LOST AT SEA: An American Tragedy by Patrick Dillon

LOST AT SEA: An American Tragedy

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A taut, heartbreaking story of fishermen who died at sea, the subsequent mare's nest of an investigation, and congressional maneuverings over maritime safety bills, from Pulitzer-winning journalist Dillon (The Last Best Thing, 1996). Fishing and the Pacific Northwest go hand in hand: many boys there are still raised to read the tides, anticipate the mood swings of the weather, and recognize the tonal variations of foghorns. It's a place where fish were once so thick you could harvest them with a pitchfork. The first part of Dillon's book is the story of a fishing company in a small Washington town, its development and the personalities involved, and then the loss of 14 local men as two of its boats capsize in the rude waters of the Bering Sea. Fishing is a death industry, Dillon reminds readers, and decent cash returns invite risk-taking of the most outrageous sort, but these boats were supposedly superstable, and the fishing company had a plum reputation as a safety-conscious outfit. Part two shifts into investigative-journalist mode as Dillon reports on the inquiry into the loss of the two boats, the toll it took on the families, and the tortured permutations the truth took as it made its way to the surface. The circumstances combine with Dillon's deadpan reportorial style to make the death of the 14 men generate a field of gloom and sadness that is painful to witness. And irritation is added to the pall in part three, as Dillon recounts the families' efforts to get legislation passed to insure greater safety requirements for fishing vessels, over the vested interests of politicians, lawyers, and insurance companies. Dillon's fine book tells us its the same as it ever was: men at sea equals men at supreme risk.

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 1998
ISBN: 0440334292
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Dial