Many people believe the New World was settled by Europeans seeking religious freedom, but authors John Butman and Simon Targett says that’s not true.

Their new book, “New World, Inc.,” clearly and convincingly explains that England’s merchant “adventurers” drove the exploration, discovery and settlement of America in the years 1550 to 1621, in their constant search for new markets and wealth. This is a colorful and fascinating history of English and European commerce, when complicated monopolies dominated international trade, pushing the boundaries of early global exploration.

Portland author Butman and London author Targett are both accomplished writers and historians with strong financial and business backgrounds. They tell a rousing story of the English men and women who dreamed, schemed and bankrolled daring expeditions to settle America, hoping to cash in on rumored potential markets for timber, fish, furs, tobacco, sassafras and precious metals.

By the 1550s, English merchants found trade with China too costly, too difficult and too competitive. Trade in the Baltic was blocked by the powerful monopoly of the Hanseatic League, and India didn’t boom until the creation of the East India Co. in 1600. So the English looked west, across the Atlantic, to America. They didn’t strike gold in America, but they found something even better: land.

The authors tell of explorers like Martin Frobisher, George Waymouth and Bartholomew Gosnold, and tenuous settlements at Popham, Jamestown and the mysterious lost colony of Roanoke. Best, however, are their vivid descriptions of business companies like the Worshipful Co. of Haberdashers, the Muscovy Co. and the Virginia Co., and how they pioneered the joint-stock venture with investors, shares, dividends, capital allocation, risk-sharing and bank loans.

And the Pilgrims were financed by London merchants who wanted a profit, not a pulpit.



Acclaimed American poet Carl Sandberg (1878-1967) once observed: “Life is like an onion; you peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.” The family in this story will peel a lot of layers and do a lot of weeping.

“Soon the Light Will Be Perfect” is the debut novel of Portland author Dave Patterson, a grim and profane, yet powerful story of a tight-knit, lower-middle-class Vermont family facing crises of health, faith, economic survival and moral courage.

Stories of families in crisis are not unique. However, what makes this story so special is Patterson’s thoughtful and tender treatment of his characters. The family has no names other than mother, father and older brother. Even the 12-year-old narrator son is unnamed. Still, Patterson’s portrayals are vivid and convincing — these are believable people in truly real situations.

The family of four are devout Catholics, charitable and kind to others. The father works at a defense plant and faces a moral dilemma that may cost him his job. The mother suffers terribly with stomach cancer. The 15-year-old older brother is a rebellious, pot-smoking teenager, and the 12-year-old narrator is confused about many things — especially girls and women’s bras.

The boys fear for their mother’s life and worry about Dad’s job, while watching their mother’s courage in the face of death, and their father’s tender devotion to his wife, neither parent complaining, always positive and loving. The crushing weight of these crises makes the family question their faith; prayer may not be enough to heal their wounds.

The careful transformation of the family priest and the father’s handmade kitchen table are symbols of new refreshing hope, despite the tears and inevitabilities they all face. There are lessons here for all parents.


Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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