Monday, June 20, 2016

Rip Tide (1984) by Donald D. Cheatham


Silently, swiftly, it stalks the water--ready to strike--
in the dark deadly depths of the
RIP TIDE.

I can say I made it all the way through this book. Well, mostly. I started skimming about two-thirds in. Couldn't be helped.

Sigh.

There are a few reviews for this book out there, mostly talking about how bad Cheatham's writing is, and I can't honestly disagree. It was the writing that put me into skim-mode to begin with.

As far as I can tell, this is the only book Cheatham ever wrote. I guess it's possible this was a first effort and he went on to write more palatable stuff under a different name. You never know, right?

The book's dedication reads "For my wife, Lois, and my brother, Gene, who have always believed." Maybe this was a case of Cheatham achieving his lifelong dream of becoming a published author. If so, more power to him. I'm glad he made it.

So I won't say anymore about his talent or lack, other than to say the book's overall plot wasn't bad, and better wordsmithery would probably have bumped it from one up into three brain territory for me.

At any rate, how about that cover? Not bad. I'm always a fan of killer shark novels where they bother to do any kind of painting, versus just slapping a shark's photograph up and calling it good. I couldn't for the life of me find anything on who the cover artist might have been, and there's not a hint of signature visible on the cover itself (that I could find).

It's a decent painting, obviously inspired by Roger Kastel's iconic Jaws cover, but it manages to remind without being too obvious. Same general theme: a female swimmer moving left to right across the page while a big-ass shark comes up underneath her. This shark faces forward rather than swimming straight up, and the swimmer is clothed rather than not. Although I wondered if the painting was originally done with a nude swimmer. The figure's posed to avoid any obvious show of pink bits even if the suit weren't in place. Could be the artist painted her nude, and was asked to cover up later.

Totally guessing, as I'm wont to do.

So the plot of the book is basically this: A twenty-six foot tiger shark shows up off the island of Surfside, Florida and starts eating people. (There actually is a Surfside in Florida, but it's not an island, so I'm assuming this particular town is fictional.) Once everybody figures out what's going on, a couple of local police detectives are assigned the job of getting rid of the thing.

Which they almost manage to do a couple of times, but when a hurricane makes landfall right in the middle of town, the shark ends up swimming away to freedom while they deal with the hurricane's aftermath. The hurricane itself is kind of a weird element to throw into a story like this, but I have to say Cheatham's best writing centers around the disaster stuff, so I'm kind of glad it was there.

Anyway, a twenty-six foot tiger shark is pretty damn big. Wikipedia says they're usually between ten and fourteen feet long, with a few of the bigger females getting up to sixteen or eighteen feet. Just for fun, here's a shot of a thirteen footer, along with its proud reeler-in-er (who I'm happy to say released it afterwards), for comparison.


Let's take a look at the book's back cover:


High Tide... Low Tide... Rip Tide. I doubt the author actually wrote any of the back cover copy, but it's pretty uninspiring regardless. Too bad. Looks like this book's front cover is its strong point.

I'm giving it ONE TIDAL TIGER BRAIN.

See you.

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