Devil's Cauldron

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Published Date

August 2012

Devil's Cauldron

(Excludes any applicable taxes)

A tired ship and a tired crew, trapped in the Congo in the biggest war in Africa. No one to help, nowhere to go except to break out to the sea. But to do this they have to get through one of the most treacherous passages of any river in the world, while fighting their way through the combined enemy armies that are intent on stopping them at all costs.




With the British Merchant Navy in a state of collapse, the few remaining British crews are sinking into despair as their Red Ensigns are hauled down and replaced with ensigns of a bewildering array of nations. For many, this signals redundancy and the end of a life at sea.

This is the story of one such ship and one such crew. They are a long way from home, overdue their leave, battling breakdowns, and trapped in the Congo River during the largest war in Africa. The rebel armies are closing in on the port and the ship and, to make things worse, refugees look to the ship as their only hope. They must risk everything to escape to safety, breaking through the rebel army and then through the Devil’s Cauldron, a dangerous maelstrom of currents and rocks, and then on to the sea.

It is a story of ordinary seafarers caught up in events beyond their control and who discover the resolve and strength to continue their increasingly desperate attempts to get their ship through against the odds.





Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3


Chapter 4


Chapter 5

Chapter 6


Chapter 7


Chapter 8

Chapter 9


Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21


Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28


Michael started his career on the training ship HMS Conway and went to sea as a Cadet with P&O.

He was promoted to master on a deep sea tow vessel at the age of 32. He then commanded a wide variety of ships including general cargo, passenger, reefer, heavy lift, container, bulk carriers, anchor handlers, supply vessels, response and rescue vessels in the north sea, oil field support vessels in Nigeria, middle trade multi-purpose vessels in the Black Sea and Baltic.

Michael served 35 years in the Royal Naval Reserve and for 10 years he represented shipmasters on the Council of Numast. He is a Fellow of the Nautical Institute and a Younger Brother of Trinity House.

Michael retired from the sea in March 2007 after 50 years seagoing and 35 years in command. He now works with Witherby Seamanship International as a Senior Advisor and Technical Author.

Title: Devil's Cauldron
Number of Pages: 268
Product Code: WS1371K
ISBN: ISBN 13: 978-1-85609-556-3 (9781856095563), ISBN 10: 1-85609-556-8 (1856095568)
Published Date: August 2012
Binding Format: Paperback
Book Height: 180 mm
Book Width: 110 mm
Book Spine: 20 mm
Weight: 0.41 kg

Customer Reviews

Hope it's the first of a series! Review by CM - August 2012
For a first book, this author looks very promising. The theme is a mixture of high adventure on a nautical theme and is very realistic, just a touch of romance as well! (Posted on 08/04/2015)
A real page turner! Review by Mn - August 2012
I was lucky enough to be given a preview copy of this book from the publishers and would like to submit the following review.

Whilst this is this the first fictional novel for this author he is well published for his technical novels on various aspects of pursuing a career at sea in the modern world of seamanship. It is easy to see how his style has transferred from the technical novels to a work of fiction, as, even in his technical novels, especially 'In Command' In Command: 200 Things I Wish I'd Know Before I Was Captain his writing style allows the casual reader to be engaged without having to have any real knowledge of life on the ocean.

Back to 'The Devil's Cauldron', the author appears to have struck the right balance between character development, technical knowledge and story development to ensure a cracking good read. I would think that those with knowledge of life at sea will be satisfied with the level of accuracy used in describing various technicalities of the ships operation, without turning of the casual reader by being too technical.

Story development moves at just the right pace ensuring that you keep turning the page to see what happens next.

Finally, character development, the characters are well developed to a point that you really care about what happens to them, obviously the author has pulled on his long history at sea, to give flesh to these characters, which in turn makes them feel real, as in real life, their flaws, idiosyncrasies and failings are well described and only add to the sense that you really understand their various characters. There is the ubiquitous love interest, however, and I must admit to not being a fan of these in novels, it is handled in a very real way, and, surprisingly to me, only added to what is a most admirable first novel.

This is one of those books that you read, and think, this could make a very good film, and even imagine the actors who will play 'Harry' etcetera!

