cover image Destruction at Noonday

Destruction at Noonday

Bill Robinson. Sheridan House, $22.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-924486-21-0

Set against the backdrop of an actual earthquake that ravaged Japan in 1923, this intense first novel opens with the ocean liner Oriental Monarch preparing to depart Yokohama harbor as the disaster strikes. Robinson, former editor of Yachting magazine and author of many nonfiction books on sailing, db describes the quake and its aftermath, deftly depicting the technical problems of saving the liner from a fiery oil slick without either boring or patronizing the reader. Numerous subplots--a movie star's drug addiction, the ship doctor's alcoholism, the captain's love affair with a member of the Swedish consulate, the plight of two children orphaned by the quake--vary the pace and keep the disaster scenes from becoming overwhelming. A murder further complicates the busy narrative, which falters only at the very end, when the author succumbs to the temptation to tie up all the loose ends too quickly. Nonetheless, this is a believable drama written in clear prose that never resorts to hyperbole. ( Aug. )