BY DAVE MOORES
REVIEWED BY MICHAEL JOLL
In her spare time, Alice Cooper (not THE Alice Cooper, but Alice Katrin Cooper, mid-thirties, divorced, former high school teacher turned IT office worker) is one of the crew on an expensive sailboat (a C&C 33, to be precise), Class Action, owned by two women lawyers, partners in more ways than one. The all-female crew forms a close-knit group and a formidable sailing team.
When Alice, clad only in a thong and T-shirt after a night of revelry at the Youngstown Regatta, falls into the frigid Niagara River early one July morning, it’s only the beginning of a bad month. About to go down for the third time in the swift current, seedy, weedy Roy dives in and rescues her. Alice considers Roy fishing her out of the water to be only a tiny step up from drowning. Thanks, however, are in order, and unattached-since-last-night Alice shows her appreciation before heading over to Class Action and the first race of the day.
Windward Legs, by David Moores, starts fast and quickly picks up speed. As Moores describes it, competitive sailboat racing is a knives-out, cutthroat venture requiring deep pockets, nerves of steel, and a don’t quit attitude. In addition to above-average looks and a decent body, Alice has two things going for her – her attitude and to-die-for legs. Alice’s legs are a source of envy to women, usually unrequited lust for men, and inspiration to their owner to whom they are firmly attached. They speak to her. She listens but doesn’t always do as they tell her, usually to her detriment.
Moores knows his sailing, especially competitive sailing on one of the world’s most treacherous stretches of water – Lake Ontario – having sailed out of Oakville, Ontario, for years. Having navigated the waters of Lake Ontario (albeit as a deckhand and occasional helmsman on a 600-tonne car ferry – a far cry from a six-tonne sailboat), this reviewer can attest to the fickle and often violent nature of Lake Ontario weather and water. After years of competition, Moores retired from sailing while “still alive to tell the tale.” And tell a good tale in Windward Legs he undoubtedly does.
Alice likes her work but can’t stand her two-timing, brother-in-law boss who only gave her the job out of pity, hoping she would quit in a week. However, despite the odds, she becomes very good at what she does, including writing code for a program she develops on her own time. Unfortunately for Alice, things quickly go south at work and on the relationship front, not that, as she readily admits, she is even moderately proficient at the latter.
Alice’s “anything in an emergency” prowess as the stand-in helmsman of Class Action gets noticed by VERY IMPORTANT, VERY RICH PEOPLE. In this case, the VIVRP is a billionaire with an interest in buying the company Alice works for and in need of someone to skipper his priceless racing machine, a vintage, Eight Metre yacht, Jackdaw, in a race starting RIGHT NOW. His crew, a sullen and motley collection of egos and expensive educations, miffed at being passed over as helmsman, grudgingly accept Alice when she demonstrates her skill and nerve on the water.
If treachery abounds on the water, it pales in comparison with the world of IT, where billionaires joust, real fortunes are up for grabs, and no one cares about the collateral damage, the little people, like Alice, who get in the way. A working lifetime spent in IT has given Moores a depth of insight into the amoral and often criminal dealings of the IT pros at the helm of cutting-edge start-up companies. That experience shines through in his writing.
Over the course of the novel, Alice becomes mixed up with the Toronto Blue Jays Puerto Rican centre fielder and his nutty, gun-toting wife from Chicago (and their questionable off-the-field exploits), Class Action’s crew members (excellent), Jackdaw’s crew (it has its ups and downs), a couple of Afghanistan veterans with a history, and assorted backstabbers, front stabbers, throat slitters, slimeballs and goofballs. And Roxanne.
Windward Legs combines edge-of-your-seat action on the water with high tension, razor-sharp tactics in the boardroom, where a memorable cast of one-off characters plays for keeps and takes no prisoners. The good guys all have issues. The bad guys just have more of them, which makes for gritty reading. Moores doesn’t give us black and white in Windward Legs: instead, dark grey meets light grey, as it should.
An excellent read, a real page-turner from start to finish.
Published by MiddleRoadPublishers