Reviewed by TONY BAER:


RICHARD BISSELL – High Water. Little Brown, hardcover, 1954. Signet 1230, paperback, 1955. Minnesota Historical Society Press, softcover, 1987.

   Duke is first mate on a Mississippi tugboat. They’re hauling eight barges of coal upriver during a flood.

   It’s a novel of riverboat adventure with lots of authentic sounding dialogue of rivermen talking about women and weather and why they ended up stuck on a riverboat on the Mississippi.

   They rescue a good-looking woman from the roof of her house. Bad luck, say some. And then the fog rolls in, the steering breaks, and they hit a bridge. The boat starts to sink. And it’s every man (and woman) for themselves.

   A convincing tale. Known for being the book that Elmore Leonard credited as teaching him how to write, along with Hemingway. But where Hemingway lacks a sense of humor, Bissell imbues his characters with jokes, tall tales, loud braggadocio, and quiet ironies. And it ends up sounding less like perfect prose and more like life.

   I enjoyed it.