Rabin presents a seafaring novel about a man’s search for self, featuring pirates, royalty, and plenty of adventure. The story centers on Lanning Delaford, the adopted son of the baker at Algeciras Palace (Molly Cortez) and a ship captain. He owes a good deal of money to the local viceroy, Roderick Gagnez, and ship owner Don Espinosa; he also seeks to know more about himself, having grown up with only blurred visions of his father and no memories of his mother at all. Lanning is approached by Minister Goodman, due to his knowledge of Tangiers, to carry out a mission by ship to retrieve a child the king had out of wedlock, so that he might have a more suitable heir to the throne. Along the way, they partner up with Capt. Destemido, a privateer for King Manuel of Portugal. The novel culminates in an epic sea battle between Lanning and explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who’s a threat to their mission. Before long, Lanning finds himself on an island, greeted by a family member who thought the captain had died many years ago. Overall, the author has a talent for creating characters that push back against clichés. Prince Ferdinand of Algeciras, for example, is introduced not as heroic or noble, but as delightfully spoiled; the pirates lack cleverness, and various players’ collective faults make them endearing and relatable. The book also has some great one-liners, as when Don Espinosa says to Lanning, “Why do you insist on vomiting upon my generosity, defecating on my kindness?” The author explains some of the mechanics of sailing in a way that’s impressively engaging and provides effective context for the seafaring terminology. Finally, despite all the humor, the novel has potent moments of wisdom, revealed during characters’ moments of introspection.

A riveting and hilarious adventure at sea.

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Personally, I have a fascination with the Age of Exploration. I remember hearing a lecture when I was in 8th grade about Prince Henry the Navigator who was a primary figure in the Portuguese discovery of the sea route around the Cape of Good Hope into the Indian Ocean which provided the country with incredible riches. Prince Henry actually traveled very little, but he was the financier on behalf of the Portuguese King (his brother) who was putting the necessary ships into action. It was a fascinating time not only because of their eventual discoveries, but because of the risks of these adventures and because of their failures. People continued to debate whether the earth was flat. To openly comment that the world was round was a heresy and the time period overlapped the years of the Spanish Inquisition which led to the death of anyone who spoke against the Catholic orthodoxy. In that era, sea charts showed the edge of the world and sea monsters and the edge of the earth were drawn in the periphery of those maps. The Pillars of Hercules, which are the Rock of Gibraltar on the European side of the Strait of Gibraltar and either Monte Hacho or Jebel Musa on the African side were seen as the end of the world, and Cape St. Vincent in Sagres, Portugual was regarded in those same words, “the end of the world.”

A few months ago I was lucky enough to sit for a few days on the Costa del Sol in Spain and stare at those pillars, and to spend a few days on the cliffs at Sagres where I tried to imagine what it must have been like as a man of the sea in that era. Of course, ocean going boat design was in its’ infancy. The boats that were being sailed were barely seaworthy. The rocky shores of Morocco, Spain, and Portugal were littered with sunken vessels. Also, this was the age of the Barbary pirates who were a threat to all sea trade in this area for hundreds of years until the early 19th century.

Risk and reward were never more apparent than the stakes of sea travel when the world was still thought to be flat, the name of this new novel “Flat” by Neal Rabin. The book is subtitled, “An edgy voyage of accidental discovery.” In the midst of descriptions of what life must have been like on the sea, as well as what life was like on land for people from all walks of life, from the royal lives of the upper crust of society to beggars, Rabin told a spell binding story of success and failure, of fortune and death. He sprinkled in names of famous people from the era including Columbus, Magellan, and Bartholomew Diaz. Magellan played a key role in this story. The characters he used to play out this adventure were believable and interesting. Rabin’s wit, which was obvious from the dialogue among his characters, was a bonus. It was a vicious storm for which the boats were hardly capable of surviving and which blew them off course to unknown territory that led to new discoveries.

If this historical era is of interest to you, like it is to me, then Flat will be a novel you’ll enjoy. The book will be available on June 30, 2024.

Tom Strelich, Award winning Author Dog Logic, Water Memory


A delightfully fun and epic adventure that was as satirical as it was insightful, as philosophical as it was slapstick, as logical as it was unpredictable, and as contemporary as it was historical. It sent me to the map several times and the dictionary several more, so it’s written for readers that are well-read, sophisticated, and erudite, but kinda hep too (you know who you are). A great read from a gifted writer.

Neal Rabin - Author | CEO | Surfer | Musician - Copyright 2024