FIFTY YEARS A HOOKER by Frank and Jeanette Mundus

FIFTY YEARS A HOOKER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A candid, autobiographical fish tale.

In 1975, Steven Spielberg directed the breakout summer blockbuster Jaws, which “borrowed” personality and techniques of the infamous shark-fishing pioneer Mundus (Monster Man, 1976, etc.). Tall tales about his life eventually eclipsed truth, and Mundus has stepped in to set the record straight. His real story began in a very uncinematic section of New Jersey, where he was born into poverty and poor health. A fervent individual from the start, Mundus survived urban squalor and yardstick-wielding nuns and emerged as the type of Hemingway-esque alpha male who inspired the Greatest Generation. Drawn to the sea at an early age, he found a way to satisfy his adventurous streak in sport fishing. The author quickly learned that customers would fork over big bucks for the thrill of reeling in an angry shark, so he stopped chasing tuna and started “Monster Fishing.” Borrowing a trick or two from P.T. Barnum’s playbook, Mundus developed a showmanship persona that drew the attention of newspaper reporters around the world and the jealousy of his peers. Although the material is engaging and provocative, Mundus and his wife, Jeanette, are not able to successfully translate the fisherman’s colorful life onto the written page. Instead of using exposition to hook their readers, the authors rely almost exclusively on exclamation points. There are several opportunities to humanize Mundus’s life story–his struggle with alcoholism, the concerns about shark conservation and research, his divorce from his first wife–but these nuances get pushed aside in the quest for the big catch. By failing to get personal, the writers miss their chance to connect with readers on a deeper level.

There’s a bigger fish swimming somewhere beneath this Ahab narrative, but the authors are never quite able to land it.

Pub Date: June 27th, 2005
ISBN: 978-1-413-48428-1
Program: Kirkus Indie
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