Apr 6, 2010

"Only A Sucker Fights Fair"

Dammit, but that's the stuff!

Piracy and theft are a serious business in the wide expanse and natural anarchy of the seas. Like the wild waves, pirates obey only the winds of chance and the law of possession. The sea takes and rarely gives it back. So too a corrupt nation, a scamming receiver, or even a greedy charterer. It's not fair, but it works pretty well for the ones bold enough to go get what they want.

What's needed is a man with strong convictions about the nature of bullies and why they must be taught a lesson. If that means a bit of the ol' rope-a-dope or sleight of hand or outright lies, so be it. Bribe an official, buy an extra hour, paint a fake name, kidnap the guards, fool the bridge tender, or just supply lots of alcohol, but get what you came for. Even if you have nothing but the fickle mercy of the wind for an ally, it's better than letting the bad guys win. Or rotting in a South American jail.

Max Hardberger's latest book, Seized, has what his highly acclaimed Freighter Captain had, but plenty more to keep the pages turning. A brighter narrative , more colorful characters, and even more high-stakes prizes such as the airplanes of East Germany's dismantled bureaucratic booty. Arrgghh!

Despite Mr. Hardberger's near-nonchalant approach to the risk of flying foreign aircraft under the radar in a rapidly dissolving country, he celebrates the Teutonic passion for order in discovering the plane's mechanical and flight logs thoughtfully tucked in for the ride. Other European adventures were a bit more rough around the edges. Russian mafia? Fuggedaboudit. Bulgarian Secret Police? Well, Max leaves it to a formidable woman to settle that score so sweetly that the memory of its extremely satisfying outcome still brings a smile.

In this book I relished a bit more background into the how and why of Max's unique line of work repossessing stolen freighters, and the eventual crossroads with Michael Bono that led him to make a real business out of it. His complete curriculum vitae evokes the image of an ADHD Indiana Jones. Mostly I just enjoyed each escapade for its unique set of circumstances and interplay. Any one chapter has enough plot to make for an entire adventure film, enough so that I might worry that the payoff in compiling them into one book is offset by the liability of the compounded interest in story upon story. It can be almost exhausting.

But only if you're a wuss. I read it in one sitting because I'm a greedy little adventurer-wannabe. Still, it's easily enjoyed one chapter at a time and makes for a great summer read.

Personal glimpses into the man himself, while welcome, manage to keep the reader at a comfortable arm's length to glean what they may about the spitzensparken that drives him to do and be and live more life than that of six men. The formation of such a character is plain enough a matter of nurture against nature, the frictional drag of a restrictive boyhood working with an accelerated imagination to create that lift, up where things are clearly more exciting.

A favorite little meme running through the story is "Not yet, by God. Not yet!" as Max eludes the Fates and beats the odds one more time. It pops up, here and there like a biblical Selah, and if you ignore that opportunity to pause and reflect on the sheer terrible chances, the odds, the untold price of such a life, you will find yourself unprepared for a bit of a rogue wave at the end of the book. But such is the way of the sea, and of life.

It doesn't fight fair.


FCC note (curse them!): I received no remuneration for this review and will receive no remuneration if you click the Amazon link above.

You, however, will make me very happy if you make Mike Bono's sitemeter stutter like a President without his teleprompter if you'll just click here.

(It makes him think I know people. . . but really it will just be you guys! Shhh. . . )


patti said...

clicked, and put the book on my amazon wish list - along with about 11 pages of other stuff...

Anonymous said...

Rouge wave!

Unknown said...

heh, so clever. ;~)