Deep Water Blues|
Open Road Media, 2019, 160 pp, PB, $17.99
This lyrical compact novel by Fred Waitzkin and illustrated by John Mitchell is full of intrigue, tragedy and the beauty of Rum Cay, a small island in the Bahamas. Waitzkin the author of several books, most famously perhaps Searching for Bobby Fisher, is a poetic novelist. The descriptions of the characters and the island are vividly brought to life.
Inspired by true events, Deep Water Blues is a nuanced story of corruption. Bobby Little came to Rum Cay and built a mini empire. Bobby is larger than life and sports fishermen and rich client's crowd to his marina and bar. He is a master chef, surfer and a former DEA agent. Everyone loves Bobby. Tragedy occurs when a Haitian refugee boat capsizes. Bobby and some friends help as many as they can, but not everyone survives. The island grows quiet, and Bobby leaves for a few months. While away his partner Dennis takes over. Dennis is evil beyond redemption.
As the captain of Ebb Tide, from which Waitzkin trolls for marlin and tuna, he visits Rum Cay often. Some of this story is told from a first person narrative where the reader gets insight from captain Fred about his own childhood, the history of Rum Cay and the rise and fall of Bobby Little. Also sprinkled throughout the novel are wonderful fishing stories; and harrowing tales of getting caught in storms and navigational problems.
When Dennis ratchets up his evil, Bobby finally snaps and fights back. What ensues is a tense hunt for Bobby across the island where he barely survives the night. He takes his new young wife and flees, only to return a week later to find everything he had built is gone. Dennis had bulldozed everything into the sea. Bobby decides to stay, but has no more taste for what he called the "Bobby Show". He lives with his wife, dogs, goats and chickens and the occasional visitor.
Fred describes other colorful characters that live on the island. Mike lives on a dilapidated boat and has been writing a novel for twelve years. Rasta, Bobby's best friend and confidante who is also betrayed. Flo, who helps in the kitchen and does the washing, has her own tale to tell. She suffers deeply at the hands of Dennis.
Ebb Tide visits Rum Cay for the last time. Captain Fred doubts he'll ever return. This novel is a rollercoaster of drama written deftly and with a keen sense of beauty. An exciting, if at times painful, read that I'm sure to revisit many times.