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Saturday, November 3, 2018

Oriental Vagabonds


             I finished this book last night, and I have to say that I was blown away!  Set, as the blurb lays out, on a tramp steamer plying Far Eastern waters on the eve of World War II, the characters are richly drawn, and the settings evoke the scent of the trade winds carried on the muggy heat that only the tropics can provide.  Perhaps this book spoke so intimately to me because I have lived it, cruising the Orient on the deck of a tanker in the late 1960s, but whatever the reason, the reading was fabulous!
            Let’s first cover the problems with this book:  There are a few typos, and in one spot I found “you’re” where it should have read “your.”  This isn’t uncommon in indie fiction, but in some cases, it is so rampant that it renders the book virtually unreadable.  Not the case here.  A couple of hiccups, a raised eyebrow, and on with the wonderful story.  I’d rate this 41/2 if Amazon allowed it, but I’m not knocking a whole star off for an issue that didn’t detract in the slightest from a magnificent tale of the sea.
            So, what do we have here?  Well, most importantly, we have characters.  From the time we meet Captain Rowden prepping the Oriental Venture for sea in Sydney to the moment he stands out of a nameless lagoon in the South Pacific, Bill Rowden is the undisputed engine that drives the narrative.  Matching wits with arrogant Nazis, slimy Soviets, the Chinese underworld, a Russian dancer turned English lady, and an Australian major who is a bit more than what he seems, Rowden and his crew of cutthroats maneuver carefully and entertainingly through the hazardous minefields of prewar Oriental customs, scams, and skullduggery.  It is my personal belief that characters are fiction, and no one in this cast, from the captain to the lowliest dock worker, disappoints.
            Now you put these characters into a setting as rich and romantic as the South Seas, and the finished product is a book that is an absolute joy to get lost in.  My recommendation is that you pour a mug of strong brew, add a healthy dollop of your favorite “creamer,” and settle back for an evening’s enjoyment that will be hard to match for entertainment.

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