Author photo by Shae Burnette
W. E. Burnette grew up in Bee Tree, North Carolina, and currently lives in Boulder Creek, California. He has been a soldier, a college English teacher, and a marketing writer. He spent seven years in the U. S. Army, doing tours in South Korea, Germany, and Vietnam. After earning an MA in English from San Jose State, Burnette first began to write and publish in 1984 and 1986, co-authoring two college English textbooks with Daniel James Brown, author of The Boys in the Boat, and publishing one with Houghton Mifflin and the other with Holt, Rinehart and Winston. After 10 years of teaching at San Jose State University and at community colleges in California and Washington, he went to work for Lockheed Missiles & Space Company, and since then has worked at various companies in Silicon Valley. He has written two novels and a novella--The Long Roll, Requiem Shark, and Christmas in Sunny California. He is currently at work on a ghost story set in the mountains of Western North Carolina.
“Strong characterizations and realistic relationships help make this shark tale a satisfying, accomplished read.”
– Kirkus Reviews
A quest for vengeance after a tragic death turns a ragtag group of strangers into a family in Burnette’s (Christmas in Sunny California, 2011, etc.) adventurous narrative.
Off the coast of Florida, an older surfer places himself between a young couple and a bull shark; he saves them, but he’s fatally mauled in the process. In a boardroom in Maryland, an executive at the top of his game finds himself cut out of the company, adrift with plenty of money but no purpose. Soon, an independent truck driver reads a newspaper at a Florida diner one morning and finds the name of the surfer, a fellow soldier from the Vietnam War whom he hadn’t seen for decades. Driven by various needs—revenge, satisfaction for a wasted life, the desire to begin anew—the executive and truck driver, along with a pair of researchers who’ve fallen on hard times, hunt the bull shark that killed a man who’d been forgotten by the world. Burnette’s story is heavily indebted to Jaws, which Burnette makes explicit with repeated callbacks to the 1975 Steven Spielberg movie and the original 1974 Peter Benchley novel. He tells it with confidence, allowing the action to rise from his nuanced characterizations rather than by forcing plot contrivances on readers. Although the hunt for the massive bull shark is the characters’ primary motivation, their work and travel together gives them each new purposes and helps them bond as a makeshift family. Each character, from the Vietnam veterans who served with the dead surfer to the 17-year-old girl who pulls the surfer from the ocean, has plausible traits and fears, and Burnette writes with a surety that allows the people to drive the story. This confidence extends to the author’s use of the third-person viewpoint, which lets him provide information that the characters never learn. This strategy further develops the novel’s world and provides the groundwork for later explorations.
Strong characterizations and realistic relationships help make this shark tale a satisfying, accomplished read.
Pub Date: March 25, 2015
Page count: 380pp
Publisher: Outskirts Press Inc.
Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015
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