McPhail's novel blends fact and fiction in a unique story that begins in South Africa at the beginning of the twentieth century, then extends to the Roaring Twenties in New York City, and on to San Francisco and the Far East. The world's most luxurious ocean liner, SS Malolo, carries a wealthy complement of passengers, 325 millionaires from all over America.
They sail from San Francisco on September 22, 1929 for a sixty-day orient tour, not realizing that just over thirty days later their lives would change -- on "black Tuesday", October 29, when the U.S. stock market crashed. As they continue to Honolulu, Yokohama, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Pago Pago, many stories unfold, in ports of call where mystery, sex and violence come as no surprise.
Here are articles that describe McPhail's background and his engaging first novel -- how it was written and and what unintended consequences resulted from his book.
Los Altos Town Crier
Published on Wednesday, 27 May 2015 Mountain View author Donald McPhail garnered modest acclaim for his first novel, but the most unexpected response came from a local historian living in Campbell who was researching the same 1929 story on which McPhail’s fictional tale is based.
It turns out that McPhail’s “The Millionaires Cruise: Sailing Toward Black Tuesday”– self-published in 2014 – coincides with historian Rick Helin’s film-restoration work on a round-the-Pacific sailing called “The Millionaires Cruise.”
Their paths crossed when Helin searched the Internet for information on his project: restoring vintage footage recorded during “The Millionaires Cruise,” deemed as such because all 325 passengers were millionaires. A San Jose auto dealer, Louis Normandin, shot the films while he and his wife were passengers aboard a 90-day cruise on the SS Malolo, the most luxurious ocean liner of its time. Grandson Lon Normandin, who still runs the auto dealership, provided the films.
San Francisco State Alumni Magazine (June, 2015)
In 1963, San Francisco State wasn't a place for socializing or frat-house buddy-building -- at least not for anyone I knew. My three roommates on 16th and Castro -- Russ Hubbard, John Escobar and Bob Suter -- and I were older students struggling to get to classes on Muni, working nights and playing football. We won championships against Cal Davis, Nevada-Reno and other schools thanks to Joe Verducci and Vic Rowen, who had created a powerhouse small-college program.
Unlike most coaches, they welcomed players who were married, had jobs or hadn't made it at a big-time football school. They were straight with us; not exactly friends, more like parents who were patient with independent kids. Years later, I learned that Coach Rowen and a student-coach, Allen Abraham, had kept an eye on me long after I graduated.
The football program drew me to State. Before that, I was playing at the Naval Academy. I had been number two on Navy's depth chart, working to overtake a talented young quarterback named Roger Staubach. It was clear that I wasn't going to beat him out. This helped with my decision to leave Annapolis and take another path.
While I was finding a degree of success on SF State's team, Navy was ranked number two in the country, and Staubach was the nation's best player. But instead of marching to class with like-minded midshipmen, listening to youthful justifications for a new war, I was strolling the SF State campus and hearing diverse points of view. I learned from professors Urban Whitaker and Marshall Windmiller that there has never been a just war, and that questioning authority is wise. Through Robert Wiseman, the greatest teacher I ever had, I discovered provocative writers: Aeschylus, Camus, Goethe, Rilke, Hölderlin and that Irish rascal W.B. Yeats.
Then, on November 22, just before 11 a.m. classes, the football, literature and talk of war were interrupted by gunfire in Dallas. President Kennedy had been shot. For hours we sat in the student union, listening to the radio broadcast over the P.A. system, refusing to believe. Our president was dead. The grief was spontaneous and profound. Students who had seemed disconnected and busy were drawn together, trying to absorb what was happening. Activists Marty Mellera and Bob Buffin, guys I seldom spoke to, became friends. Months later, as campus causes changed to anti-war and civil rights protests, I kept Marty and Bob in my thoughts as they rode buses to Mississippi and marched in Selma, and I understood why they went....
...To read further, click on: http://magazine.sfsu.edu/archive/spring_15/my_sf_state_story
Shipmate: Naval Academy Alumni Magazine
The Right Blend: Navy's Storied '63 Season
By Don McPhail
As a new football season approaches, fans seek comfort in past glories while they peer into the mysteries presented by new players and regrouped opponents. Two of Navy's most glorious seasons came over forty years ago, in 1960 and 1963, and occurred during head coach Wayne Hardin's tenure. Each team made legitimate runs at the national championship, and each was led by a Heisman Trophy winner: fiery Joe Bellino in 1960, and the legendary Roger Staubach in 1963.
