Monthly Archives: August 2017

Startling tales of America’s Cold War sailors revealed

Cold Water Canoe Club, by Jeffery Hess. Down & Out Books. 292 pages. Trade paperback $16.95.

I can’t think of another short story collection that I’ve read in recent years that has given me such a jolt of vicarious experience and insight. Original, fraught with every kind of pain, clearsighted and despairing, Mr. Hess’s book takes us to external and internal places that most of us have been able to avoid. And that avoidance has distanced us from people, whole swaths of society, who we have unwittingly depended on to keep us safe – and even prosperous. 

Given today’s concerns about American’s conflicts and rivalries with Putin’s Russia, a group of 15 stories focused on the lives of Navy seamen during the Cold War has an added dimension of relevance. In addition, the stories are amazingly well-written, filled with an abundance of explosive imagery, and presented through unmistakably authentic first or third person voices. Well, perhaps there is a bit of literary overlay on and around these voices.

The lives of shipboard sailors on patrol in potentially dangerous parts of the world are lives of confinement and compression. Their tasks as communications experts or engineers or electricians are tedious and tense. They perform maintenance, make repairs when necessary, and prepare to meet emergencies. A ship is a dangerous place even when not under fire. So many things can go disastrously wrong. Such things happen in Jeffery Hess’s stories.

These sailors are confined spatially, socially, and often spiritually. They depend on one another and yet can learn to both love and hate their workmates. The compression demands release: port days with a bit of time off, prostitutes, and all the drugs and alcohol one can manage or mismanage.

Hess

Mr. Hess begins with an early marker of the background history, a story set in 1949 near the outset of the Cold War. He moves us forward through the following decades, beyond the Cuban Missile Crisis, and up to the Reagan presidency’s achievement. He takes us to Lebanon, Turkey, Manila, Naples, Guam, and other places where a U. S. fighting ship might go – or stop.

Through flashbacks and other devices, the author sets these mostly young men into their larger lives: the kind of towns and families they come from, the marriages they have entered and exited, their relationships with the officer class that they serve under, race relationships, the ambitions they’ve put on hold, the children they hardly know, the injuries and other physical hardships that have aged them, and the inertia – or is it momentum? – that keeps them going. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the August 9, 2017 issue of the Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the August 10 issue of the Naples, Bonita Springs, and Charlotte County editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Cold Water Canoe Club

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To enhance your reading pleasure, let a Copperfish into your life

Recently, I raced up to Punta Gorda to meet the owners of Copperfish Books. I’m a man who loves bookstores, and I’d never had the opportunity to fish there. My visit was most delightful and informative. Cathy Graham and Serena Wyckoff have created a well-planned, well-stocked, and most comfortable space to browse, peruse, contemplate, and ask for advice. You can even sit down.  

They keep track of and stock the potential and actual best-sellers as well as a wide variety of other new books. Like most independents, they combine new books with used – and they also have an antiquarian section. They stock a deep assortment of Florida writers, particularly Charlotte County scribes, and they offer stimulating selections on Florida yesterday and today.

They will handle special orders, including searches for out of print titles. They have introduced a 20% discount on most newly released adult hardcover books. They insist, “If we don’t have it in stock, we can order it for you.”

Cathy and Serena

If you, your organization, or your book club need multiple copies of the same title, Cathy and Serena offer 25% off most new books with a minimum purchase of 20 copies. They also have a trading/credit program that can save book addicts a good deal of money. Also, they support local authors by offering to stock their books through a consignment program.

At Copperfish Books, you can enjoy range of literary events. Readings and signings by local authors are scheduled regularly. There is a book club that meets on a website-posted schedule with two sessions on meeting days: 9am and 6pm. New copies of the book club selections are discounted 10%. RSVPs are requested.  

Because the owners planned for Copperfish to be a lively cultural meeting space, they made it possible to rearrange some of the display furniture and seat up to 80 attendees comfortably. . . .

To read the entire article, including an interview with the proprietors, as it appears in the August 3, 2017 Charlotte County edition of Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – Copperfish Books

This article may appear in other editions of Florida Weekly. Let’s hope so! So many books, so little time.

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