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When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man Hardcover – April 12, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


A Booklist Top 10 First Novel of 2012

“Dybek can paint a salty landscape… but it’s the fast whirlpool of lies, murder, and moral dilemma that drives the book. “ –Outside Magazine 
“Finely crafted… a taut novel juggling the sometimes conflicting impulses to do the moral thing, and to protect those we love.” – The Los Angeles Times 

“A complex and riveting tale about deception and betrayal, asking us how far we would go to preserve what we hold dearest… In this magnificent debut Dybek’s incommunicable thrills shock us and disturb us and make him one to watch.” –The Daily Beast 
"Dybek brings serious talent to bear… Powerful.” –The New York Times Book Review
“[A] powerful first novel… [that explores] loyalty and moral choice within a crumbling family.” –The Boston Globe 

"Dybek constructs a suspenseful novel, and the quality of writing is enough to engage the reader…the themes that [he] tackles are universal and are sure to resonate with all." –Fredricksburg Free-Lance Star

“Hypnotic, relentless… Dybek’s strength of voice and confident command over Loyalty Island’s obsessive fishing community is enough to cement this seaside tale of morality’s limitations as a terrific debut.” –The Onion A.V. Club 

“[A] striking debut novel, thick with a sense of maritime freedom, lawlessness and tragedy.” –Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“There is… wisdom here, and the momentum of a thrilling yarn, delivered as if by a scarred man by the consoling light of a fire.” –The Economist

“Potent… Dybek conjures his island with rich physical details… marshaling the narrative along with an almost flawless sense of timing and pace… [An] impressive debut.” –The Millions

“Engrossing, often haunting… When the deck is stacked against us, when the wind is up and the cry comes from the crow’s nest, will we ultimately act as Young Jim or Long John Silver? That’s the dilemma Cal finds himself in and one that readers will toss about in their minds long after finishing this fine debut novel.” –Washington Independent Review of Books

“Incandescently imaginative and suspenseful… Dybek has created a superbly orchestrated and soulful drama of loyalty to family and an imperiled way of life and the fathomless forces that make a good man go bad.” –Booklist

“Dybek proves himself an observant, appealing writer… the story [is] peopled with multidimensional characters and featuring well-drawn settings. [He] writes well about family, about relationships and loyalty, about responsibility and community, and about all that passes from father to son.” –Kirkus

"Complex and suspenseful . . . Dybek manages to create [a] genuine tragedy-powerful, mythic, unforgettable."-Jaimy Gordon, author of Lord of Misrule

"An authentic, atmospheric, coming-of-age story with a painful dilemma . . . A terrific debut."-C. J. Box, author of Back of Beyond

"Robert Louis Stevenson would be proud of Nick Dybek. . . . He delivers a page-turner full of danger, secrets, and betrayals."-Stewart O'Nan, author of Emily, Alone

"Part mystery, part lament, part coming-of-age drama, this novel will stay with you long after you turn the last page. . . . Fascinating and powerful."-Daniel Alarcón, author of Lost City Radio

"An engrossing and exacting moral thriller."-Peter Ho Davies, author of The Welsh Girl

"I was grateful to experience full-tilt insomnia, reading Nick Dybek's splendid, haunting, When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man. . . . I love this novel."-Howard Norman, author of What Is Left the Daughter

"Nick Dybek grabs hold of both your imagination and your conscience, and won't let them rest."-Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author of Ms. Hempel Chronicles

About the Author

Nick Dybek is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is the recipient of a Hopwood Award for short fiction, a Maytag Fellowship, and a 2010 James Michener- Copernicus Society of America Award. Dybek lives in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books; 1 edition (April 12, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594488096
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594488092
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,621,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Z Hayes HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on April 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Treasure Island was one of my favorite reads as a child and when I saw this book being described as a take on the classic novel, I was predictably intrigued. As I settled down to read this story, I found myself engaged in a plot that is filled with drama, high atmosphere, dark deeds, and mystery, as well as a story that deals with the themes of friendship, loyalty, and moral dilemmas.

Part of what makes When Captain Flint Was Still a Good Man such an interesting read for me is the sense of atmosphere and dark drama. Protagonist, 15-year-old Cal Bolling, lives on the remote Loyalty Island. A major industry for the island's inhabitants is king crab catching, which is an endeavor not without its share of great peril. When the man who owns the business dies, his son Richard decides to sell the business, jeopardizing the very lifeblood of the island's population. Richard goes missing during a crabbing expedition, and the locals are relieved.

