There are many fishermen who love to write, and many writers who love to fish — but perhaps no one blends these two worlds as seamlessly and brilliantly as Linda Greenlaw.
But then, Greenlaw isn’t your average fisherman. Or your average writer.
Greenlaw was the only female swordfish captain in the nation when the Perfect Storm struck the East coast in 1991.
She was immortalized in Sebastian Junger’s New York Times bestseller “The Perfect Storm,” — where Junger called her “one of the best captains … on the entire east coast”— and portrayed by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in the 2000 film of the same name.
Since then, Greenlaw has showed off her own writing chops.
The winner of the U.S. Maritime Literature Award in 2003, and the New England Book Award for nonfiction in 2004, she’s a New York Times bestselling author of five nonfiction books about life as a commercial fisherman: “The Hungry Ocean,” “The Lobster Chronicles,” “All Fishermen Are Liars,” “Seaworthy,” and “Lifesaving Lessons.”
She’s also written two hit cookbooks with her mom, Martha Greenlaw: “Recipes from a Very Small Island” — which Time Magazine called a “must-have cookbook” — and “The Maine Summers Cookbook.”
But recently, Greenlaw, who lives on Isle au Haut, Maine, has switched hats.
Instead of captaining a swordfishing boat and writing memoirs, she’s captaining a lobster boat and writing mystery novels.
And those mysteries are just so fun.
Don’t miss meeting Greenlaw at New Bedford’s Working Waterfront Festival Sept. 23. She’ll be at the Fishing Heritage Center at 2 p.m. speaking and signing her latest mystery novel: “Shiver Hitch,” the third book in her mystery series; the first two are “Slipknot” and “Fisherman’s Bend.”
Greenlaw’s mystery series centers on Jane Bunker, a former Miami homicide detective who thought she was trading in stress and intrigue when she became a marine insurance investigator in the sleepy seaside town of Green Haven, Maine. Turns out, she’s left behind the bustle of the city — but not the murder.
In her latest installment, “Shiver Hitch,” Jane is called to the remote Acadia Island to assess the damages from a house fire. She also finds a badly burned body in the charred rubble, which turns out to be a wealthy woman — one of the most hated women in town. As Jane investigates, she becomes embroiled in a plot involving convicted felons, a real estate scam, and the deep conflicts between the locals and the summer folks.
Very fun. They remind me of “Dexter” or “CSI” — almost comfort mystery.
Greenlaw would agree.
I caught up with the captain recently for a wide-ranging interview, and she told me she's long loved reading “fun” mysteries — especially Sue Grafton novels — when she’s at sea.
“‘A is for Alabi,’ those kind of books, I always read when swordfishing — that kind of cozy mystery, that’s not going to give me nightmares or haunt me, but intriguing enough to keep me turning the pages,” Greenlaw told me. “So my novels, in that regard, are fashioned after hers—made for a cozy read.”
As for what sparked this mystery series, after so many hit nonfiction books?
“They came about at the request of my publishers at the time. They wanted another book, and I had written so much about myself and my life, I didn’t have more to say,” she told me with a laugh. “I needed to live a little more before I could write more… They suggested fiction.”
I asked Greenlaw how the idea of Jane Bunker: maritime investigator came to her.
“Well, they say write about what you know, so I didn’t want to write about fishermen — that was too close — but I do know coastal Maine, the fishing community, downeast… As for being a sheriff, I don’t know more than anyone else, but … Google, makes it so easy,” said told me with a laugh. “It’s all right at tip of your fingers.”
Of course, you can’t Google “how to write an intricately woven murder mysteries plot.”
“The plots are hard. I’m not a murderer,” Greenlaw told me with a chuckle. “I don't have a devious mind to come up with these things. So the plots are difficult… But the characters are easy. I know downeast Maine; I know the people, the water, the landscape. So the [characters] come easier.”
Some plot ideas are pulled from the newspaper headlines, she said.
“Shiver Hitch” deals with “the opioid addiction problem, which is in news in Maine here every day,” she told me. “People think it’s amazing that we have this drug problem here in Maine, but to me it’s amazing that people find it amazing.”
Greenlaw will talk about Jane Bunker, fishing and more at the Working Waterfront Festival’s Main stage at the New Bedford Fishing Heritage Center at 2 p.m. Don’t miss your chance to meet this talented author and legendary captain. See the sidebar for the rest of my interview with Greenlaw.
Lauren Daley is a freelance writer and book columnist. Contact her at email@example.com. She tweets @laurendaley1. Read more at https://www.facebook.com/daley.writer.