Book review: Hebridean Sharker

Hebridean SharkerHebridean Sharker by Tex Geddes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tex Geddes is very well-spoken. At least, his written voice is well-spoken. I suppose that I’d somehow expected him to write in a kind of Irvine Welsh-style rendition of accent, partially because his story is a deeply Scottish one – cold beauty and rough elemental life – and partially because he was, as far as I can ascertain, a mad old bastard. As you’d expect from a man who spent a lot of time shark-fishing, game-stalking, and convincing the British government that as the Laird of Soay, he needed a postal service goddamnit.

This link will take you to a write-up of his life on wikipedia, but I think it’s important to highlight the fact that he died while returning home from a bagpiping competition.

Hebridean Sharker is Geddes’ recollections of his lifeboat, ring-netting and shark-fishing operations, and it’s interesting even if you’re normally not the kind of person who thinks fishing yarns are worthwhile reads. The strength of personality and solid lust for life that comes across through the text is pretty incredible, and I found myself unable to leave the book alone. There’s not much here that I’m familiar with, being equipped with neither harpoon knowledge nor sea-legs, but Geddes presents even the most mundane parts of the job – squaring away below decks, keeping a hand on the tiller – as interesting as the more racy, gung-ho sections. And that’s largely because his enthusiasm is palpable. He’s a problem-solver and, I suspect, much more of a shit-stirrer than the book conveys.

Above all, the importance of camaraderie on the water is highlighted in this work. Despite losing sharks to foreign fleets, Geddes never has a fuck-off moment – he shares drinks, trades tips and examines different approaches with the eye of someone who wants to increase his knowledge and circle of friends. It’s reassuring to read the story of someone so open to exchange (and this is in Scotland in the 1950s!) when we’re in a position of lock-down with strangers for the most part today. Part of the appeal of the work is undoubtedly this quaint, respect-everybody approach, I’m certain.

Hebridean Sharker conveys a pleasing portrait of a man larger than life, friendlier than most, and probably mad as a cut snake. It’s effortlessly enjoyable, which is something I never thought I’d say about a book focusing on liver-harvesting operations. Read it if you need a bit of watery derring-do in your literary lists.

My Goodreads profile is here.

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