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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Gonna Need A Wider Boardwalk

Talk about close to home. In "Close To Shore" (2001), Michael Capuzzo describes the panic that ensued when a rogue great white shark killed four people and seriously injured one more in early July, 1916. The second victim was devoured in the surf of Spring Lake NJ, a town two miles from me. My wife and I routinely take walks on the beach there.

Capuzzo has a solid sense of pace. His chapters toggle between those devoted to the era and people who lived or vacationed in the three NJ towns where the attacks took place next to chapters about the rogue white and early 20th century ichthyology. By the time the first victim meets his gruesome end (in Beach Haven, Long Beach Island in three and a half feet of water), my heart rate was accelerated. The eyewitness accounts the author cites are terrifying and stomach-churning in equal measure. I was not at all surprised to learn Peter Benchley based his bestseller "Jaws" on the incidents Capuzzo relates.

The last three attacks (two fatal) all took place on a single day - in fresh water - eleven miles inland in the Matawan Creek, information revealed on the book jacket. Anyway, mentioning it doesn't qualify as a spoiler - Capuzzo has skill to spare as a storyteller. He describes the terror gripping people at a time when beach recreation was a fairly new phenomenon at the same time he uses early 21st century science to make some startling conjectures about the future. Now each time a walk at Spring Lake crosses my mind, I hear Roy Schneider telling Robert Shaw "...we're gonna need a bigger boat...".


  1. Great title for this blog, Pat! I can't wait to read this one.

  2. This blog makes me want to run right out and grab this book!

    1. Kim and Sue; I'm pleased both of you want to read this book based on the post; Sue - when you do let's be sure to schedule a lunch to talk about it.

  3. Yes, that's it exactly - a wider boardwalk! I love it! Now I'm going to have to read this book to find out more about my adopted home. Thanks Pat.