An odd, vaguely compelling novel by the ex-con ex-sailor who wrote Cool Hand Luke. His apparent ignorance of the conventions of novel writing has approximately the same effect as the usual experimental author's transcendence of them: without explanation or elegance or even plot, there emerges a picture of life in a ratty merchant ship that has far more ""truth"" than the artificial understatement or quasi-articulateness that currently passes for ""realism."" Nothing much happens: the sailors tell lots of raunchy stories about the bars and broads on shore leave; complain about work; razz the food; and share (all except the black kitchen crew) the rubber woman they find floating ia the non-symbolic ocean. The main character, Cooper, a vaguely intelligent able bodied seaman, always maintains his distance -- even when he drunkenly curses the mother who left him an orphan among the St. Marks vinos which seems out of place in this very unpsychological novel. It's a relief to read an unselfconscious story, with unselfconscious characters who are not interested in revealing themselves; plus an interesting glimpse into a world few of us know much about -- a breath of flesh air in several ways.