, the Secretary of the Confederate Navy, to give him responsibility over commandeering Union ships. In just two and a half years at sea, he seized and burned over 85 Union ships. Peffer said, “Raphael Semmes was basically Abraham Lincoln’s Public Enemy Number One. He was the most successful naval predator in history. He incurred over 20 billion dollars of damage, and singlehandedly quintupled the rates of insurance for deep sea voyages!” In Seahawk Hunting, Semmes travels around across the globe—from New Orleans to the Azores—with the CSS Alabama. Peffer said, “[The Alabama] was awesome. It was fast, it was powerful, it could take anything and [Seahawk Hunting] is the story of Semmes getting the Alabama and really going wild.” Seahawk Hunting tells of Semmes’ attempts to end the war by depleting the Union’s sources of oil. Peffer described the climax of Seahawk Hunting as “[Semmes’] first epic battle.” In the third book, the Union soldiers chase Semmes around the world and Semmes confronts an old friend for a final battle. A prolific author of travel guides and boating articles, Peffer described the Seahawk trilogy as a combination of his passions for sailing, history and writing. Peffer explained how much of his life influenced what he writes. John Hugo, Manager of the Andover Bookstore, said, “We’ve been lucky to be able to host [Peffer] twice a year since he’s started writing non-fiction. He’s writing more and more nonfiction books and is also a great customer, one of our favorites.” Peffer worked as a waterman, or professional fisherman, on a commercial oyster fishing boat after graduate school, preserving a family tradition. His first book, titled Watermen, tells the story of fishing communities in New England. Peffer then obtained a captaining license and became the captain of Andover’s Research Schooner through an Abbot Grant, taking students on the sea for summer trips. “For fourteen years I went to sea with kids, so I had a lot of time when I was not on watch, to read. I read all the nautical fiction I could. I read the Hornblower series, the Patrick O’Brian Series, the Dewey Lambdin books,” he said. “After I finished them all, I remembered thinking, you know, I can do this stuff,” he continued. With that in mind, he began to write for boating magazines, National Geographic, Lonely Planet, and the Smithsonian, and conduct tours around the New England seaboard. In 2003, while Peffer was writing a travel guide on the Low Country in South Carolina for Lonely Planet, he decided to stop writing nonfiction. “My wife and I were sitting in a restaurant in Savannah and I was thinking, you know, this should be fun but it’s not fun any more, I’m going to stop, I’m going to write mystery novels,” said Peffer. Since then, Peffer has written eight fiction mystery and nautical fiction novels. Though his three lives vary greatly, Peffer says they are interconnected; he feels his sailing helps his writing, and his writing helps his teaching. During the frigid New England winters, Peffer finds solace through his writing, imagining sailing on the Alabama with Semmes. “For three hours I am there, I get my boat fix,” said Peffer. Because Peffer writes for at least two hours every day he said he understands why his students “[lament] of writers’ block.” “I can totally relate to the terror of facing a blank page, they come to me and say ‘Peff I can’t write,’ and I say, ‘let’s talk because I was feeling the exact same thing three hours ago’,” he continued. While the Seahawk trilogy is almost over, Peffer has plans for more historical novels. He is currently working on a novel set in Vietnam and has plans for another Civil War naval thriller.