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Posted March 4, 2014
So what makes a good fishing tale? Perhaps it is a little like real estate: location, location, location (or, as the Australians like to say, “position, position, position...”) But it is more than that…it is the temperament of the fisherman, the poles, the flies, the weather, the obstacles to success…as well as the size of the catch. There also has to be a little time for contemplation, and ruminations about the state of the world, both personally and globally. All this is here for the taking in this first self-published novel by Graham Spence, co-author of several nonfiction titles about the African bush with the fabled conservationist Lawrence Anthony, who died in 2012.
I read this story in a day because Spence made this fiction absolutely propulsive. The central character, Chris, sells advertising for a small newspaper in Queens, New York and is bored with his life. He is middle-aged, divorced, and barely speaks to his wife or daughter anymore. After experiencing a “heart incident” in a meeting one day at work, he decides to go ahead and live before he dies. He wants to fish the wild places where fish have never seen a human. This is the tale.
He first chooses South Africa. The narrative shifts between moments of sunny calm with great, satisfying catches and moments of breath-catching, death-defying horror. The absolute best part of this narrative (who really trusts a fisherman/storyteller anyway?) are the details and keen insights that convince us that this is the real thing, the actual location, the true situation. It is fascinating. But Chris doesn’t end there.
The next location is Colombia, South America of all places. Chris thinks that no one in their right mind would go to Colombia with all the FARC activity and kidnappings, so he won't have any competition for fish. He researches locations and decides fishing along the coastline beaches and away from the jungle would probably be safe. His Colombia section just reminds us just what a fisherman (tall tales) Chris really is. But he is so good at storytelling and fishing, we find it hard to put the book down. He survives (!) his travels in Africa and South America and we move on. But I don’t want to give away all his secrets. This is something you need to discover for yourselves. I thought it was a blast.
So I discovered this title when I began researching the authors of THE ELEPHANT WHISPERER, an exceptionally well-written nonfiction about game conservation and elephant killings in Africa. Graham Spence has a low-key website on which he introduces his two self-published fiction titles, including this one. I am so happy I did.
Do yourself a favor. I can guarantee you will have an unusual (and terrific!) day’s reading with a natural raconteur.