I highly recommend this book!
(Posted on 08/04/2015)
August 2012 Review by GD
I read the book twice and found it a brilliant mix of fact and fiction and very difficult to put down. It gives the reader an insight into shipboard life without detracting from the imaginatively plotted story in any way. It culminates in a final battle and escape out to sea and ends with a touching description of the burial at sea of Willie, the ship's cook. I hope there will be more to follow in another book as I'd like to meet these characters again. (Posted on 08/04/2015)
At last, a credible tale of the sea, Move over Cussler! Review by RL - October 2012
Having heard whispers about a new "Ripping Yarn", I set out to track it down, and ended up purchasing it indirectly through Amazon from Witherby (publishers). Despite all the problems, it was certainly worth every minute of my quest, so do not let this put you off!

I have read and enjoy authors such as Clive Cussler, Jack Higgins, Stephen Leather and others that try to come up to their established high standard of Adventure stories with some degree of authenticity to their tales on the high seas, overland and in history. Writing a book is not an easy task, but writing an inspiring tale that smacks of both a working knowledge and a suggestion of authentic experience has to date been missing from the genre. This book proves that genuine experiences can be fictionalised, serving to underscore the reality.

From the beginning, Captain Andrews strides on to the pages as a forceful, no-nonsense Master slowly introducing the characters of his crew and those that will join him on an extraordinary voyage. British Merchant Navy crews are only too aware that there is an end in sight to the glory days of the Red Ensign, proudly flying and, in this instance, finding themselves trapped at port, 100 miles up the Congo, waiting for vital parts of an original antiquated ice-hulled (arctic supply) Russian ship - old but immensely powerful.

The crew, all such individually strong characters, are kicking back enjoying the few favours the small port Matadi had on offer, when word arrives from a young, attractive Missionary & Doctor - Carole, that a serious uprising to oust the current government incumbent, Mobutu and replace him with a power-hungry, cannibalistic revolutionary is descending fast upon the small port. It is at this point that the negotiations between the Captain and the desk-bound marine company break down. As always, cargo and ship first, crew and anything else can go to hell.

As all good heroes do, Harry rises to the challenges, starts rounding up supplies, our new heroine of course, and her company of pigmies (who would otherwise be left for the new incombant's menu). Spares arrive not without incident and the enforced company in the ilk of Colonel of Mabuto's presidential force and his officers - who also need to make their escape and forcibly insist on joining the ship. Every moment is packed with tense excitement and expectancy. All this without the trial to come of passing through an incredibly dangerous river passage, in the dark with some weaponry (thanks to the colonel), without pilot or help, when they know rebel forces may be preparing to attack at any moment. Even as they are leaving, they hear the next port Boma has fallen so more plans have to be made to keep the crew and unexpected passengers of women, children, soldiers, pigmies safe from a horrendous fate. Unexpected forces attack everywhere....

The whole book is full of "characters", sea-faring dogs in the old literary term from Sandy, the Mate - with a fist to match anyone's; Jake the young, naive and typically over eager cadet (reminds me of someone I knew a long time ago); Ex-Royal Marine, Ships steward, "Delilah" stole my heart (and the day) - the accounts of him and his actions throughout the book build him up to someone you feel you know and recognise. The land-based Colonel who learns to respect and might just have a heart under all that bluster, Carole, our heroine is tough, yet weak in the arms of our hero, but definitely a survivor. However, will they survive, there is so much against them at every twist and turn of each action packed chapter! And, if they do - what will happen to them? This book cannot just finish. I am sure like all sea dogs it will go on and I will be waiting with bated breath for the next tome from this great, new fiction author. Michael Lloyd has certainly breathed a breath of experienced air into the world of seagoing fiction. There is one particularly sad moment towards the end. A moment that has to be faced on many a seagoing vessel. It is presented with the utmost delicacy, but will bring a tear to the eye of the toughest reader.

One good thing: There are no evil geniuses plotting to take over the world or marine artefacts vital to its existence. This is a plausible, well written account of a gut-wrenching week down the Congo to the sea. The details of ships inspections and management only serve to enhance the reality. I loved it.

