THE WATERMAN by Tim Junkin


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Debut novel from a Washington, D.C., lawyer that tries to give an insider’s view of life among the watermen who work the Chesapeake Bay. Clay Wakeman, a 20-year-old college boy at Georgetown, leaves school and moves back home when his father, George, vanishes without a trace from the Miss Sarah, the Chesapeake Bay crab trawler he—d worked off for years. In his will, George has left the Miss Sarah to his son, a legacy that Clay sees as an opportunity to give up on college altogether and make a life for himself on the Bay. His Georgetown classmate Matty, and Matty’s girlfriend Kate, think this is a genuine and courageous way to live, but Clay is more modest: the Bay is what he knows best. So he teams up with his childhood pal Byron and sets off to follow in his father’s footsteps. By 1972, though, it’s hard to make a living from crabs: the Bay is fished out, and the waters are increasingly polluted. Clay considers running pleasure cruises for a shady businessman named Brigman, then decides instead to move his operations farther afield to Virginia, where the waters are better. But life soon becomes complicated. Byron stumbles onto a drug-running operation that makes use of inland waterways to evade the Customs patrols, and Clay and Kate find themselves in love. This means trouble—with Matty, with the cops, and with Brigman (who turns out to be even shadier than he appears).Can Clay find his way back to shore? There’s no better navigator in the world than a waterman born and bred, after all, but the Bay can swallow you in a wink. Too long, too slow, too obvious, and too full of nautical lingo (“Barker . . . gave Clay the foresail sheet, and his brother, Earl, the main. Byron was to work the jib sheet . . . “) to stay afloat. Landlubbers steer clear.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1999
ISBN: 1-56512-230-5
Page count: 312pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999


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