Linda Greenlaw (author of THE HUNGRY OCEAN and THE LOBSTER
CHRONICLES) writes of her adventures at sea in such passionate,
loving terms that she inspires fishing dreams in the most
landlubberish of readers. This collection of "true fishermen's"
stories was gathered in one prolonged lunch with her best friend
Alden at Portland, Maine's Dry Dock Bar. The tales are separated by
entertaining short extra pieces called "Bar Snacks."
Greenlaw approaches the lunch nervously thanks to her determination
to coax Alden to retire from fishing because of his heart
condition. She fears fishing will be the death of him, but she
knows he won't accept her guidance in any remotely graceful manner.
The author describes Alden as her mentor. He taught her countless
lessons about fishing and about life, and gave Greenlaw her first
experience as a ship's captain. However, Greenlaw adds
affectionately, he has also given her the world's worst advice in
all areas. Thanks to his financial counsel, she disregards student
loans and credit card payments. She also credits Alden with
teaching her countless bad habits. He's lacking in the social
graces and has taken pains to never learn a thing from her. Yet
Greenlaw adores Alden and calls him "the most amazing man I've ever
Before the subject of Alden's ill health is approached, a random
comment from him launches Greenlaw into the first story, a musing
on an ex-beau, Alan, and his incredibly poor luck as a fisherman.
That bad mojo included wrecking a friend's motorcycle, mechanical
problems with his boat, poor fishing, sunken ships, and being
cheated. He was also lied to, stolen from, punched by a crew
member, and on and on.
After Alan's story is finished, Greenlaw gathers her courage to
introduce the subject of Alden's health as they order lunch. A
storm threatens, which inspires Greenlaw to relate her tale at sea
during "the storm of the century." At the time of the storm, in
March 1993, Greenlaw was captain of a lobster fishing rig. She
chose to ignore warnings to head to shore --- a decision she
profoundly regretted when the storm hit.
Alden then gleefully one-ups Greenlaw's tale of terror. And so it
goes, one story after the other. The lunch and storytelling last
until after ten at night. The tales consist of horror stories and a
ghost story, high adventure and low humor. In one yarn, a whore
awakens to find herself at sea on a fishing expedition; in another,
Greenlaw encounters a legendary and charming outlaw. All the
stories celebrate the love between fishermen and the sea.
If I sometimes feel Greenlaw describes the technical details of
fishing a little too thoroughly (a tangled wire is a tangled wire,
and telling what it is, how it tangled and how to untangle it slows
the story), I suspect others won't necessarily agree with me. At
any rate, the book's yarns are so enthralling that any mini
dissertation is a mere minor distraction. Indeed, Greenlaw's love
for fishing and the sea invigorate her prose. Her beautifully
compelling description of life at sea is so irresistible, it's all
I can do not to head for the nearest fishing vessel and (try to)
sign on when I read:
"The ocean has a way of swallowing your troubles, leaving you with
a carefree feeling, while at the same time enforcing the notion
that you are indeed the master of your own destiny. So, if you are
making any headway at all toward a desired destination, you become
so content that you dream of staying offshore forever.
The simplest things became astounding. The commonplace became
The same can be said for ALL FISHERMEN ARE LIARS, a book that will
hook readers from the launch and make them glad that they didn't
allow it to be the "one that got away."
Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon on December 22, 2010
All Fishermen Are Liars: True Tales From the Dry Dock Bar