The Bookworm: Surfing and submarines

Terri Schlichenmeyer
“The Pope of Palm Beach” by Tim Dorsey

“The Pope of Palm Beach”

By Tim Dorsey

c. 2018, William Morrow

$26.99, $33.50 Canada; 337 pages

Reach back, they say.

Grab the person behind you, beneath you on the Success Ladder, the newbie in the office and elevate them, too. Reach back and help somebody. Reach back and be a mentor, but use your head or, as in the new book “The Pope of Palm Beach” by Tim Dorsey, it could be deadly.

Everybody knew Darby.

He was the guy who always lent a hand, lived quietly, talked to strangers and never bothered anyone. When the best waves crashed on the inlets near Palm Beach Gardens, Darby was the only guy who could ride them. He was a legend. The surfers called him The Pope of Palm Beach.

Much like a real Pope, Darby blessed his followers, but his favorite was Kenny. Back in ’65, Darby noticed the skinny boy was teased a lot and, because he made a point of including the non-included, he taught Kenny to surf. He saved Kenny’s life and then he taught him to live.

And, as they sat one summer night on the docks watching men with large guns, big boats and drugs, Darby taught Kenny about dying.

That was the night that Kenny Reese, Florida author and witness to a crime, went home, barricaded doors and windows and hid for the next 30 years. Terrified and assuming that drug men – or maybe cops, or both – were looking for him, he lived in the dark and relied on his lawyer to pay bills, bring groceries and deal with a publisher that never knew what happened to their best-selling writer…

Tim Dorsey, author of "The Pope of Palm Beach"

“Another working vacation.”

That’s how Serge Storms described the trip down Florida’s East Coast when his sidekick, Coleman, questioned their intentions. This vacation, however, was unique, in that they’d never done it before. This trip was entirely literary, looking for landmarks of Florida writers. Harrison, Thompson, Hurston...those were the easy ones. McGuane, many of them. And then there was the one Serge could never find: a guy who’d written a trilogy, then disappeared. A guy by name of Kenny Reese.

Here’s something new: a Serge Storms novel by author Tim Dorsey that isn’t All Chaos, All the Time. Instead, Dorsey’s done something different, and it’s quite refreshing: there’s a calmer timeline inside “The Pope of Palm Beach” that takes readers back and forth, fifty years to the present, inside several character’s lives.

One of those, of course, is Storms, who is six years old in some parts of the book and present-age in others; regular readers of this series will be delighted with this childhood peek at Little Serge, and a kid called “Seymour.” Alas – heavy sigh – the best character here is killed before we’re fully able to get to know him.

If you’re mourning the loss of the chaos, don’t. Dorsey offers plenty of that for fans, as well as Serge’s usual creative revenge, but there’s a full story in the way first, and that’s okay. You’ll still love “The Pope of Palm Beach,” so reach back for it.

“The H.L. Hunley Submarine: History and Mystery from the Civil War” by Fran Hawk, illustrated by Monica Wyrick.

“The H.L. Hunley Submarine: History and Mystery from the Civil War”

By Fran Hawk, illustrated by Monica Wyrick

c.2017, Young Palmetto Books

$19.99, $32.99 Canada; 40 pages

Oh, no. You lost it.

That thing you were supposed to take care of and keep track of – it’s gone. Where is anybody’s guess. You lost it and now you can only hope that, unlike in the book “The H.L. Hunley Submarine” by Fran Hawk and illustrated by Monica Wyrick, it doesn’t take 130 years to find it.

Horace Lawson Hunley knew there had to be a way to help the South win the Civil War. He thought and thought and finally, Hunley and his friend, James McClintock, put their heads together and come up with a “powerful secret weapon,” a warship that could sneak under water, deploy explosives at Union battleships and escape safely as the battleships sank. Surely, they believed, this could win the war.

Lieutenant George Dixon wanted very much for the South to win, too, but though he’d fought for the Confederacy, he’d been hurt in battle and would see no more action on land. Instead, Dixon joined Horace Hunley and his secret weapon, which wasn’t so secret: Yankee spies already knew about the “fish boat,” named the Hunley after its inventor. The Yanks told their warships to be on the lookout for something “that looked like a giant log.”

They didn’t need to worry too much. The Hunley sunk as the Rebels did a practice run and five men drowned. Hunley begged for another trial, had the submarine pulled up from the water, cleaned, and then he, himself, boarded for another practice run. The sub sunk again, but this time, Hunley and seven crew members drowned. It looked like the Hunley was done.

But Lt. Dixon had other ideas.

He pulled the Hunley from the water once again, cleaned it and brought in a new crew. On February 17, 1864, that crew boarded the Hunley and set off to hunt for the Housatonic, a larger Yankee ship. It was dark when they sent a torpedo… and hit the target. The Housatonic sank “within five minutes,” but on its way back to port, the Hunley disappeared.

Where it was found – and when and by whom – will surprise you.

If you’re an adult fan of submarine thrillers, it might surprise you, too: at the end of “The H.L. Hunley Submarine,” there’s a real-life twist that ends this tale.

Long before you reach that point, though, author Fran Hawk tells a story of the War Between the States, the enormity of battle and a man who reaches for a little luck and gets it – at least temporarily - in a most coincidental way. Hawk writes in a fresh voice that captures kid’s imaginations, and this telling becomes an important (and exciting) part of the Hunley’s narrative. To bring home the uniqueness of this tale are illustrations by Monica Wyrick, scientific end-facts and photos of the Hunley today.

This book is perfect for kids ages 10 to 15, especially if they have interests in history, submarines or archaeology. Adults might like it as a quick read, too. For them, “The H.L. Hunley Submarine” is a book to get lost in.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.