In Cooper’s debut novel, a dying man in a nursing home breaks his silence to relate the story of his adventures aboard the Sweetie Pie, a modern-day pirate ship.
Richard Murray, aka Walter White, was in his 50s and living in San Francisco when his wife died. He let himself go, drinking too much and living on the bum. A job offer on the Sweetie Pie seemed a godsend at first, until he saw that the boat was tricked out to smuggle drugs and avoid the Coast Guard. At sea, he first realized he needed to escape when his two shipmates unceremoniously dumped the body of his predecessor overboard. After banging his head when the Sweetie Pie fled a confrontation with police, he used the wound as an excuse to take a dip in the water, i.e., abandon ship. The sea was far too cold to make a getaway by swimming, so he focused his attention on a rubber skiff tied to the stern. Eventually, White got away to Canada, taking a million dollars of the smugglers’ money with him. A wanted man without country, identity, or papers, he needed to launder the U.S. currency and establish some kind of life out of the limelight. Cooper skillfully uses White’s trials on the Sweetie Pie and in Canada to map his protagonist’s voyage from down and outer to wealthy recluse. Cooper provides detailed explanations of background facts, using hand-drawn sketches, scanned documents, and historical asides; he even calls things by their full and proper names, sometimes when unnecessary: e.g., “White Star Line’s H.M.S. Titanic.” At the same time, the simple, enlightening prose allows him to opine on everything from the evils of drugs to baseball players who dare copy Willie Mays’ basket catch, all while expounding on geography, endangered species, smuggling, and whatever else comes into his purview.
A modern morality tale of redemption, adventure, and survival.