A wild Charleston of the 1960s is the setting for Roger Pinckney’s slim fourth novel, The Mullet Manifesto (River’s Edge Media, July 2015, $17). It was a time and a place in which a pack of teen boys—in this case, Yancey, Grayson, and Little Rip—would jump in a handcrafted boat and navigate the waters to an uninhabited island, where they could construct their own fishing cabin out of scavenged supplies.
Himself a Lowcountry native, Pinckney pulls readers down the rabbit hole with wonderfully specific details and lyrical language. For example, the train passing through Little Rip’s hunting grounds carries Fruit Growers Express cars that “shook loose a plague of strange insects from the Florida orange groves,” leaving the air “heavy with the smell of citrus.” What reader wouldn’t be captivated by a long-ago Lowcountry like that?
Pinckney invites us to explore plenty of it along with the young outdoorsmen, whose lives center around their cabin project (which puts them in perilous situations involving the authorities and Mother Nature alike) and their fishing and hunting expeditions. Those not well-versed in spottails and tidal patterns may find themselves confused at certain points, but that only adds to the adventure of this tale that culminates in a Saudi prince’s attempt to claim the boys’ treasured island.