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The Instant Expert: Books set on sand, surf or sea

Landlubbers may feel left out, as the Instant Expert gives his suggestions for beach reading.

DARKER THAN AMBER (John D MacDonald, 1996) Among the best of the 21 Travis McGee novels by this under-appreciated late US mystery writer. The world-weary McGee - who lives on a houseboat in Fort Lauderdale, Florida - and his friend Meyer expose a con in which lonely rich men are lured into taking Caribbean cruises and murdered.

DUMA KEY (Stephen King, 2008) A psychological horror story from the master of the genre. Weird things happen to the owner of a construction company after he loses his right arm in an accident and takes a long break in a beach house on an island off the west coast of Florida.

THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER (Tom Clancy, 1984) The action-adventure-espionage thriller that launched Clancy's stellar career and introduced his CIA analyst and later US president Jack Ryan. It's a page-turner, and the intricate details of Cold War submarine cat-and-mouse games smack of veracity.

LAGUNA HEAT (T Jefferson Parker, 1985) A dandy detective yarn set in sweltering seaside southern California, where a crazed killer has turned paradise into a depravity of violence and a homicide cop tries to solve a grisly, decades-old mystery. The revelations just keep coming.

LAST SUMMER (Evan Hunter, 1968) Hunter (better known by his pen name, Ed McBain, and who invented the police procedural novel) is at his wicked best in this coming-of-age psychological drama about three teenagers and their endless summer on Long Island, New York.

THE MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY TRILOGY (Charles Nordhoff and James Norman Hall, 1932-1934) The best friends and Second World War aces Nordhoff and Hall accurately recount Captain William Bligh's ill-fated mission to transport breadfruit from Tahiti to the West Indies. It's a whale of a tale, covering Fletcher Christian's mutiny against the cruel commander of HMS Bounty, the open-sea voyage by Bligh and 18 men in the ship's longboat, and the life of the mutineers on their Pitcairn Island hideaway.

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER (Walter Lord, 1955) Still considered the definitive resource on the 1912 sinking of RMS Titanic, this captivating non-fiction work was faithfully adapted for the 1958 film of the same name.

OUTERBRIDGE REACH (Robert Stone, 1998) Better known for his 2006 memoir of the psychedelic US Sixties, Prime Green, Stone wastes nary a word in this tense, harrowing story of a copywriter who tests his will and strength of character in a round-the-world yacht race.

THE PERFECT STORM (Sebastian Junger, 1997) The respected war correspondent Junger chillingly recreates the "perfect storm" that hit North America in October 1991, claiming the lives of the crew of the fishing boat Andrea Gail from Gloucester, Massachusetts, which was lost at sea.

PRIDE (William Wharton, 1985) The pseudonymous Wharton subtly manipulates the double meaning of the word "pride" - honour and family group - to weave together the stories of a factory worker, his young narrator son and an escaped lion at the New Jersey sea shore in 1938.

THE PYRATES (George MacDonald Fraser, 1983) The over-the-top action and ironic storytelling never fail to amuse in this comedic novel that features a classic hero, damsels in distress, an engaging anti-hero and cut-throat captains of the Spanish Main.

TALES OF THE SOUTH PACIFIC (James A Michener, 1947) This collection of related short stories about the Second World War in the New Hebrides (now known as Vanuatu) - written by a recently mustered-out lieutenant commander in the US Navy - charms the reader.


Wet and chilling

Probably no other author has been so identified with sand- and-sea horror stories than the American Peter Benchley (1940-2006). Among the works by the son of the author Nathaniel Benchley and the grandson of the Algonquin Round Table founder, Robert Benchley, are:

JAWS (1974) The adaptation of Benchley's first novel - about a great white shark terrorising a beach resort on Long Island, New York - launched the film phenomenon of the summer blockbuster. He co-wrote the screenplay for Steven Spielberg, and also wrote the scripts for its three less successful sequels.

THE DEEP (1976) Intrigue snares a couple on their honeymoon who discover sunken treasure - colonial Spanish gold and a cache of morphine - off Bermuda.

THE ISLAND (1979) The descendants of 17th-century pirates terrorise pleasure boats in the Caribbean in a clever explanation of the Bermuda Triangle mystery.

BEAST (1991) A giant squid wreaks havoc off Bermuda.

WHITE SHARK (1994) A Nazi-created genetically engineered shark/human hybrid threatens a Long Island fishing community.

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