A first novel concerns itself not so much with the ship Atchemist, whose master is as old and faulty as the vessel, as with the two recently arrived ordinary seamen, Ira Garret and Samson Black. They meet in a whorehouse in New Orleans; Blacky is the complete tyro and it is through Ira's friendship that he learns sailors' ways. He quickly brings the Captain's wrath down on him and, although he is logged, jumps ship when he likes, and is the means of persuading Ira to leave the girl he has found and resume the voyage. Blacky rev his own admonitions and goes off on a ""crazy kick"" into the jungles to search for diamonds and it is Ira who is sent by the Captain to find him. And he does, after a search that ends in nightmare and death, and gains the knowledge that he is a better man than Blacky. An overlay of symbolism and exaggerated eccentricities edges this into the Goyen field and the story of the leader and led, which maintains an unvarnished deckside candor, contrasts with this amorphous lization. This however may be attractive to some.