So begins this tale of survival, ambition, deception and betrayal at the dawn of the Seventeenth Century, as geopolitical rivals England, Spain, France and the Netherlands, and factions within those countries, plot to secure the most privileged access to the wealth of the Orient and exploit the potential of the New World. In a story whose geographic sprawl reaches from the East Indies to the Caribbean to eastern North America to the high Arctic, the careers of two exceptional figures, Samuel de Champlain and Henry Hudson, ultimately align. Both men are consumed by the idea of pressing through a watery gateway they are convinced will lead them to China. For Hudson, it is the Furious Overfall of the Canadian arctic. For Champlain, it is the Great Rapid on the upper St Lawrence at present-day Montréal. When Henry Hudson and his son John vanish in a mutiny, the stage is set for a remarkable convergence: Champlain resolves to travel deep into the hinterlands, beyond the Great Rapid, and retrieve from the Sorcerer people an English boy they are holding prisoner. 

“Nicolas de Vignau had seen with his own eyes the remnants of a wrecked ship. Anglais. The survivors, he had learned, had come ashore, weak and starving. They tried to steal corn and other necessities from les sauvages. A mistake: they were killed. de Vignau had been shown their scalps. But there was one taken alive, and not harmed.”

Published in hardcover by Doubleday Canada, October 2007

Released in paperback by Anchor Canada, September 2008

Available as an e-book in Canada for Kindle and Kobo and from Sony’s Reader Store a well as Apple’s IBooks.

Visit the book’s page at Random House Canada for more information and ordering.

To contact Douglas Hunter directly, e-mail him here.


For related writing by the author on the Champlain astrolabe and the influence of Edward Hayes on Champlain’s passagemaking ideas, go here and here.


To learn more about his new book, Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World, go here


Let Douglas Hunter join the ranks of Canada's greatest explorers. His journey into the lives and curiously intertwined fates of Henry Hudson and Samuel de Champlain is the stuff of great adventure and even new discovery. There's enough wind in this writer's sails to carry the reader effortlessly through the European founding — or perhaps we should say invasion — of the land we now call Canada. A grand achievement indeed.

—Roy MacGregor, author of Canadians: Portrait of a Country and Its People

Samuel de Champlain was told of an English youth, the sole survivor of a shipwreck, being held captive by Aboriginal peoples, and mounted an expedition to retrieve him. Would the rescue of an English youth bring acclaim (and future funding) for Champlain’s explorations and, perhaps, more importantly, could such a survivor provide precious and secret information regarding Hudson’s discoveries?

 
“On September 6, 1611, a veritable ghost ship—sails flapping seemingly untended, the hull gnawed by pack ice and gouged by groundings, her course speaking more of accident than intent—drifted from the western horizon into the reluctant company of fisherman setting seines for mackerel off Dursey Island, on Ireland’s south coast. The eight emaciated Englishmen aboard the bark Discovery had all but given up hope of ever reaching a friendly shore…”

[Hunter’s] latest book intersects the lives of two iconic 17th-century explorers in a meticulously researched work that's also a storytelling success...It's tough to marry historical scholarship and entertainment. Part of the challenge is to provide just the right level of detail for average readers while faithfully hewing to the historical record.

But Hunter gets the balance just right as he plows through the historical evidence and pulls pieces of the puzzle together. Adventures in Canadian history don't come much better than this.

—Winnipeg Free Press

Few literary pleasures are greater than that of being comfortably ensconced in an easy chair in the warmth of the 21st century while reading about the brutish ordeals of seafarers in the 17th century.

Douglas Hunter's book about the intersecting lives of Henry Hudson and Samuel de Champlain has plenty of such moments.…Hunter writes with the kind of vividness that makes you want to pull the blankets closer as you listen to "the creaking of the rigging's cordage, rimed with salt spray."…Hunter's research and writing skills are impeccable…a first-rate adventure story.

—Calgary Herald and Montreal Gazette

(CanWest News Service)

Apart from the final Franklin tragedy…no dreadful demise looms larger in the Canadian imagination than that of Henry Hudson. The image of Hudson set adrift in a small boat with seven men and a boy, all victims of a mutiny in a forbidding landscape, haunts anyone awake to the nightmare history of northern exploration. That moment is at the heart of God's Mercies, an ambitious new work by Douglas Hunter….

By setting the tragedy of Hudson against the happier story of Samuel de Champlain, his French contemporary, Hunter has produced a compelling historical narrative.…Hunter proves both a meticulous researcher and an accomplished storyteller.…Hudson emerges as a riveting protagonist: competent, ambitious and obsessed, utterly enthralled by the "fever dream" of discovering the Northwest Passage.…thanks to his skills as a craftsman, Hunter makes the story work…Hunter holds our interest because he avidly engages with his material. He wrestles with every aspect of the story and formulates his own judgments…Bottom line? God's Mercies is entertaining, enlightening and significant: Bravo!

—Ken McGoogan, author of Fatal Passage and Lady Franklin’s Revenge, in The Globe & Mail

[Hunter] sails his complex narrative, filled with characters both larger and smaller than life, with a page-turner’s style…There are some great goings on here and many spells of clear-blue writing. The lesson for hopeful explorers is to trust no one, and in the end, readers gain a renewed appreciation for the difficulties of leadership when a long way from home without a map.

—Canadian Geographic

A well researched and convincingly argued re-evaluation of a familiar story

—Edmonton Journal

Having made his reputation as a business writer with books on the Molson family's history and the Nortel meltdown, [Hunter] now joins Canada's stable of exploration historians with a work that combines scholarly rigour and fresh insight--especially in dealing with Henry Hudson's final voyage... Meticulously sifting through this material,

Hunter has produced a riveting account...

—Literary Review of Canada


[4 stars out of 5]

Douglas Hunter brings the age of exploration and discovery vividly to life in God's Mercies...Much of the book reads like a combination of an old-fashioned pirate story and an episode of one of the 1980s big money prime time soap operas such as Dallas or Dynasty.  Money, fame and power were at the heart of the exploration trade, and personalities come through handily in Hunter's account.

–A’n’E Vibe

This is a fascinating account of the intertwined fate of two of the greatest explorers of 17th century eastern North America. I also write books about historical explorers (my latest book is titled Madness, Betrayal and the Lash: The Epic Voyage of Captain George Vancouver and is being published in May, 2008) and I am impressed with the depth of research. It must have taken years to unravel the many small mysteries of this tale.

Stephen Bown, rating God’s Mercies (five stars) on Goodreads


[Hunter] has produced, with editorial grace, a wonderfully readable, suspenseful and dramatic work of historical investigation and synthesis. By employing various narrative techniques, and by placing all source notes and bibliographic information at the end of the book, he has crafted an historical narrative which flows along with a storyteller's artistry.

—Chumley & Pepys on Books

Finalist:

2007 Nereus Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Prize

2008 Governor-General’s Literary Awards (Non-Fiction)