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A Novel
G. F. Michelsen

Hardscrabble Books–Fiction of New England

University Press of New England
2007 • 256 pp. 5 1/2 x 8 1/2"
Fiction & Literature

$27.95 Hardcover, 978-1-58465-647-0

No sales outside US & Canada

“A great love story, a murder mystery, a sea yarn to rival Joseph Conrad’s Typhoon, and a powerful and elegant prose style...”Ernest Hebert

A breathtaking novel of Cape Cod and the sea

G. F. Michelsen’s novel Hard Bottom was acclaimed as “a beautifully written, impeccably crafted book” by Publishers Weekly, while the Washington Post hailed his To Sleep with Ghosts as “compelling” and “lyrical.” Michelsen’s dazzling new novel once again showcases his flair for nuance and narrative.

Lorenzo is a seasoned Cape Cod seaman who is called to captain the behemoth grain freighter Pacific Debenture up the east coast of Africa. Mettle’s fast-paced story alternates between Cape Cod, the off-Cape Islands, and the Debenture’s African ports of call. Woven into the narrative are short, highly charged passages relating to corruption in the Chinese steel industry. Michelsen sustains the adrenaline rush of his seafaring drama with personal conflicts involving Lorenzo’s son, a woman they both love back on the Cape, a stowaway on board, and the Pacific Debenture’s rebellious officers

Ultimately, Lorenzo’s extraordinary “mettle” is forced into a life-or-death confrontation with the Chinese “metal,” with shocking results. Michelsen’s crisp prose and brilliant, unpredictable plotting will keep you guessing until the last page. This superb novel will stay with you long after you have enjoyed it for the first time.


"Michelsen has written deftly about men struggling with their jobs, their marriages, and society in general, and his latest novel addresses similar themes. Lorenzo Fuller is a Cape Cod-based seaman who has assumed command of a huge freighter carrying grain to ports along the east coast of Africa. Two complications surface immediately: the resistance of the crew to Lorenzo's "hard ass"management style and the fact that Lorenzo's son Dowie is a crew member, despite the owners' promise that they would never be assigned the same ship. Their relationship has deteriorated since Lorenzo's divorce from Dowie's mother, exacerbated by their mutual interest in a young woman who has gone missing off Cape Cod, presumed drowned. Michelsen juxtaposes familial flashbacks with passages detailing the ship's ongoing crisis—it is vulnerable to structural stress caused by illegal cost-saving measures taken in the manufacture of its steel girders, which are slowly experiencing metal fatigue and placing them all in danger. Michelsen's strong characterizations of Lorenzo, his son, and several crew members inject heightened pathos into the climactic, though not unexpected, conclusion."—Booklist

" . . . The spirit of Joseph Conrad's [Lord Jim] frequents the pages of G.F. Michelsen's new novel, Mettle, and that is no small compliment." —Falmouth Enterprise

Writing such as this I consider magnificent...This is a gripping sea story...Read it and see if you don't agree."—The Cabinet (Milford, NH)


“G.F. Michelsen knows a lot... and his knowledge infuses this fine novel with a powerful sense of reality. Whether he's writing about a mighty ship fighting a rising sea or about the loneliness of winter on Cape Cod, he knows how to take you into his world. And whether his characters are at sea or on land, he knows that his real subject is the human heart, with all its hopes and disappointments. He's a writer's writer, and in Mettle, he's at the top of his form.”—William Martin, author of Back Bay, Harvard Yard, and The Lost Constitution, Recipient of the 2005 New England Book Award for Fiction

Mettle is a tale of a father and a son, unmoored by murder, now perilously at sea on a ship whose fate may well be as doomed as the woman neither can forget. GF Michelsen has long been one of my favorite writers, one whose voice—thoughtful, lyrical, and charged with moral care—is distinctly and blessedly his own.”—Thomas H. Cook, author of Edgar-winning The Chatham School Affair

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G. F. MICHELSEN is a native-born Cape Codder and the author of eleven novels including To Sleep with Ghosts: A Novel of Africa (1992), Hard Bottom (UPNE, 2001), and The Art and Practice of Explosion (UPNE, 2003), which won honorary mention in Foreward's “Best Novel of the Year” competition. The recipient written for Harper’s Magazine, Rolling Stone,and Men's Journal, and he has worked as a merchant marine officer and commercial fisherman.

Wed, 6 Jun 2012 15:36:15 -0500