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Cap'n Billy  Cap'n Billy
An Alabama Odyssey

A Literary Novel by W.D. Smart

Available now on

     A chance encounter with Cap’n Billy, a good ol’ boy shrimper working the small bays off the Gulf of Mexico, combined with an ugly community standoff over the rights of a small beach mouse eventually forces an unexpected course correction in Neal’s sailing retirement plans.

Neal Burgess, a semi-retired, forty-something computer analyst from California, had cashed in from a start-up company he had helped bring to life. He bought the sailboat of his dreams and was enjoying his new live-a-board lifestyle in a small marina in southern Alabama where he intended to just kick back, relax and focus on his zen practice. His life there was idyllic and blissfully uneventful until the day he met Cap’n Billy, a downhome good ol’ boy who operated a small shrimping trawler along the inland waterways that lined the Gulf. Before he knew it he was spending almost every night shrimping with Cap’n Billy literally learning the ropes as he went, and enjoying the never-ending yarns Cap’n Billy spun as they trawled. But all was not well in paradise. Cap’n Billy’s boat was in sore need of some basic maintenance and major repairs. His license was under threat from the marine police. On top of that the formerly sleepy little marina where Neal lived on his boat suddenly rose up in arms to challenge the rejection of a trivial building permit which was refused on the grounds it threatened the mysterious Perdido Key Beach mouse with imminent extinction.

Tempers were running high and Neal and Cap’n Billy were trying to lay low, but were slowly being drawn into the melee.

Cap’n Billy is presented in a lively, colorful narrative which includes southern Alabama mannerisms, culture, stories and language; boating and shrimping detail; zen practice and perspectives; and the cloistered but lingering consequences of unrequited love...and it has a really kick-ass Alabama Shrimp Boil recipe to boot! It is a literary novel weaving seemingly disparate but curiously related threads from Southern culture, single-handed shrimping, predicative data analytics, zen and conservationism to create a rich and engaging tapestry depicting life on the southern U.S. Gulf coast. It would be particularly interesting to readers who have enjoyed the reflection on and application of zen in everyday life as portrayed in Robert Persig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

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