The Last Whale Watch and other stories

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★★★★★ The Last Whale Watch and other stories by Bert Silva is an electric array of character snapshots focused on well-meaning Americans throughout the last century. Some of these stories illustrate how transformative experiences brought on by the extraordinary pressures of wartime or life at sea can change a person in an instant. The titular tale here follows a young man at a critical juncture in his life, taking place at some undefined point in the future and, zanily enough, costarring three mechanical whales. Other stories are a bit quieter, focusing on brief frames of their characters’ lives – a day of drudgery as a young farmhand, for example – and showing how even during our most mundane moments, our minds are constantly buzzing, scheming. Dreaming.

They say to write what you know, and Silva’s expertise on subjects as varied as sailing and the Hollywood film industry shines through in this short story collection. His stories seem to oscillate between two extremes: in a good portion of them, we follow characters who are trying to hold onto that last vestige of stability while the emotional and political landscape continues to shake and tumble around them. In an equally sizable sample, his characters are trying to achieve just the opposite goal, seeking a volatile catharsis through acts like murder, revenge, and risky decision-making in the hopes that it will somehow lend new meaning to their lives. Silva dazzles with a truly impressive storytelling smorgasbord, switching gears between quasi-dystopian, Melvillian tragedies and equally gut-wrenching stories of decadence and depression during a nostalgic American heyday. Source

Synopsis - 13 Short Stories

The Last Whale Watch is the result of a disgruntled rogue engineer fired from a futuristic corporation with assets throughout the known universe. The gifted rebel chooses to revenge himself for this rejection with a bizarre construct which ends tragically. Other stories follow, some fanciful, others true incidents both grim and comic.

The Last Whale Watch

A gifted engineer, fired for insubordination within the factory system of an interstellar corporation, choses to rebel and construct a vehicle which will dazzle the known universe.

72nd Street

An artist and an actress venture to New York seeking their fortunes. A number of obstacles trip them up, even jeopardize their lives.

The Stuntman

An aging stunt performer, after years of recovering from crippling injuries, attempts a comeback.

August Storm

With his life in turmoil, an out of work hardware clerk is given an opportunity to win back his estranged wife.

Spoils of War

Even in a war army officers seek ill-gotten pleasure in taking advantage of a defenseless young girl.

Deadly Passage

A wandering sailor seeks revenge against a gangster responsible for the disappearance of his sweetheart, possibly being used in a prostitution racket.

Bread

Two adventurous writers meet after sailing their vessels to Baja, Mexico. They look for inspiration in the taverns they frequent where unique individuals provide curious material to dwell on.

My Aunt Betty

She’s attracted to men in uniform. The aunt looks for companionship among the military (She loves to dance) and finds a marine master sergeant, whom she marries.

Prison Break

A brief account refers to the desperation an older person might feel enduring a lonely captivity in a rest home.

Fish Bait

This one might be described as a cautionary tale reminding parents about guarding their children against predatory molesters. Sad, these warped individuals do exist in society.

Naked Shore

A time when America was attacked at Pearl Harbor and invasion on the west coast seemed imminent.

Death on Helena Drive

The sad passing of, many believe, one of the most popular movie stars ever. Questions remain long after her death.

Faraway

A disaster at sea nearly dooms the crew of teenagers. Each of them will persist, seeking personal fulfillment.

Excerpts

"She had written a list - ten sentences of what she thought a husband should be, and each one started with 'I want...'"

"I was nine years old the night of December, '41 when Japanese paratroopers dropped out of the sky..."

"I shivered in the cold darkness and felt certain it would all go wrong. Angel's gate, the Los Angeles shipping entrance, was a quarter mile out from where I had anchored...'

"She never failed to pick up a soldier hitchhiking on the highway whenever she drove us down the coast to visit relatives in Southern California."

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