Well, Cal makes a dark discovery and together with his best friend, faces a serious moral dilemma - should this dark secret be revealed, or should they keep silent and ensure the security of the locals? The themes explored here bear similarities to Treasure Island, and fans of the classic might enjoy this dark tale as well as the author's narrative style.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ethan on April 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
To fifteen-year-old Cal, his father is like a stranger. The family resides on Loyalty Island, a costal Washington community that relies on the Alaskan king-crabbing season to provide economic stability. Each winter, Cal and his mother are left alone while Henry braves the harsh conditions of the Bering Sea. Despite Henry's well intentions, Cal feels a disconnect with his father. His mother, who moved to the island after falling in love with Henry and becoming pregnant with Cal, spends countless hours in the basement, listening to her large record collection and recalling her earlier years.

Now that he is older, Cal is noticing trouble in is parent's marriage. They argue about whether or not he should become a fisherman like is father. His mother unrelentingly insists that he will complete school and find a job away from the community's difficult lifestyle. Even more troubling than the disagreements, however, is the amount of time that his mother spends with local tycoon John Gaunt.

Gaunt owns the entire fleet of crabbing boats and the local cannery. When he suddenly dies, the entire business is left in the hands of his son Richard, who has never embraced the lifestyle of his father. As Richard threatens to disrupt the livelihood of the community, and Cal's mother, now pregnant and distraught with grief, flees to a friend's home in California, Cal is forced to remain with his father. When the winter crap season approaches, Cal discovers information that shows how far his father has gone to protect their way of life. What follows is a harrowing tale of a young man, forced to come to terms with his family, himself, and to decide what is the "right" thing to do.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this novel.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Eric Selby on May 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Place! I like very much the writing of both David Vann and Annie Proulx, fiction in which "place" shapes the lives of the characters, and in their cases as well as in this new novel, those places are hard, harsh, impossible to bear at times.

The title may seem strange--and it is a strange one. But as you read, you discover that the first-person narrator (and this is very believable first person) loved "Treasure Island" as a boy. So it becomes the metaphor for the novel which takes place in an isolated community, cut off from the mainland, out in Puget Sound where the economy is solely governed by one man who owns the fleet of boats as well as the properties on the shore, boats that once a year go to Alaska to fish, one treks that consume months of time, leaving behind the women and children. So what happens with the owner of this fleet dies, leaving it to his son, Richard, who has no use for anything to do with this place? That you will discover when you read the book.

The two boys, Cal and his friend (sort of), Jaime become very much involved in an incident that will dramatically change their lives. Cal's mother is a fascinating character, a woman who came to the island with her love of music and her record collection, a huge one, from Santa Cruz and quite obviously hates the place. Jaime's mother is also a fascinating character, an attractive woman, who deals with her loneliness very differently than Cal's mother who, by the way, is pregnant, many years later than her first one. And she had a special relationship with the owner who dies early on in the novel.

I think this is a great story, one that I suspect will be up for some awards.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By L. Jonsson VINE VOICE on July 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Nick Dybek's novel "When Captain Flynt was still a good man" is the fascinating story of one young man's struggle to reconcile legal and moral responsibilities against loyalty to family and communtiy. This is not the type of book I would normally choose form myself (my wife picked it out)., and it was not at all the seagoing adventure that I first assumed-as a result I went into it with fairly low expectations. However I was soon caught up in the mystery and drama as the young man, Cal, tries to decipher the cryptic actions of his elders and decide on a course of action for himself.

Growing up in a coastal fishing town in the Pacific Northwest his life is shaped by the annual voyage of the crab fishing fleet, when most of the town's adult men leave for a dangerous but rewarding season of crabbing in the Bering Sea. This season, though, is overshadowed by a serious threat-the long-time owner of the fishing boats has died and his son plans to sell the fleet. This would destroy the livelihoods and fishing tradition of the local men, including Cal's father, and forever change the course of Cal's life. With his father away aat sea Cal begins to uncover hints of a dark secret, and is forced to decide whether to support a morally reprehensible act in order to preserve his family and community.
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