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Down at the Docks    by Rory Nugent order for
Down at the Docks
by Rory Nugent
Order:  USA  Can
Anchor, 2010 (2009)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

Down at the Docks is a fascinating story that incorporates past history with current conditions in one of the country's premier fishing ports, New Bedford, Massachusetts. Rory Nugent tells his story by focusing on various characters who work the boats or live along the waterfront.

The once prosperous port and industrial center has fallen on hard times as government regulations and overfishing decimated the fishing fleet, and economic changes and sending jobs off-shore closed the factories. New Bedford's fishing fleet was built on the whaling industry, which eventually gave way to deepwater fishing for cod, scallops and other Atlantic fish. At the time Nugent wrote the book, the commercial fleet in the city's harbor numbered about 300 boats, but the number was rapidly diminishing.

Drug smuggling, which dates back to the 1800s, has been a tradition of sorts at the New England port. Nugent writes that the 'tonnage of drugs landed here from 1810 to 1860 made it the nation's top import center for opium, hashish, coca paste and reefer'. Although the smuggling has moved to other ports, drug usage on the waterfront is still high and there are some individuals who supplement their incomes with clandestine hook-ups with drug mother ships off the coast.

Some of the local characters the reader meets in this entertaining book include Hake, an oft-shipwrecked sailor who many regard as a jinx so they won't employ him abroad their boats; Monk, a captain who is desperately trying to deep six his boat to collect the insurance; and Fatima, who operates the Harborside Café, a local hangout for fishermen.

An incredibly interesting read, Down at the Docks mixes local color and offbeat personalities with facts and fishing lore in such a manner that it is easy to digest. You'll quickly discover this is a difficult book to set down. But, on the other hand, it is so good you may slow down eventually so that you can stretch the narrative out and make it last longer.

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