Many believe that Navy's finest team was the 1963 squad that ended up ranked #2 in the country after a 28-6 post-season loss to #1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Ironically, the '63 team lost its only 2 games in the Cotton Bowl Stadium, where Staubach would later begin his career as a Dallas Cowboy.
The Staubach-led squad began the season as a typical Navy team -- quick, tough and disciplined, and likely to compete in every game. No-one expected them to actually win all but one of them and earn a major bowl slot. As the year unfolded, the 1963 team proved also to be courageous and quite special. This scrappy group of overachievers captured the interest of America's football fans with an upset win at Notre Dame, and it showcased the most exciting player in the country. And its success was directly linked to the nationally ranked 1960 squad, whose influence on the incoming 1961 plebes and 1962 youngsters -- the nucleus of the 1963 team -- was considerable.
The 1960 link: The 1960 midshipmen were ranked fourth in the nation and played fifth-ranked Missouri in the Orange Bowl. Senior running back Bellino swept football's top awards, including the Heisman trophy and Maxwell Club award for the nation's top overall player, and Walter Camp award as top back. Lineman Frank Visted joined quarterback Hal Spooner and Bellino in the Senior Bowl game, a premier all-star game for the best players in the country. Only a few months later, following graduation with their Class of 1961, Visted, Spooner and Bellino remained at Annapolis as assistant coaches for the incoming class of 1965 plebes. As graduate-assistants under longtime plebe coach Dick Duden, they would help shape Navy's next nationally-ranked team and a second Heisman trophy winner. It was clear that these high achievers -- Bellino, Spooner and Visted -- set the tone for the new Navy players, including the newest varsity players from the class of 1964, who as plebes had cheered their upperclassmen on their way to national ranking. ...To read further, click on: http://www.usna.com/page.aspx?pid=618#Blend
Hanna Boys Center Newsletter, June 2017
Welcome New Board Chair, Don McPhail
During their recent Annual Meeting, the Hanna Boys Center Board of Directors elected their new chair for 2007-2008, longtime board member, Don McPhail.
“Being named Chair of Hanna’s Board of Directors is one of my proudest moments -- personally, or in my business career.” McPhail shared. “When I joined the board over ten years ago, thanks to my good friend Don Feehan, it was the best things that could have happened to me. I wanted to help make a difference in peoples’ lives, and Hanna Center makes that difference. I wanted to work with unselfish, professional people; Hanna’s management and staff, and board members have all been unselfish and some of the most professional people I know.”
Don has lived an incredibly rich and varied life, including experiences like singing with Joan Baez, training and coaching with Olympic decathlon champion Bill Toomey, and serving as the backup to Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach as a midshipman at Annapolis. He lettered in football and baseball at Navy. Don’s first love was athletics and he entered the travel industry by chance, but a travel career was definitely in his blood.
Don Was born in Santiago, Chile where his father was a manager for American Express Travel. At nineteen he made the first of nine trips to South Africa, his fathers’s country of origin. At twenty-five he joined United Airlines in San Francisco while earning his degree in international relations and world literature at San Francisco State University.
At age twenty-seven Don was national commercial sales manager at United Airlines’ Chicago headquarters; at thirty-seven he was regional manager for Hawaiian Airlines. Throughout his forties Don combined three careers -- as a successful high school football coach, a consultant for the state of Oregon, and a writer with articles published in newspapers around the world.
In his fifties he was general manager for a luxury resort on Maui and helped restore a Kauai resort that had been destroyed by hurricane Iniki. Today, at 67, he has retired as marketing vice president for one of the nation’s oldest and largest event planning companies. He has resumed his writing career, concentrating on travel articles and his first novel.
McPhail could not be more excited for his new role. “Hanna Boys Center is a special place. As our Executive Director, Father John Crews, reminds us, these are some of the most courageous boys in the world. They are willing to confront their lives every day, straight on, and overcome some of the most difficult, heartbreaking personal experiences you could ever wish to see, to become positive, productive adults. I am honored and humbled to play a small role in the lives of these boys.”
Don is a resident of Mountain View, where he lives with his wife Gretchen. His two sons, Scott and Jack, live in the Bay Area.