A BOAT OFF THE COAST by Stephen Dobyns

A BOAT OFF THE COAST

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Two old high-school buddies in Belfast, Maine--one a feckless Vietnam vet, the other an uptight family man--get in over their heads with drug-runners: a low-key, noglitz serving of character-suspense, stronger on sociology than action, from the author of the fine Charlie Bradshaw mystery series (Saratoga Snapper, etc.). Tucker Morgan, who went to Vietnam and college, is nowhere at 34. Living in a half-built mess of a house, cutting firewood for pocket money, hating the teaching job he once had, Tucker longs to start life over again somewhere out West with his little son Jason--who is currently residing with Tucker's estranged wife Sarah and her parents in posh Camden. So, desperate for major cash (either to win his wife back or spirit away his son), Tucker accepts a $20,000 mission from a yuppie drug. dealer: pick up two shipments of cocaine from a South American freighter off the coast. To do this, however, Tucker has to enlist the reluctant help of his hardworking chum Brian Davis, who owns a lobster-boat. Worse yet, another high-school pal--greedy, ferret-like Lowell Perry, horny (lusting after Brian's young sister-in-law) and jealous (of handsome Tucker)--is a secret snitch for the local narcs. And, worst of all, Tucker decides to steal some of the cocaine for private sale--which brings out the local drag-king's ruthless enforcers: the finale is a three-way night-chase on land and sea, with murder, cops, and thugs. . .as Tucker ultimately proves himself more hero than villain. With split-locus narration and thoughtful-yet-thin characterization, this exploration of pathetic amateur crime remains only modestly involving (in contrast to Bill Griffith's Time for Frankie Coolin, for example). But, despite some blandness in the dialogue (no regional snap), the working-class milieu--the wretched chicken-processing plant where Brian works, the local bar-scene, redneck-ish weekend war-games--is vividly etched. And Dobyns' storytelling is leanly effective throughout, investing a familiar, largely predictable scenario with downbeat authenticity and steady tension.

Pub Date: Nov. 10th, 1987
Publisher: Viking