The Sinking of the Angie Piper, by Chris Riley: Turmoil Aboard a Crab-fishing Vessel in Alaska

sinking_angie_piperThe Sinking of the Angie Piper ($14.95, 240 pp, 5×8 Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-1-60381-389-1), is Chris Riley’s debut novel. The audiobook was produced by Blackstone Audio. A commercial fisherman learns about compassion and courage from his slow-witted best friend as the two men fight for their lives during a major storm at sea.

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5 Stars: “Gripping! I read that this is Riley’s debut novel, and what a way to have a debut. It’s a gripping and intense adventure that brings the reader on right onto the ship. The characters are novel and have great connections, and the backstory of the crew makes sense. The path of survival depends on how the crew works together and deal with the obstacles of the raging seas. It’s a story worth reading more than once.”
—Amy’s Bookshelf

“A wild, exciting adventure upon the high seas, full of danger, hardships, and uncertainty… but also triumphs, self realizations, and hope. [….] Strap on a life vest and prepare to be amazed as you climb aboard the ill-fated Angie Piper or a final voyage she, nor we, are likely to forget.”  Read more….

—Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

The Sinking of the Angie Piper is a superb short novel that blends the best of literary and suspense fiction with dramatic themes of man vs. himself and man vs. nature, with redemption in the end.” Read more….

—Amy Rogers for

4 ½ stars: “This is one intense book! You might have seen some of the reality TV shows about those that fish or crab in Alaska or that general area. This book brings the harsh reality of that what those men (and possibly women) endure in this profession. But the book is about a little bit more than that. It is also about a relationship between Ed and Danny. While it takes awhile to really figure out what is wrong with Danny (mentally challenged), the relationship between these two men has many facets. From Ed’s guilt at not protecting his friend as he should have growing up, to Danny’s loyalty to Ed. There are some harsh realities that Ed has to learn and face to become a better man.” Read more….

—Storybook Reviews

“Chris Riley’s debut novel The Sinking of the Angie Piper does everything right: great-and-complicated characters, shining prose, and a story of emotional and physical conflict that will resonate long after you turn the last page. Both literate and heart-pounding at the same time, it’s the perfect pairing of a coming-of-age story and a gripping adventure set amidst the unforgiving seas off the Alaskan coast. Here is the debut of an exciting new voice that you must not miss.”

—James Rollins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Bone Labyrinth

“A compelling tale of survival against the odds—highly readable.”

—William Napier, international bestselling author of the Attila Trilogy

“Against a richly textured backdrop of Alaskan fishing culture, a crew of mentally and spiritually flawed men clash with each other and the elements in Riley’s gripping debut novel. Themes of tenderness and regret play out even amid a desperate struggle for survival. You’ll feel the icy spray as The Sinking of the Angie Piper sucks you in and doesn’t let go.”

—Amy Rogers,

“With eloquent prose, Chris Riley’s The Sinking of the Angie Piper tells a gripping coming-of-age story about friendship, loss, and the events that forever transform a young man—all in a setting rendered so perfectly I can practically feel the cold salt water of the Bay of Alaska during tanner crab season. This is a terrific debut by an author well worth watching.”

—Chris Culver, New York Times bestselling author of the Ash Rashid Series

“Whether it’s casual details about crabbing the frigid Alaska sea or exploring the boiling maelstrom of the human heart, Chris Riley knows his stuff. The result is entertaining, illuminating and a fine ride.”

—Robert Ferrigno, New York Times bestselling author

Ed and his childhood friend Danny are gearing up in Kodiak, Alaska, preparing to join the Angie Piper’s crew for another season of crab fishing. Ed is a relative newcomer, but despite the perils of the trade, he sees no reason to fear for Danny’s safety. The Angie Piper has always been blessed. She has a stalwart captain, Fred, a crack engineer, Dave, and two time-tested pros to keep the rest of the operation running smoothly, exuberant Loni and the more reticent Salazar.

Every season has a greenhorn, the one who works for a pittance in order to learn the ropes. This time around it is Ed’s friend Danny, no ordinary crewman. Their shared history is complex. Though strong, brave, and hardworking, Danny is a simple soul, and Ed is weighed down by guilt, dark memories of the many times he failed to defend his friend against the inevitable bullying. And cantankerous Dave believes Danny is a bad omen, so much so that his bitter opposition may endanger them all.

The season starts off strong, and the crew is elated by the bounty of their catch. Then their luck turns. The skies grow dark, the waves swell, and Mother Nature bears down on them with her full arsenal. When the storm finally abates, who will live to tell the tale?

Says the author, “I have yet to set foot on a crabbing vessel, let alone work its deck. But I’ve been to Alaska, and I have met my share of Danny Wilsons. Along the way, each of these elements somehow came together in my mind. The result is this novel.”

Chris Riley lives near Sacramento, California, where he teaches Special Education. He has had dozens of short stories published in magazines and anthologies, and across various genres. For more information, click here.

Keep reading for an excerpt:

“Look out! Look out!” Salazar’s scream rode the top of the forty-foot wave that slapped over the deck. The seas were high and came up on us almost without notice. Our last string of this run, and we were nothing but shivering men on a steel slab in the darkest of nights. The wind howled down from the north at sixty-plus knots. Rain pelted us like bullets. We were all eager to get inside the boat. But damn if there weren’t ten more pots left in the string.

“Look out!” Salazar screamed again.

From the sorting table I’d been clinging to, I swore in disbelief at what was now transpiring before us on deck.

“Everybody, take cover,” shouted the captain, over the loudspeaker. Apparently he had seen it too, and it sure as hell wasn’t a wave.

Loni pitched his body to the side. Dave tucked under the rail, the swells of a black ocean pouring over him like a waterfall. An errant crab pot swung madly across the Angie Piper’s deck. The pot was attached to the picking crane. Salazar was in the process of transferring it to the main-stack for chaining down when our boat abruptly careened portside.

Every deckhand’s fear had become a reality. The thousand-pound cage swept past me, nearly clipping my head as it crashed into the stack of pots to my left. With almost all our gear onboard, there was little room to evade the monstrous block of steel. And if it nailed any of us, we’d certainly be dead or messed up beyond repair.

“Drop it!” shouted Dave, from under a curtain of rushing water. He had a point—releasing the pot could possibly help stabilize it. But then the thought occurred to me: who would be in the way once that thing came down? Like the weapon of an angry giant, it smashed haphazardly across the deck. Salazar worked madly at the hydro controls in hopes of ending the chaos, but twice he had been knocked down by the surge of saltwater that had turned our deck into a small pond.

And then it dawned on me: where was Danny?

“Danny!” I hollered. No one seemed to hear me, my voice drowned out by the cacophony of smashing steel, crashing waves, and howling wind. “Where’s Danny!?” I repeated.

For a brief moment, the pot wedged itself between the portside rail and main-stack. It was a moment of tense hesitation, allowing just enough time for Salazar to take some slack out of the picking crane’s cable. I saw Loni at Salazar’s side, holding him steady, keeping the deck boss from falling down once again. I still couldn’t find Danny, and I continued to scream out for him.

All eyes scanned the area, and then panic set in.

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