The Forty Fathom Bank

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The narrator of Les Galloway’s THE FORTY FATHOM BANK is a man haunted by the ghost of the sea. He is a man, decent and hard-working, heckled by the guilt-riddled memory of a chain of events that took place off the coastal waters of California in the fall of 1940: an accident at sea that would change his life beyond his wildest dreams.

The tone of this first-person telling is remorseful, a story confessed in order to be forgiven; in order to forgive himself. When the novella begins, the unnamed narrator is living marginally with his wife and two kids (a third child, he has recently learned, is on the way) in San Francisco, working at a real estate office that was always on the verge, so it seemed, of going out of business. He is a man rooted in the routine struggle of scraping out a living, a Willy Loman of sorts who admittedly “clung to things, to the status quo, to my wife, my jobs.” A man, in short, who avoids change. He is, in turn, a man who avoids having to live.

One day he steps outside his routine, outside the limits of his own character. As he tells it: “sometime before the war, I did something quite unusual for me. I acquired an old fishing boat.” This acquisition triggers the series of unforgettable events that will follow and haunt him, like a trail of blood, for the rest of his days.

All of this happens in the days and months before World War II, “when the Nazis . . . invaded Scandinavia and cut off the...

(The entire section is 458 words.)