By John K. Fulweiler, Esq.
This is the time of year where a reading list should be assembled. No matter the climate, a list of good books gives you a backdrop against which to carry on your affairs. Wearying the household list of issues or tiring of the newest corporate ‘training’ video, pivot to savoring the half hour you’ll spend this evening on that page-turner of a story. You get the idea, so I’ll give you some book titles and authors to consider.
The loyal reader will know it’d be blasphemous for me to step off this plank without first acknowledging John D. MacDonald. Short on plot, but long on observation and character which weirdly blend into hard-to-put-down narratives, MacDonald’s stories can’t be beat. Find his old paperbacks on eBay and buy them. Smell the weathered pages, sip some Plymouth Gin and picture yourself strolling on bleach white beaches listening to a gurgle of muted wave and wondering how you’ll solve this caper. Every boat should have five or so inches worth of MacDonald stories aboard. It’s de rigueur.
Side note: ever wonder where the Rockford Files, Magnum PI and even the late Jimmy Buffett found inspiration? IMO, there’s no doubt John D. Macdonald paved the way for these stories and songs. (Did you know Jimmy Buffett started out writing for Billboard Magazine in Nashville, TN?)
Next up, read Herman Wouk’s Don’t Stop the Carnival. He’s great with dialogue and the story is plotted so carefully it’ll tug you off the beach and into the rip currents of having purchased a small hotel in St. Thomas in the 1950s or so. Reading Wouk’s verse, you can almost feel the sun beating down. (And yes, you’ll have to squeeze one eye shut because the book was written some time ago and carries the mores of a distant past that we’ve (thankfully) kicked overboard. Don’t cancel the book, though. It’s too good a read and there are too many interesting characters to abandon.)
If you think a beard, a tattoo and a conceal-carry permit makes the man, it doesn’t. Real men get on with things. They do and do until it hurts. There’s hardly a better example of this than Captain Howard Blackburn. He was a Gloucester fisherman in the late 1800s. As a young fellow, a winter storm loosed him and his mate from the cod fishing mothership and he had to row the dory home from the Grand Banks. (If you’re not from these here parts, suffice to say, that’s one big row.) His mate died, he lost all his fingers and yet he carried onward, operating a wildly successful tavern, organizing and completing a trip to the Yukon (or almost there; come on for Christ’s sake the man had no fingers!) and sailing across the Atlantic on thirty’ish-foot rigs he designed himself. He’s done more, but I’m only halfway through his tale (Lone Voyager: The Extraordinary Adventures of Howard Blackburn). Get this book. It’s a great read and it quotes liberally from Blackburn’s diaries which make for fun reading.
I like Hemingway’s short stories for their analgesic properties. You can read one before falling asleep and believe you’ve accomplished something. I don’t always understand the tidal flow of each tale, but I like the read. You should take one or two and see how you feel in the morning.
I met the author Lee Child at a book signing in downtown Manhattan more than decade, but less than a decade and half ago. He was basically sitting alone because it was midafternoon on a trading day in that boring part of spring where the tourists are few. We talked. He graciously engaged me on my love of MacDonald and signed one of his books with a nod to MacDonald. Then we moved out of Manhattan and I can’t find the bloody book he signed. Whenever I’m at odds and ends, the girls find me rummaging around our bookshelves grumbling about this missing book. It’ll show up some day.
The neat thing for you is that Jack Reacher (Child’s wayward character with his military police lineage who walks everywhere and never washes his clothing – he just buys a new set of pants, shirt and boots) is readily available at almost every point of purchase. Child has hit on a series with decent plots and a brain-numbing level of physical violence that shows up I’d say every fifteen pages or so. Anyway, you can’t beat these airplane reads and if you’re stuck on the hook and need a fun adventure, read on of these Jack Reacher stories.
Sailing Alone Around the World by Joshua Slocum is a decent read. Read that tale for its descriptions, not for the writing. Funny thing is, Slocum sailed his s/y SPRAY into Newport harbor following his around the globe navigation. During my winter walks around this town, I like to look out at the harbor and picture his boat at anchor.
I like some of Peter Heller’s books. The Dog Stars is a post-apocalyptic tale best read with the lights bright. He really shined in a book called Kook, which is all about Heller learning to surf and traveling to some cool places to find a wave and, bear with me, himself. Good reads, though. Anyway, that’s what I’ve got. Let me in on your reading list or send me a title you think I’d like.
Underway and making way. ■
John K. Fulweiler, Esq. is a Proctor-in-Admiralty representing individuals and small businesses in maritime matters including personal injury claims throughout the East and Gulf Coasts and with his office in Newport, Rhode Island. He can be reached at 1-800-383-MAYDAY (6293) or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit his website at saltwaterlaw.com.