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Peter Gilmore as James Onedin and Anne Stallybrass as Anne Webster in the BBC series The Onedin Line The Onedin Line novels

There are six novels based on the series. The first five, The Shipmaster (1972), The Iron Ships (1974), The High Seas (1975), The Trade Winds (1977) and The White Ships (1979) are all by the creator of the series, Cyril Abraham. The books are not straightforward novelizations of the television episodes, since the author introduced additional material and also changed a number of details, though dialogue from the series that Abraham had penned himself is utilized. In print, Elizabeth's child is conceived in a private room above a restaurant, not on the three-masted top sail schooner Charlotte Rhodes; George Callon lasted considerably longer and died in bed after suffering a stroke, not in a warehouse fire; Emma was Callon's daughter, not his niece; Captain Webster remarried, his new partner being the irrepressible old crone Widow Malloy, an entertaining character with a repertoire of coarse remarks; Albert did not abscond to Patagonia but died aboard ship following his involvement in retrieving a kidnapped Elizabeth from Daniel Fogarty; Caroline Maudslay and Matt Harvey were omitted altogether (though Matt did appear in a short story - see below); Jack Frazer's life was extended and he lived to see both Emma's death and Daniel's return from Australia, though his television discovery that William was not his grandson never took place.

The sixth novel, The Turning Tide (1980), was written by Bruce Stewart (not by Cyril Abraham). This deviated even more from the television series and probably from Cyril Abraham's intentions as well. Letty was depicted as a jealous harpy aiming unpleasant remarks at Charlotte; Elizabeth and Daniel ended up emigrating to Australia permanently and James Onedin became the owner of the Frazer Line. The book is, nonetheless, an entertaining read with a moving final speech from James.

A series of Onedin short stories by Cyril Abraham, set between Series Two and Series Three, appeared in Woman magazine in 1973. The plots involved Robert's encounter with the attractive Amelia, a social gathering that revolves around the naming of the first Onedin steamship and an appearance by Sarah's destitute sister Constance, who is on the streets. A later tale by Abraham, For Love of the Onedin's, appeared in a short-lived magazine called TV life. This story, covering Leonora Biddulph's wedding, occurs between Series Three and Series Four and features Matt Harvey, who was Elizabeth's love interest during the fourth series. There is a slanging match between Elizabeth and Sarah, who each disparage the circumstances of the other's wedding day until Leonora intervenes to restore peace.

Cyril Abraham had planned to write a whole series of novels that would follow the fortunes of the Onedin Line into the twentieth century, but he died in 1979 after completing The White Ships. The only clue as to where the story might ultimately have led is that Abraham saw James and Elizabeth as eventually becoming two wizened old autocrats, both determined not to relinquish their hold on the shipping business.

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