Watkins, whose first novel was the movie-vivid re-creation of a bloody tag end of WW II (Night Over Day OverNight, 1988), now takes on the tough and ruthless life of commercial open-sea fishermen off the New England coast. James Pfeiffer's grandfather died at sea, and his father almost did, with the result that James' father doesn't want either of his sons to follow in his own footsteps as a trawler fisherman (""I'm doing it so you won't have to,"" he says). The trouble is that son James has been unjustly suspended from college after a tight with a thieving classmate (who stole James' treasured camera), and, embittered (and not much of a student to start with), James returns home to find the lure of the sea in his veins. His brother Joseph seems content to make a go of things as a pathetically bumbling sales entrepreneur, but James ships out on a shabby trawler, then on another less shabby, to the bitter and angry disappointment of his parents. At sea, he works with ruffians, psychos, ne'er-do-wells, and misfits--most of whom, in one way or another, have hearts of gold--whose respect he gains by working hard and having plenty of guts. There are hardships, deaths, injuries, sweepings-overboard, and near-misses aplenty in the spectacularly described and salty passages at sea--but the plot chugs along like a leaky TV barge as it's revealed not only that drug-running is taking place, but that James' idealistic dad himself has for years been under the thumb of the drug lords, doing their bidding to avoid penalties too hideous to mention. All James wants, by the end, is money to buy a lobster boat that will safely hug the shore (being thus of no interest to drug-runners) and to set up in business for himself. Will he earn the money needed to start this honest life, though, by accepting the offer that comes his way of joining--one time only, of course--a drug-run crew? Or will he, at the last minute, meet his father on a rain-swept dock, and. . . Descriptive brilliance laboring through the shoals of the routine.