White Shark, by Ross Gresham … as clever as they come … immediate thoughts of Carl Hiaasen’s environmental novels popped up, and were quickly bypassed when the protagonist’s introspection was more than clever.
There’s a hint of Jaws and the Vineyard in this baby, as well as the Kennedy clan and Hyannis Port. Nassuet Island could easily be Hyannis Port or Martha’s Vineyard … or anywhere else on Cape Cod, or maybe even Nantucket … and what’s more controversial than island development to such places … there’s tradition, old money vs. new … and since when do environmental concerns really trump money to be made? They don’t, not usually, but following the money isn’t always as easy as it seems … especially when a retired Congressman (who maybe in the latter stages of Alzheimer’s) with money and some leftover clandestine clout from his days on the hill is in the mix. Not to mention the run of the mill multi-millionaire real estate owners and businessmen in the same tax brackets …
Jim Hawkins is a young veteran with experiences that include making hay of an African prison and impressing his former comrades in arms as someone not to fuck with. Jim has taken a traffic position that requires a way too small uniform, but still has that legal police-like stamp (so he’s often mistaken for a cop). The new job is on Nassuet Island, Massachusetts, near to his woman, Marsha. Pretty much simultaneously, Jim is tossed out on his ear by Marsha (and will have to swim a mile each day/night to/from his new digs—a beach), and he’s had a confrontation with his new boss (the Chief). If life isn’t complicated enough, early on he comes across an apparent suicide off-shore … a big shot land developer has offed himself and Jim’s the one who “ruins his Viking funeral.”
There are many layers to the mystery behind the suicide … there’s an apparent shark attack, at least one missing person, a vengeance seeking doctor, a private detective, the retired (losing/lost it) congressman, his psychopathically misogynistic son, and the clandestine clout the congressman once yielded … there are dead seals, a bombing, and some of the more annoying types of wealth that tends to consume people (best summed here, I thought): Now, you may think, Rich Lady! She orders you around like a servant! That wasn’t the situation. Yes, Sarah had her ideas about how things should be. This is the trap of money and Sarah wasn’t immune. No one is. A lady with extensive property makes a decision every ten minutes—which car? Which restaurant? Which house?—and the habit becomes a trait. Authority rewires the brain. You forget what people are for. That happens to everyone.
Another of Jim’s problems is his ability to piss people off. He’s a natural at it. So when he comes up against a crowd at a late night party hosted by another of the big money developers/investors, he earns himself nicknames he doesn’t learn about until later on. Behind his back, he’s Rainman and The Terminator, but that’s getting ahead of the story. Way back in his story, Jim has another nickname, but that’s giving away too much too soon.
Jim doesn’t know he’s being a thorn in the side of the island fat cats. He’s oblivious to it, in fact. So when people appear out of nowhere and try to take him out, he doesn’t realize the danger he’s put himself in by doing his dopey job.
There’s a ton of great exchanges through the novel, as well as out and out education. The author comes from a sea-faring family. I learned much from the narrative, including how badly salt water deteriorates homes, cars, and pretty much anything mechanical. I now understand why homes on Martha’s Vineyard, for instance, are required to be painted every so often (hello summer help—send in the pawns!).
I learned you can actually stay underwater for so many feet by merely extending your arms overhead, but, no, I won’t be trying that anytime soon.
Jim offers a boatload of cynical introspection that will make you smile and maybe burn a little, but it’s the good burn; the “us against them” burn. Toward the end there is a statement made by an elderly wealthy woman (Mrs. Yellow, code name) that immediately brought to mind Dostoyevsky’s Raskolnikov: "She spun me a theory about great men. It was different for great men. All we could hope for was to be of some assistance."
One of my favorite quips came from Jim’s second former girlfriend, almost immediately after she becomes another ex-girlfriend, when she’s hurling insults at him and generally trying to hurt him (for actually caring for her missing sister) … At some point we both understood that I would leave. Just to get out of there, I carried my shoes and socks, because she was trying hateful remarks. “Megan always menstruated clouds. The sharks smelled that.”
Jim’s final exchange with the same Mrs. Yellow from above. It nails so much of what I believe is a healthy life philosophy (devoid of revenge and anger—what I believe and can’t accomplish nearly often enough, I might add). No spoilers, but trust me on this: You’ll love Jim Hawkins and what he throws down at the end of this wonderfully entertaining novel.
Amici, listen to me. Ross Gresham’s debut is a knockout. Witty introspective cynicism runs rampant in this exciting adventure of one man unknowingly pitted against the hubris and power of money and some of its darker offshoots. Jim Hawkins is a guy you never want to mess with, but you’ll want more of him, no doubt about it. White Shark is a page turner, a barn burner, a constantly moving thriller with good guys, bad guys, and really bad guys. It is constant motion, a dive into the shark pond during feeding time. An absolute winner. Go get this book!
Pratima Cranse news … ALL THE MAJOR CONSTELLATIONS, by Pratima Cranse, reviewed here, has been selected as one of the Children's Books of the Year by The Bank Street College of Education. It's under the “Fourteen and Up” category. Congrats to another fellow SNHU MFA graduate!
The Congenital Liar vs. the Con Artist Although it’s not a done deal yet, this is most likely what the country will be facing come November, an election between two people most of us neither like nor trust. The question, of course, is how the hell did it happen?
Why did minorities overwhelmingly support a very wealthy candidate with a conservative voting record and life experiences far removed from poverty and discrimination? Why did they turn their backs on the progressive candidate who spent his life fighting for workers and the impoverished? Why would anyone vote for someone stained with scandals, exposed in lie after lie, and who may well be indicted for abuses of power that far exceeded those that forced a former four star General/CIA Director to resign and plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified materials?
Why would so many new voters turn out to support the carnival barking of a billionaire, reality TV star, who not only insulted his way to the frontrunner status he now enjoys within the Republican Party, he’s demeaned women, the handicapped, Muslims and Hispanics, as well as incited violence at his campaign rallies?
Whites may well turn against the pandering the congenital liar did with the African-American community and turn to the con artist for revenge … and those from the progressive front seem determined to deny the DNC handpicked candidate with protest votes that either ignore her name or vote for her opponent … and some in the conservative movement may stay home rather than vote for the candidate their electorate voted for (as opposed to what the RNC wanted/wants) … and some of those more liberal Republicans may also protest vote and cross the aisle to support the DNC candidate … but the one constant in the process is what the country will be left with to choose from: a congenital liar or a con artist.
Welcome to the Third World, America.
And don’t be surprised when it’s their kids running for President.
Happy Birthday Evelyn Amelia Stella!
Our granddaughter is 3 today … it’ll be a painting party at Casa Stella, Jr. … 20 kids with paintbrushes … oy vey!
Buon compleanno, Evie!