A pre–World War II merchant ship crosses the Pacific with a deadly cargo and a crew that must guide it safely to Asia.
In 1939, the tanker SS Lichenfield departs the West Coast, “a tiny, moving island of darkness” bound for Asia, carrying 80,000 barrels of volatile naphtha. There is much foreboding about the flammability of the cargo, which could easily be ignited by a spark or a crewman’s cigarette. An oiler named Sam Harrell tells a crewmate, “You forget and strike a match and the next thing you know somebody hands you a harp.” The characters are more important than the plot, as tensions and fights break out among tough crew members. Many think about their girlfriends or wives back home, but not everyone wants to return. Second Engineer Con O’Brien muses, “Home was one thing when a man was far away; it was another when he had to live there.” Readers of a certain age will remember the late Louis L’Amour as a bestselling writer of Western novels, but this is his first novel—unfinished until decades after his death. His son, Beau, has completed and polished the story while maintaining all the flavor that Louis had intended. It’s the first of a planned series titled Louis L’Amour’s Lost Treasures. The storyline is as straightforward as the ship’s route, and it holds no major surprises. The men have their bloody fights and their dreams of returning to other lives, but if their floating bomb explodes, none of it will matter. Perhaps the Lichenfield succeeds in its perilous crossing. Or perhaps….
A dark and enjoyable maritime adventure that focuses on character and fate.