Everything I Found On The Beach

BOOK REVIEW by Willard Manus

Cynan Jones, the Welsh writer whose novel THE DIG was reviewed in Lively Arts last November, has returned with EVERYTHING I FOUND ON THE BEACH, a savage tale about three men struggling for survival in a dark, violent, mechanistic world.

The three men could not be more different: one is a neurotic, vengeful Irish mobster; the second an impoverished Polish immigrant; the third (Hold), a likable Welsh farmhand. The latter earns extra money by hunting and fishing. One night, while hauling in his nets, he spots someone in an inflatable boat who appears to be raiding his nets. Driven by a primal rage, he wades into the sea, grabs hold of the rubber boat and does battle with the thief.

The battle, which is brief and bloody, is won by Hold who then drags the boat to shore and discovers that his antagonist (the Pole)is dead. Not only that, the boat is packed with drugs, not fish. Hold knows he should go to the police, but “the old mechanisms of surviving his father were already kicking in.” He then makes the all too human mistake of trying to peddle the drugs and score some desperately needed cash.

That leads him to The Scouser, the big-time Irish drug-dealer who had employed the impoverished Pole as a mule. The Scouser offers to buy back the cocaine; Hold knows he’s asking for trouble by getting involved with this hoodlum but decides he has the wherewithal and courage to outwit him. Sadly, he pays the ultimate price for this self-deception.

“I wanted to use the thriller genre and all that comes with it as the framework for a story about choices,” the author said in a press note. Although EVERYTHING I FOUND ON THE BEACH has much to commend it, especially its use of language, the book does not have the remarkable power, daring and originality of THE DIG.