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The Stowaway
by Robert Hough

Category: Fiction / General
232 pages; ISBN: 1-59970-745-3

Rating: 10/10  (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Coletta Ollerer


The reader will be gripped by this story of escalating fright on three levels: severe anxiety felt by the stowaway, worry and trepidation experienced by those who determined to help him putting themselves in harms way and disquietude encountered by those in authority who wished to exterminate the perpetrator along with the problems he might introduce. I read it in a very enjoyable and exciting two days

The book opens with the cold decision of the captain of a huge cargo ship to put two stowaways overboard onto a palate hastily fastened to steel drums. The bosun, Rodolfo, is horrified to find himself ordered to prepare the primitive float knowing full well that the probability of its finding a welcoming shore in the churning sea miles from land is certainly dim. “Seeing this, the stowaways drop to their knees and begin pleading in loud, panicked voices.” (p13) The remainder of the Filipino crew stare in appalling disbelief as they see the two stowaways being ordered to get onto the makeshift raft. The crew return to their duties shaken and aware that under the authority of these brutal men their own lives have little value.

The crew settles down but a few decide they must inform the authorities and set forth on a course to do that by confiding in a priest they met in a seafarers establishment in the port at Houston. They compose a letter to him and surreptitiously find a way to get it into the mail when the ship pulls into another harbor. All they know is the letter is mailed. They are unsure if it has achieved its intent.

Some months later at the same seaport where earlier stowaways came aboard, two more slip onto the ship and remain hidden until far out on the ocean. The crew members who discover one of them don’t want to experience the same stress the first incident provided; they don’t know what to do. Their indecision allows time for the officers to find the trespasser. Those same begin to assault the intruder, the four of them pushing him further and further toward the gunwale where they push the unfortunate overboard. The crew watches this terrifying event while peering from portholes and doorways held slightly ajar and their memories fill them with dread. While recovering from this episode, Rodolfo comes upon the last stowaway, Daniel. He determines he will hide this one and save his life. Seven of the Filipino crew agree to help. Rodolfo knows every square inch of the ship and finds a suitable place to hide Daniel. “Yet as he (Daniel) follows the sailor down flights of stairs, bypassing all of the container holds, he wants nothing more than to turn back. As they burrow deeper and deeper the air becomes hot, and stale, and thin, and if there’s any place he doesn’t want to be it is here, in the tomblike depths of the ship.” (p162) The stress on the crew and Daniel builds. .

Robert Hough bases his story on real events using the narrative form. His tireless research into actual facts allows the reader to gain insight concerning life aboard a ship at sea where rule of law is in the hands a few with scant restrictions if those few are without personal integrity and morality.


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