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The Waterman

A Novel of the Chesapeake Bay

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Set along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, this first novel tells the story of Clay Wakeman, who spent his boyhood on the water and finds he can't leave it. When his father is lost in a storm off the Eastern Shore, Clay drops out of college to take possession of his father's boat and his work as a waterman, that is, as an independent commercial fisherman.
Since the old boat constitutes his sole inheritance, Clay starts out small. He recruits his oldest friend, Byron, a traumatized Vietnam vet, to join him in a crabbing business. Just as they're breaking even, Hurricane Agnes roars in to ruin the salinity of the eastern Bay waters. Agnes forces them across the Bay to set their crab traps along the Virginia shoreline and to move in with Matt and Kate, Clay's uppercrust friends from college.

It's in these unfamiliar waters that their real troubles begin. Clay falls irrevocably in love with the spoken-for Kate; Byron's demons pursue him with even greater vengeance; and out in the Bay the partners stumble onto a drug running operation. Lines are drawn by the dealers. And, at the very end, in a riveting boat chase, Clay comes very close to losing the battle . . . forever.

From Publishers Weekly

Jan 11, 1999 – Washington, D.C., lawyer and ex-waterman Junkin's first novel is a commendable effort that charts a belated coming of age in dangerous and tragic circumstances. Junkin sets his earnest but often meandering narrative in what lately has been Christopher Tilghman country: the Chesapeake Bay vicinity in 1968. Returned home from college to search for his father, who has been lost at sea, Clay Wakeman goes against everyone's advice, takes over his father's fishing boat and becomes a waterman. He partners with close friend Byron, a drunkard and thoroughly screwed-up Vietnam vet. In a well-developed love story, Clay explores his mounting passion for Kate, the longtime girlfriend of his friend Matty, a photographer. Though Kate shares Clay's feelings, Clay has qualms about the nascent affair, not only because it would mean betraying Matty, but because as a child he once stumbled on his father in an act of infidelity. Clay and his boat survive the crisis of Hurricane Agnes, but the storm decimates Chesapeake Bay's crabbing trade, so Clay and Byron move down the coast to Virginia Beach, where they find that the local watermen and law enforcement are territorial and hostile. Clay and Byron have a long-standing dream of salvaging shipwreck treasure, but self-destructive Byron stumbles on another sort of treasure, large quantities of cocaine. At this point the story, sluggish with too many supporting characters and copious information about crab fishing and boat operation, turns lively, with a long suspenseful boat chase along the Virginia/Maryland coast. This exciting trajectory leads to a surprising and moving denouement. The narrative is muddied by clumsy dialogue, with characters who mostly blurt, stammer and interject, but Junkin's strong sense of life on the water, and particularly on the Chesapeake, redeems his freshman gaucheries and suggests promise in his work to come. Author tour.
The Waterman
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  • $9.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Fiction & Literature
  • Published: Jan 09, 1999
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books
  • Seller: Workman Publishing Co., Inc.
  • Print Length: 300 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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