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Gauntlet in the Gulf: The 1925 Marine Log and Mexican Prison Journal of William F. Lorenz, MD

edited and with a foreword by Claude Clayton Smith

Print (softcover) $18.95  


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Lorenz Hall at the Mendota Mental Health Institute in Madison, Wisconsin, is named for William F. Lorenz, the man who first observed, in 1916, that chemistry could treat the mentally ill. Professor of neuropsychiatry at the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Lorenz developed the fledgling Psychiatry Department while engaged in his ground-breaking research. In 1925, seeking a much-needed respite, he signed on with the Ruth, a fishing smack out of Pensacola, Florida, for a working vacation in the Gulf of Mexico. The Ruth struck a reef, the ship was abandoned, and the crew was rescued from perilous seas by a Mexican Navy vessel, only to be imprisoned as spies, smugglers, gun-runners, and for fishing in illegal waters. Dr. Lorenz’s diary details their ordeal.

HISTORY / Maritime History & Piracy
HISTORY / United States / 20th Century

ISBN: 978-1-956056-73-0 (print; softcover; perfect bound)

LCCN: 2023932546

Released March 2023

158 pages; 27 black-and-white images

Editor Biography

Claude Clayton Smith, Professor Emeritus of English, Ohio Northern University, is the author of eight books and co-editor/translator of four. His own work has been translated into five languages, including Russian and Chinese. Gauntlet in the Gulf, his third book with Shanti Arts, is his first solo editing adventure. He holds a DA from Carnegie-Mellon, an MFA from the University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop, an MAT from Yale, and a BA from Wesleyan. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, with his wife of forty-six years.



Gauntlet in the Gulf is a riveting first-hand account of the inhumane treatment of a shipwrecked American crew in a Mexican prison in the early twentieth century. Alas, it reminds one far too much of the twenty-first-century treatment of destitute Latino immigrants and their children in American prisons. Claude Clayton Smith's deft textual criticism provides insightful historical backdrop for both this universal practice and the perils faced by deep-sea fishermen.”
Cornelia Wells, editor, Iron City Magazine: Creative Expressions By and For the Incarcerated; Director, Prison Education Programming, Arizona State University

Gauntlet in the Gulf reveals the adventurousness of William F. Lorenz, a prominent early-twentieth-century psychiatrist who, in 1925, was forced to abandon a fishing smack in the Gulf of Mexico, only to be imprisoned with his shipmates in the Yucatan. It also reveals how innocent individuals traveling internationally can become caught up in geopolitical animosities. Finally, it reveals an insightful and engaging storyteller, as Claude Clayton Smith deconstructs Lorenz’s fascinating journal. When the Ruth strikes a reef, Lorenz’s leisurely, lyrical account takes a stunning and dramatic turn.”
Richard L. Zweigenhaft, Charles A. Dana Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, Guilford College; co-author, Diversity in the Power Elite; author, Geezerball

“This is a ripping yarn, an historical account that reads like a novel. There are two remarkable stories here: the marine log and prison journal of William Lorenz, who recounts with clear-eyed prose his shipwreck and imprisonment in Mexico in 1925; and the story of the journal itself, which Claude Clayton Smith ably frames and presents masterfully. History comes alive in Lorenz’s ‘diary,’ and the story of the journal is itself an engaging tale. Gauntlet in the Gulf belongs among other great stories of the sea and of imprisonment by Dumas, Melville, Genet, and Hemingway.”
Christopher Chambers, editor, Wisconsin People & Ideas; author, Kind of Blue and Delta 88.

Articles and Reviews


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