Lloyd's previous Marine writing has not been that of fiction but has encompassed necessary laws, routes and guidance for large ocean shipping. This separate venture brings out the real stories gathered together from years and years at sea. A time when shipping has seen as many changes as that from sail to steam to coal etc. If he continues to share some of his own experiences mixed with a degree of fiction, he will no doubt become one of the best authors within this category.

Do read this exceptional book, especially if you too, like Captain Harry Andrews have sailed the seas....remembering the law: "What happens past Gibraltar, stays past Gibraltar". The Devil's Cauldron
(Posted on 08/04/2015)
A good sea yarn Review by MS - April 2013
This is a fairly realistic story about the situation today in banana republics, and is quite factual of the sea, ships and their crews. A good read in the opinion of an ex seaman! (Posted on 08/04/2015)
Amazing Review by NC - April 2013
An amazing story which is written in a breath-taking style, it will fascinate all readers. Captain Michael Lloyd again reveals his talent as a writer, enhanced by his huge sea experience, creating a fascinating story of nowadays. Nautical stories are mostly based on legacies and old times sagas, but this one deals with less than two decades time and place. The story is about brave men who conquered their fears by using their courage and skills. Not too technical for readers that have no relationship with sea, and accurate for the ones who know, it will satisfy both. Finally romantic and humanistic, the Devil's Cauldron is a book for all readers.

I could not put it down until it was finished. Being a Seaman and amateur writer my elf, I can only thank Captain Lloyd for his essay, it really amazed me.
(Posted on 08/04/2015)
Extremely Interesting Read Review by TC - January 2014
Being an ex-shipbroker I find anything regarding sea adventures worth reading and this one was very well written and researched (Posted on 07/04/2015)
Great Stuff! Review by JPR - March 2014
As an 'Old Conway' 54-55 I am proud to recommend the 'Devil's Cauldron' to anyone who wants a story you can't put down written by a genuine sea-faring guy who REALLY knows his stuff. (Posted on 07/04/2015)
Not a bad yarn Review by JB
As it was written by a seaman I thought it would be rather more realistic, however not a bad yarn (Posted on 07/04/2015)
This is Michael Lloyd’s first novel, published in 2012 Review by The Cadet Magazine
This is Michael Lloyd’s first novel, published in 2012. Michael has written many nautical text books in recent years. He has now decided to put his undoubted talents to work in producing fiction; a second work is on the way.
As an eminent OC, he is to be commended for blending his old ship into the narrative, making Harry, the ship’s Master and central figure a Conway boy.
The book is set onboard an old Russian-built oilfield support vessel in the Congo River, well known to any who served with ED’s and Palm Line, to name but a few Old British lines.
It is easy to see how his flowing style of writing has transferred from his many technical books to a work of fiction, with a strong factual base dwelling on the demise of the Red Ensign with the breakdown of law and order in central Africa. The author appears to have struck the right note between personal involvement, technical knowledge and the story line to ensure an excellent read. Most Old Conways with a deep knowledge of the sea will be satisfied with the level of accuracy without the book turning off the casual reader. The story develops at a good pace ensuring that the reader keeps turning the pages to find out what happens next.
Harry, his crew and the many other characters are well developed to a point that the reader really cares about what happens to them. Michael Lloyd has pulled his long and varied sea service into giving substance to these varied personalities, which in turn makes them feel real. Their flaws, idiosyncrasies and failings are dwelt on which only adds to making the various characters fully understood, with the reader getting fully immersed into the story.
Fictional love affairs can get over overblown but Michael touches on the seafarers’ sensilbilities to give a realistic human approach.
The Devil’s Cauldron gives the reader an insight into shipboard life without detracting from the imaginatively narrated story in any way. It culminates in a final battle and escape to sea. Well recommended at an easily affordable price.
I hope the characters can be woven into more novels as these people should be brought to life again, with hopefully an Old Conway again taking command of the situation. Talking to Michael onboard Wellington recently, the busy floating livery hall of the Honourable Company of Master Mariners, there is indeed another nautical yarn under way.
(Posted on 19/03/2013)
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