By William B. McCloskey Jr.
Skyhorse Publishing, 2013
Hardcover, 400 pp., $24.95
You’ll get a taste of “Warriors,” the prequel to William B. McCloskey’s previous novels “Highliners,” “Brokers” and “Raiders” in our January issue. The “Warriors” excerpt that begins on page 26 focuses on fishing in the early days of Alaska’s king crab fishery. But the novel is about much more than that.
The “Highliners” trilogy focuses on the story of Hank Crawford’s journey from green cannery hand to respected fishing captain in Alaska, a tale that spans from the early 1960s to the mid-1980s. Three important characters who appear in the three novels return as the main characters in “Warriors.”
Crawford’s future mentor, Marine Sgt. Jones Henry, Japanese officer Kiyoshi Tsurifune, and anti-German Resistance fighter Swede Scorden struggle to return to a normal life after World War II. Each man is wrestling with all they’ve endured during the war and want nothing more than to return to the fishing life.
For Jones, that means returning to Ketchikan, Alaska, to fish for salmon and king crab. Swede, too, settles in Ketchikan where he throws himself into work at a cannery, eventually becoming an executive. Kiyoshi returns to his family, trying to deal with the lost honor of his country’s defeat, eventually helping his local fishermen get back on the water and becoming a seafood buyer. The three men’s paths cross throughout the book, as Kiyoshi eventually becomes an ambassador for the Japanese trade.
But the fishing world is changing. Engines are replacing the sails on fishing boats that Jones and other fishermen have relied upon for years. A new union calls a strike during the height of salmon season. And an impending deal to allow the Japanese to fish Alaska waters angers many Alaska fishermen for whom memories of the war against Japan are all too fresh.
Each character’s perspective on the war is enlightening. The passages about life in post-war Japan are compelling. So are those in which Jones wrestles with his war experiences; Jones just wants to fish and be left alone, and not have to think about what he saw in the war.
Against the backdrop of the changes in their lives and Alaska’s fishing industry, each man must find a way to make peace with what they’ve experienced and with the changes coming to the burgeoning Alaska fisheries. All in all “Warriors” proves to be a worthy addition to the “Highliner” novels.