Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Danger and Boys: Lord of the Deep by Graham Salisbury

"Mikey," Bill called without turning. Bill pointed into the water.

"The line's caught in the port prop. Get a knife. Go down and cut it loose."

Mikey's scalp crawled like eel skin before Bill had even gotten all the words out. Instantly he pictured the deep-water sharks, their bloody mouths gaping, jagged, triangular razor-sharp teeth mindlessly ripping away the dead whale's flesh.

And now his own flesh.

Mikey looked into the water off the back of the boat. Deeper than deep. Unimaginably deep. Fathoms of dark and infinite shark-infested ocean. Another world, a place of blood and guts and ripped flesh, a bad dream where you never knew when or where they'd get you.

Or how slow you'd have to die.

Mikey nodded, then went to get the knife.

Mikey idolizes his step-father Bill, secretly thinking of him as Lord of the Deep, the best deep-sea fishing captain in the Islands. At thirteen, as the youngest deckhand to work the Kona coast, Mikey fervently wants to earn Bill's respect and to learn his craft as he works with him on the Crystal-C. But when two trophy fishermen, Cal and Ernie, charter the boat with the sole urge to land a record marlin, Mikey finds it hard to please the surly and self-important sportsmen and harder to understand why Bill takes their abusive language and barbed insults when Mikey's inattention causes one of them to lose a world-class marlin. Wordlessly but filled with fear, Mikey goes under the boat to cut the line loose from the propeller, quailing as he cuts his thumb and watches the blood waft away on the current.

Grumbling, the two fisherman go back to their card game, too disgusted even to bother to strike the hook when a bull mahimahi takes the bait. When Mikey begins to wrestle with the huge fish, however, Ernie takes the reel and after a long struggle brings him to the boat. When it becomes obvious that this fish is going to be a record catch, Bill points out that Ernie can't claim the record because he didn't strike the fish himself. Unbelieving, Mikey watches as Ernie and Cal offer Bill a bribe to keep quiet and Bill grimly looks away without turning the deal down.

Awarded the Boston Globe Horn Book Award, Graham Salisbury's Lord of the Deep is a serious coming-of-age story with some great fishing scenes and enough thrills and danger to keep anyone turning the pages. Salisbury is a talented writer of adventure stories in which the sea itself is always a central character, including Blue Skin of the Sea, and Island Boyz, as well as the previously reviewed wartime novels Under the Blood-Red Sun and House of the Red Fish.



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