This review, by Rhey Plumley, appeared in the September 2005 issue of the Champlain College Truth.
Fifteen years ago striped bass made a miraculous recovery from near extinction. Pollution in the bays and over-harvesting by commercial and recreational fishers nearly wiped out this magnificent and wild saltwater species. A limited commercial fishery and very lucrative sport and fly fishing industry has developed around this comeback fish that now seems to be thriving.
In his new novel Stephen Morris takes the reader on a similar quest for recovery. Middle-aged Artie Gordon is "...one of the most bankable directors in Hollywood." Artie has money, fancy clothes, and a big house. He knows the beautiful people, watches Lakers' basketball with Jack Nicholson and enjoys drinking expensive gin at the Ritz with his young trophy girlfriend, the beautiful Meiko. Artie's life is the dream. Then comes the bomb.
His latest movie, which he wrote, directed, and produced, manages to offend every religious, ethnic, women's and media group in the country. Artie crashes and his glitter world tumbles down around him.
STRIPAH LOVE is a wild ride. Artie runs back east to Boston Harbor to his old and rundown family summer cottage in Indian Mound. Here he tries to clean off the pollution in his life and recover by rebuilding the nest. Barefoot and in cut-offs, he attacks the overgrown grounds, hoes out, sweeps, mops, and washes, scrapes, primes, and paints to bring his childhood retreat back to life. Artie reunites with Cuzzin who never left Indian Mound. He has turned his legacy, a very successful takeout fried seafood establishment into a rundown bait and tackle shack where locals come to share stories and cold backroom beverages.
STRIPAH LOVE turned out to be a fun book to read with page-turning subplots, very insightful fishing tips, old family seafood recipes, and some hot sex. I felt a little let down at the end, however. Artie had come full circle. The recovery to his fall, it seemed, led to nothing more than the same thing he had in the beginning.
Early on in reaction to Artie's film, CNN quips, "Arthur Gordon just doesn't get it." And in the end his love, Shea, says that Artie is clueless. I found myself wishing that after Artie had caught the big striper he had "gotten it" and taken Shea gently by the hand and followed the creature into the sea to swim with the fishes, wild and free. But then maybe I'm looking for something, too.
STRIPAH LOVE is a publication of The Public Press, a growing reaction to large, profit-oriented corporate publishing groups. As a cooperative, this grassroots press has entered into a partnership with authors and readers. The goal is to provide greater independence of though and freedom of expression. This is a step in the right direction and deserves encouragement and support. Congratulations, Stephen Morris.