Book Review: Chuck Dugan is AWOL by Eric Chase Anderson

Chuck Dugan has good reason to go AWOL. There is a summons from his father, dead these eight years; treasure, it would seem, awaits young Chuck’s retrieval; his mother has been hoodwinked, perhaps even held hostage; and besides, he’s just so damn good at slipping out upper-floor windows in the dead of night. Armed with his wit, youth, fortitude and a sampling of Davidian weaponry (a bucknife and scuba gear supplement the slingshot), Chuck Dugan, boy hero, frogman in training and able-bodied sailor sets out on a 72 hour adventure, courtesy of Eric Chase Anderson.

 Anderson, whose illustrations have appeared in The New Yorker, The Observer and other publications, proves to be as quick with a fast-paced tale as he is with a drafting pencil. To call this book a “novel” (as the cover prominently does) may be a stretch, but there can be no quibbles with the subtitled annotation “with maps.” The sketches, which include in addition to maps, details of torpedoes, crabs, tattoos and family crests, are as simple as Anderson’s literary style. Together, they make for a delightful, whimsical read.

 It’s hard not to see in Anderson’s caricatures, both textual and artistic, shades of the clever “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou,” the quirky pseudo-documentary by Anderson’s director brother Wes. Both are as mindful of staging and sets as they are of the action, and readers are as impressed with Dugan’s style as with the peril from which he extricates himself time and again. The story apparently is set during the cold war (Eisenhower may or may not still be President) some where off the coast of Maine, but there is little in the way of historical atmosphere. Anderson is more interested in the cadences of sailors than with specific time eras. The plot is necessarily far-fetched, and predictable enough that it serves up surprises only by not conforming utterly to cliché. As if in concession to the slap-dash nature of the story, the book is printed in a standard sans serif font as though the pages have been ripped from the typewriter moments before you read them. And if the format makes you think of a screenplay, you’re right on course: Warner Brother already has the rights and Anderson is in charge of the adaptation.

The book is available via Amazon and Amazon UK.

Read a summary of Chuck Dugan is AWOL.

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