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Intensive care nurse and Vietnam vet Freeman displays more passion than craft in his first novel--a contrivance of expiatory theatrics between a Vietnam vet and an ex-North Vietnamese soldier that's played out against the rough-and-tumble world of Pacific Northwest fishermen. Mike Crandel--""Captain Hook"" for having lost an arm and gained a hook in Vietnam--narrates this stitled tale. Twenty years later, ""The Nam"" still rides Mike's hack, a voracious monkey that's made him a curmudgeon who squabbles with family and fellows and who has recently been asylumed for trying to hook wife Leigh Anne to death. (Their marriage, a volatile mix of kink and love, comes clear in obsessive think-backs that break up the present-day action.) With Mike's Nam-harping, it's no wonder that he eagerly offers deckhand's work to Tu Van Huyen when the middle-aged Vietnamese refugee wanders by Mike's boat, even though Mike knows that other fisher. men will rage at an Asian working the financially-pressed fishing lanes. Mike warns off villainous Pete McGuire after that bully terrorizes Tu and brands ""No Gooks"" on Mike's boat; but once the fishing season begins, McGuire continues to harass Mike, thus servicing the closing of ranks between Mike and Tu--who reveals himself as a former NVA regular--against a common enemy. As Mike befriends Tu, he begins to free himself from the War's grip, but in an erratic plot-wrinkle Mike's recovery runs askew when he begins to suspect Tu of poisoning him. That notion soon washes overboard, however, when McGuire kidnaps Tu--an act of piracy that Mike avenges by rescuing his deckhand and indulging in a sophomoric, macho one-upmanship on McGuire. Nam's (and his wife's) shadow shed at last, Mike and Tu are all grins (""Some kinda fun we're having now, hey Tu?"" ""Some kinda fun, Cap'n Mike""). Freeman's fine, rugged use of the fishing background doesn't compensate for his overwrought characters and too-pat plotting: overall, a sincere but awkward effort.

Pub Date: Jan. 25th, 1987
Publisher: Morrow