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from Downriver Drift

Getting the Drift
A compelling first novel Downriver Drift by poet Tim Bowling tells the story of a small B.C. fishing town on the brink of social and economic change. Thirty years ago, before condos shrank the harbour and malls, golf courses and subdivisions usurped the land, Chiclukthan was "like a resting fish moving only to the rhythm of its gills."

Set amidst rivermouth dykes, net lofts and skiffs, the plot develops around the cycles of the salmon runs. A strike challenges the loyalty of the union men who fish the Fraser River 'drift", and their principles collide with company edicts and scab labourers.

In the first chapter, an oppressive fog shrouds the town, establishing the ominous mood that pervades the narrative. The Mawson family provides the prism that refracts both the realities of life in Chiclukthan and a spectrum of emotional bruises. Fiercely independent, Vic Mawson refuses to augment his household's income by working for others.

Endless cups of tea bolster his wife Kathleen as she copes with their hand-to-mouth existence and mourns a stillborn child. Following their father’s trade, his twenty-something sons, Troy and Corbett, drift through a series of riverbank encounters, while seven-year-old Zoe, a "deep one", wrestles with her mother's depression and grieves the death of a pet, Zoe injects the only ray of innocent tenderness into an otherwise harsh portrait of a community under economic siege.

Other characters invest Downriver Drift with elements of a horror thriller. A pack of cynical wharf-rats drift down the riverbank, leaving mayhem and brutality in their wake. Chilling vignettes feature their diabolical leader Ling Cod, so named because of his "bulging eyes and thick lips".

Another waif identified only as "Raskin's boy" has “eyes like silt and a mouth like the slice in a fish's belly." A target for abuse who Survives assaults from his rootless mates and his strike-breaking father, this wharf-rat vents his frustrations in a series of dramatic incidents which fuel the demise of riverbank assets.

Bowling's writing resonates with an authenticity gained over the author's many years as a deckhand on a Fraser River gillnetter, while powerful imagery reflects the craft that earned him the 1998 Stephan G. Stephansson Award for poetry. Dramatizing the human aspects of B.C.'s once vital resource industry elevates Downriver Drift into the realm of enduring folklore.
-Monday Magazine, Shirley Hewett