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  • Writer's pictureChris O'Byrne

97 Miles South

Fishing, travel, fishing, love, fishing, adventure, fishing, fighting bad guys, and fishing; 97 Miles South, by Captain Phil Thompson has all the ingredients of a great story.

In this entertaining short novel, the American crew of a tournament fishing yacht cruises to Havana Harbor for the Hemingway Marlin Tournament, but those majestic fish are only their first challenge. Some of man’s most harrowing antagonists: nature, economic philosophy, and love, take their turns confronting the crew. On top of the vivid descriptions of beautiful land and sea, and action that had me cheering, this fast-moving story delivers significant information.

In the tradition of important books like Atlas Shrugged, The Casual Vacancy, and Animal Farm, tropical fishing is the lens through which Captain Phil displays the human struggle to overcome the oppressive promises of Communism. With insights based on years spent in Cuba, Captain Phil shows us the life of those forgotten people under what he describes as “the invisible dome of isolation.”

Even with the important and enlightening information, 97 Miles South is an emotional love story at its heart. All the struggles of relationships, yours or your fishing buddy’s, are played out with a long list of well-drawn characters we care about. The heroes fight for love, victory, and freedom with the same sneaky skills they use to trick fish. Captain Phil blends the struggles of the sporting life, human life, and the life of the heart with ridiculous hilarity and rich images of people in action.

Offshore, inshore, and fly anglers will enjoy this book, as the many fishing scenes, even underwater, are described in such detail that the reader’s hands will hurt. Story lovers who enjoy tense plot lines will bight their fingernails to the nub, waiting for the heroes’ successes in dangerous missions outside of fishing. Travelers, experienced and would be, will enjoy 97 Miles, Captain Phil’s third novel, as he guides his characters to varied locations we may not be able to visit in real life but come to know in this novel. Beginning in Key West, the heroes travel across the Gulf Stream, to the bright clubs and dark corners of Havana, up to the impoverished mountain communities of Cuba, and to La Finca Vigía, the Cuban home of Ernest Hemingway.

Not surprisingly, the person behind this well told story is a fisherman. Captain Phil ( has lived the life in the book as a boat captain, professional fishing, and scuba dive guide. In this enjoyable novel, available at The Andy Thornal Company, Captain Phil shows that he is not only a skilled writer, but an experienced professional of all the outdoor sports he describes.

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