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A Wonderful Surprise: a long lost favorite book, found

June 03, 2008


I just had the neatest thing happen. And there's even synchronicity involved. Actually, this kind of thing happens to me not rarely. I'll let you in on it this time.

Where to start.

I have a hero writer. Robb White. Sadly, he died a few years ago. Before he died (out of the blue at age 68) he and I were planning for me to publish a book of his infamous columns from "Messing About in Boats" magazine. Hilarious, valuable work. But his NYC publisher and agent---who didn't give a rip about him---were holding up his creative efforts. They would not help him but they would indeed hinder him. (Let us all say together: "Screw you!" and do our best to RUIN THEIR KIND. How? By shunning them. By buying INDY BOOKS. That's the only way. Grrr!) Anyway, I still resell the wonderful first book by Robb, "Tin Canoe"---find it in my Boating Products section. It's about life. And it's not generic. But he had so much more. Well, the deathgrip that NYC has on Rob's work (a deathgrip meant literally to kill it...grrrrr!) will expire soon, so new work of his will come out then. His widow June will appreciate that...and so will his thousands of fans.

Well...Robb is a character. And he told some stories about his family. His family is even a bit famous. His dad was a Hollywood screenwriter type who was poor when he first got married and who, with his young bride, sailed out to a deserted island in the Caribbean and lived there. His writings from there became somewhat famous and helped popularize the Virgin Islands. I'd always been a bit curious about them. I recently ran once again into a mention of Robb's dad, who was also Robb, and his famous island saga, "Our Virgin Island," written in the 40's before that area was so hot-right-now. (Actually, before anywhere in the world was so-hot. How was that? Surely there were expensive areas...but they tended to be only the size of a few city blocks and in a very few cities! Amazing. And none of it was ruined then either---I recently read that nearly all the classic harbors of the world are literally ruined in every possible sense.) So I finally checked a copy of this old tale out of the library.

I started reading it a couple days ago.


And I suddenly realized that it was a book that I had read when I was 15. It was a book that had inspired me with the thrill of the sea and of the islands. I remember sitting on the floor of the MSU library and reading it in a day. Well, I must've also checked it out because at school a non-book-reading friend borrowed it and he also read it. He, too, was transfixed. Maybe even more than I was. He had the delightful experience, that I got to witness and even facilitate, of having a BOOK open his eyes to a broader sense of life. I saw it happen. I somewhat doubt that my friend read a second book after that but still it really thrilled him. He wanted to go to the islands. I did, too. That was when he and I and a couple other pals decided to run away that summer, to build a raft and take it down the river and head out to sea. After every class I would dash to the blackboard and sketch out the details of how our raft design was progressing, then erase it and run off to the next class. I remember we finally calculated that our raft would cost $70 build, it would float on 4 of those blue plastic 55-gal drums. But we ended up going on a long canoe trip instead...and working on a farm...and crashing a car...)

Over the years I read dozens of other books about seafaring and island life and always wondered about that book. I had forgotten its title. I only had a certain feel from it. I also thought it was about Tahiti.

Well, just 2 nights ago I knew that "feel" all over again and refound that old book.

What fun!

Here's a link to Robb White's bibliography. Lots of his books look like they'd appeal to the adventurous teen: grovebook.com/GA32.htm. Heck, I've probably read some of them, too!

As for my fave old book...it looks like it's out of print (O.O.P.) and the cheapest one on the market is $70. But libraries will have it.

And if you want a chip off the old block who has many of his own fine sagas to relate, including the one about how he and his siblings and cousins grew up unattended, foraging their own food in a rowboat along the shore of the Gulf, well, I have some copies of "Tin Canoe" for ya!

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