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Shell Games: Rogues, Smugglers, and the Hunt for Nature's Bounty
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Shell Games: Rogues, Smugglers, and the Hunt for Nature's Bounty

4.2 5
by Craig Welch
 

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Shell Games is a cops–and–robbers tale set in a double–crossing world where smugglers fight turf wars over some of the world’s strangest marine creatures.

Puget Sound sits south of the border between the U.S. and Canada and is home to the magnificent geoduck (pronounced “gooey duck”), the world’s largest burrowing

Overview

Shell Games is a cops–and–robbers tale set in a double–crossing world where smugglers fight turf wars over some of the world’s strangest marine creatures.

Puget Sound sits south of the border between the U.S. and Canada and is home to the magnificent geoduck (pronounced “gooey duck”), the world’s largest burrowing clam. Comically proportioned but increasingly fashionable as seafood, the geoduck has been the subject of pranks, TV specials, and gourmet feasts. But this shellfish is so valuable it is also traded for millions of dollars on the black market—a world where outlaw scuba divers dodge cops while using souped–up boats, night–vision goggles, and weighted belts to pluck the succulent treasures from the sea floor. And the greatest dangers come from rival poachers who resort to arson and hit men to eliminate competition and stake their claim in the geoduck market.

Detective Ed Volz spent his life chasing elk–antler thieves, bobcat smugglers, and eagle talon poachers. Now he was determined to find the kingpin of the geoduck underworld. He and a team of federal agents set up illegal sales, secretly recorded conversations, and photographed hand–offs from the bushes. For years, they tracked a rogues’ gallery of lawbreakers, who eventually led them to the biggest thief of all—a darkly charming con man who called himself the “GeoduckGotti” and who worked both sides of the law.

In Shell Games, veteran environmental journalist Craig Welch delves into the wilds of our nation’s waters and forests in search of some of America’s most unusual criminals and the cops who are on a mission to take them down. This thrilling examination of the international black market for wildlife is filled with butterfly thieves, bear slayers, and shark–trafficking pastors—all part of one of the largest illegal trades in the world.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In this compelling debut, award-winning journalist Welch offers an insider's view of the illegal international trade in protected wildlife. At the heart of the story is the geoduck, a huge and obscene-looking burrowing clam native to the Pacific Northwest. Prized as a culinary delicacy, particularly in Asian markets, geoducks have been victims of illegal poaching for over a century. But in the 1990s, a single enigmatic poacher and his smuggling ring stripped Puget Sound of thousands of pounds and millions of dollars worth of geoducks. Welch draws upon hundreds of interviews with police detectives, divers, smugglers, and federal agents—as well as a nuanced understanding of Washington's cultural and natural history—to weave a fascinating tale of this legendary poaching episode and the resulting environmental disaster. VERDICT Although this work fits squarely in the true-crime category, the criminals are quirky rather than terrifying and the pacing is measured rather than breathless, making it an appropriate choice for readers who prefer less intensity in true-crime narratives. Like Mark Griffiths's The Lotus Quest (reviewed above), this will also appeal to readers who enjoyed Susan Orlean's The Orchid Thief. [Ebook edition: ISBN 978-0-06-198798-4.]—Kelsy Peterson, Prairie Village, KS
Juliet Eilperin
Craig Welch's Shell Games has the most unlikely of central characters: the massive geoduck clam, a tasty creature that resides in the waters of Puget Sound and resembles the raciest part of the male anatomy. Pronounced "gooey-duck," the valuable shellfish and the humans who cannot resist plundering it make for a compelling tale that is at once ridiculous and tragic…Welch has clearly done his homework, which has allowed him to write an engrossing tale of both human excesses and the attempts of a few brave souls' to curb them. Everyone, not just the denizens of Puget Sound, has a stake in this battle's outcome.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In this deep-sea true-crime narrative, journalist Welch entertains and horrifies with tales of poachers and the law enforcement officers devoted to chasing them down. Stories range across the wildlife spectrum, from bears killed for their gallbladders (used “to treat cancers, burns, and liver and stomach problems”) to Moonies harvesting baby leopard sharks off California’s Catalina Island for pet shops. The book focuses on fisheries in the Pacific Northwest and features the “oversize, ugly, and still somehow charming” geoduck clam, which resembles nothing more than “a giant penis,” and an equally larger-than-life Native American fisherman and artist, Doug Tobin, “a charmer, a prankster, a benefactor, and a bully.” Tobin, originally enlisted by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife detectives, as an informant to help catch geoduck poachers, ends up stealing millions of dollars worth of geoduck and Dungeness crab, the ecological consequences of which will take decades to evaluate. Welch’s vivid depictions and broad coverage of this global, ecologically disastrous illegal trafficking provide a sympathetic glimpse into the dedication and frustration of wildlife crime fighters. (Apr.)
Oregonian
“Welch brings us into the underworld of shellfish smuggling from multiple angles...Shell Games is an eye-opener, exposing a murky world operating just below the surface.”
Wall Street Journal
“Riveting...Ed Volz and Doug Tobin are perfect antagonists.”
Seattle Times
“Endlessly fascinating.”
Washington Post
“[A]n engrossing tale of both human excesses and the attempts of a few brave souls’ to curb them. Everyone, not just the denizens of Puget Sound, has a stake in this battle’s outcome.”
Mark Obmascik
“With hit men, snitches, and midnight smuggling runs, this book has all the adventure of a Miami Vice episode. That it reads like a detective novel - with the quarry being millions of dollars of freakishly large clams - is testament to the formidable writing and reporting talents of Craig Welch.”

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061537134
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
04/06/2010
Pages:
274
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

What People are Saying About This

Mark Obmascik
“With hit men, snitches, and midnight smuggling runs, this book has all the adventure of a Miami Vice episode. That it reads like a detective novel - with the quarry being millions of dollars of freakishly large clams - is testament to the formidable writing and reporting talents of Craig Welch.”

Meet the Author

Craig Welch is the chief environmental writer for the Seattle Times. His work has been published in Smithsonian magazine, the Washington Post and Newsweek. He has won dozens of local, regional and national journalism awards, and has been named the national Society of Environmental Journalists's Outstanding Beat Reporter of the Year. In 2007, he completed a fellowship at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University.

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Shell Games: Rogues, Smugglers, and the Hunt for Nature's Bounty 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mermaid rp is weird. No one ever does anything.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Reall nothing. U?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
harstan More than 1 year ago
From the start with the poacher "Hunt" on Puget Sound led by Detectives Volz and Jarmon, fact is stranger than fiction as Craig Welch affirms with these entertaining yet also horrifying true crimes at sea collection. The entries occur in the Pacific Northwest and run the gamut of what poachers will do for profit. Although the prime focus is the Washington State fisheries, bears are killed to harvest their gallbladders as medical remedies and several others similar animal slaughters are highlighted also. Perhaps the biggest shocker is the tale of charismatic Native American artist Doug Tobin, who the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife hired as an informant to enable them to catch geoduck poachers; he turns out to be a double agent as he is one of the prime poachers. This well written true crime compilation will fascinate and shock readers as dedicated law enforcement officials try to prevent poaching on the Washington State waters. No question that Craig Welch provides much of the entries from the perspective of the cops working the seaways who he admires as his empathizes are with these hard working game wardens who face danger. However, he also makes the "Crab Men" and "Clam Kings", etc. come across as dedicated capitalists as to the professional poachers this is a business. Harriet Klausner