Youthful misadventure

2011-11-02 00:00

AS a young man hitchhiking through the United States of America some thirty years ago, Robert Fridjohn was befriended by a Romanian emigrant who claimed to be in the gold-brokering business.

This chance encounter on the road was to have unforeseen consequences for the South African-born author as, against his better judgement, he allowed himself to be sucked into an elaborate scheme to defraud an insurance company.

Unfortunately, not only did the plan fail, but Fridjhon also subsequently became an unwilling witness to a gangland-style execution. Facing possible arrest, he decided his best chance of escaping any charges was to steal a yacht and head out for Australia, hoping that in the process he could fool the American authorities into believing he had been lost at sea.

Having put his plan into action almost everything that could go wrong did go wrong, and he was forced to endure many ordeals — he was hammered by violent storms and then becalmed in the doldrums with his food stocks running dangerously low. He contacted fever and scurvy, lost his mainmast and then ran aground on a coral reef.

Just when all seemed over for him, he finally found sanctuary on a remote Pacific island, only to discover that he had been betrayed to the police by a friend he had taken into his confidence.

He was arrested and taken to Fiji, where only a timely intervention saved him from being deported back to America.

Fridjhon is a natural storyteller, harnessing a thriller writer’s technique to drive his prose along. He is especially good at conveying life at sea, conjuring up with uncanny immediacy what it was like to be all alone in the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean in hurricane season.

With its taut, compulsive narrative and dramatic storyline, this suspenseful and at times moving tale of youthful misadventure combines lyricism with pace.

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