“All Fishermen are Liars: True Tales from the Dry Dock Bar,” by Linda Greenlaw; Hyperion; hardcover, $22.95.

“Russian roulette is the point,” says Alden when describing the life of a commercial fisherman. Alden, the best friend and mentor of fisherman and writer Linda Greenlaw, says that every time a fisherman leaves the dock they are “spinning the chamber.”

He’s referring to the unpredictability of a life spent at sea and the near scrapes with death that every fisherman faces. It is from these death-defying confrontations with Mother Nature that all good sea stories arise.

Greenlaw, the author of “The Hungry Ocean” and “The Lobster Chronicles,” sets her new book dockside.

From a table near the bar at the Dry Dock Restaurant in Portland, Linda and Alden swap stories about some of the worst days at sea they’ve heard of.

The hidden purpose of Greenlaw’s lunch with Alden is to try and bring up the topic of her mentor’s failing health and need to retire. Linda’s dilemma is how to tell a man who claims to have “pissed more sea water than you have sailed over” that he needs to retire.

Greenlaw signed on as a crew member aboard Alden’s swordfishing boat at the age of 19. What began as a summer job to pay her college tuition became an addiction and then a career.

Her “Hungry Ocean,” a recounting of daily life when she was captain of a swordfishing boat (including the tale of her crew’s survival during the 1991 storm that downed the Andrea Gail), was an instant best seller. Her new book shows that she’s not the only one with a good story to tell.

A hurricane’s havoc

The most riveting story in her new book, “All Fisherman are Liars,” tells of David Marks’ survival off the coast of St. Croix during a category 5 hurricane. Hurricane Marilyn wrenched Marks’ 65-foot boat from its anchor in an enclosed bay and sent it hurtling into open ocean.

The wind was so strong that the windows in the wheelhouse became concave. The reader can hardly turn the pages fast enough as Marks endures a near collision, a failed survival suit, sharks and a 12-hour ordeal of swimming in violent seas. Linda concludes her recounting of the story to Alden by saying that Marks’ experience drove him into to the safe and easy life of a pleasure cruise captain. Her hint to Alden that even the saltiest of fisherman do retire is, not surprisingly, ignored.

Like any evening out with friends, you remember the good stories and not the banter in between. Although, the Dry Dock is a perfect setting for Alden, Linda and other fisherman to play out their stories, the reader will rush through their banter ready for the next yarn.

Stories of captains putting lobster boats under sail, crew members hamming Treasure Island, pitiless weather and bunkmates on the lam are told with suspense and humor.

In each story spun by Linda Greenlaw, the sea either bests a fisherman by death or by surrender.

Alden refuses, despite Linda’s pointed storytelling or timid suggestions about retirement, to surrender. Each storm he survives and each fisherman he outlives or out-fishes is a badge of honor. And each badge of honor is another tale to spin out at the Dry Dock. In the end, Alden and Linda Greenlaw will continue to play their chances at sea. For Alden, it’s a great game of Russian roulette and he’d “rather take a bullet at sea than sweat about my chances with a spin anywhere else.”

Kirsten Cappy is a bookseller in Portland.


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