The log of the Flying Swan's run from New York to South America encompasses the life stories of those in the engine room and of the officers from whom command is often compromise, and centers on young Williams' return to a ship, after three years' absence. Fearing his ignorance will lose him his Third Assistant's ticket, knowing he can run away no longer, he realized his luck when old Nick, a born engineer, patiently educateshim in mechanical sensitivity and know-how and when fight-mad Louie becomes his friend and champion as a fellow Jew. The shady transactions of the Chief Engineer threaten the ship's safety when a storm and a badly loaded cargo cause the generator to burn out, after he has sold the spare parts and his plot for accusing Williams falls through when the truth comes out in a whorehouse ashore. In standing up for his innocence, in helping Nick to rebuild the generator and in seeing Louie, commit murder and then suicide to save the machine, Williams realizes he has at last stopped running, and, with Nick's death, knows too that he is now a competent engineer, well taught by the dead man. A first novel, this carries the drama of men and machines into the engine room, the ports and shipboard life and interweaves both professional and personal stories in a sometimes overzealous but always sincere and authentic manner.