Greenlaw, Linda 1960–

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Greenlaw, Linda 1960–


Born December 22, 1960, in Stamford, CT; daughter of Jim (an information systems manager) and Martha (a homemaker) Greenlaw. Education: Colby College, B.A., 1983.


Home—Isle au Haut, ME. Agent—Stuart Krichevsky, Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency, Inc., 381 Park Ave. S, Ste. 914, New York, NY 10016. E-mail—[email protected].


Fishing boat captain, commercial fisherman, and author. Captain of the Hannah Boden, a swordfishing vessel, for seventeen years; captain of the Mattie Belle, a lobster fishing vessel. Guest on television programs, including Good Morning America, Today, CBS Sunday Morning, and the Martha Stewart Show.


U.S. Maritime Literature Award, 2003, for All Fishermen Are Liars; New England Book Award (nonfiction category), 2004.


The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain's Journey, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1999.

The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.

All Fishermen Are Liars: True Tales from the Dry Dock Bar, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2004.

(With mother, Martha Greenlaw) Recipes from a Very Small Island, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2005.

Slipknot (novel), Hyperion (New York, NY), 2007.


In her debut as an author, swordboat captain Linda Greenlaw wrote about her experiences on a typical, but difficult, fishing trip on the waters of the Grand Banks. The book, The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain's Journey, published in 1999, details a thirty-day trip on Greenlaw's vessel, the Hannah Boden. Greenlaw and the Hannah Boden first caught the public's attention when they were featured in the extremely popular 1997 book The Perfect Storm, written by Sebastian Junger. The Perfect Storm recounted the final days of the Andrea Gail, the sister ship to the Hannah Boden, before it sank in the same brooding waters of the Grand Banks during a vicious storm in 1991. The Hungry Ocean details the rigors of offshore commercial fishing. In the book, Greenlaw describes her endeavor as "the true story of a real, and typical, sword-fishing trip, from leaving the dock to returning." The raw and honest account drew praise from many critics.

Growing up near the Maine coast, Greenlaw was drawn to the ocean from an early age. One of her first jobs, unusual for a female, was as a cook and deckhand on a commercial fishing vessel. Even after she began attending college, Greenlaw continued to work in the industry as a helmsman and lookout on a swordfish harpoon boat. Although she had planned to attend law school and had promised her parents she would do so, Greenlaw took a position as a captain on a swordfishing boat and never looked back. In The Hungry Ocean, Greenlaw discusses these events as well as what it is like being a woman in a male-dominated industry. Even though she became one of the most successful swordboat captains in the Grand Banks fleet, Greenlaw felt she was often overlooked because of her sex. Yet in the book, she writes of her dislike for words such as "fisherwoman" and similar terms that assign a female gender to her work. "I am a woman. I am a fisherman," she writes, adding: "I am not a fisherwoman, fisherlady, or fishergirl. If anything else, I am a thirty-seven-year-old tomboy. It's a word I have never outgrown." Greenlaw also discusses the adjustments she made to her personal life, including what she gave up, to become a fisherman. "Who cared that I had sacrificed so much for my life adventure?" she writes. "Who knew that I desperately wanted a husband, a house full of children, a boring job?"

Yet the main focus of The Hungry Ocean is on the month-long trip itself, which the author describes as a "slammer." Greenlaw recounts every aspect of the Hannah Boden's voyage, from the type of high-tech equipment used to navigate and locate fish to the expectations and disappointments felt by the crew to the importance of a good cook. Much of the book is devoted to how Greenlaw relates to her all-male crew and the personality conflicts that arise because of the exhausting work and close quarters. Several critics, such as Douglass Whynott in the New York Times Book Review, enjoyed Greenlaw's detailed descriptions of life on the high seas. "The narrative can be gruesome at times," Whynott wrote. "Catching big fish involves butchery, and here its told in exuberant detail, the slicing and dicing and hooking." Whynott went on to call The Hungry Ocean "a beautiful book for what it says about the love of the sea." In contrast, a contributor in Kirkus Reviews questioned the genuineness of Greenlaw's account, noting that "there is a spit and polish to her writing that feels distant from the subject, not so much overwritten as manufactured." Brian McCombie lauded Greenlaw's effort in Booklist, referring to the work as "exciting and gritty." A contributor in Publishers Weekly thought The Hungry Ocean would have wide public appeal, writing: "Greenlaw's narrative should foster an abiding respect in anyone who has tossed a swordfish steak on the grill."

Greenlaw relates more stories from her nautical life in The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island. After moving on from her days of fishing for swordfish, Greenlaw decided to return to her home island of Isle au Haut, off the coast of Maine. There she takes up the safer but still physically demanding vocation of lobster fisherman, with her father, James, serving as her crew. She chronicles life on the small island with fewer than fifty full-time residents, about half of whom are her relatives. She also introduces readers to several of the island's eccentric characters. Greenlaw's description of the isolated life on the island meshes with her own poignant desire to find a husband, start a family, and establish a home of her own, a challenge that proves as daunting as any she's faced on the sea.

W.R. Greer, critiquing The Lobster Chronicles on, stated, "This isn't a book with a gripping tale, with suspense that keeps the pages turning to see what happens next, but the pages turn quickly as each new event in the year is told." Greer called the book a "loving but realistic peek into a mostly isolated world, where hard work and a strong backbone are necessary to survive." In this second autobiographical work, Greenlaw "once again proves to be both enlightening and highly entertaining," commented Booklist reviewer Danise Hoover. She "writes about island life" with "plain-spoken lyricism and self-effacing humor," observed Susan Tekulve in Book. Library Journal contributor Gloria Maxwell remarked that Greenlaw displays an "impressive command of language, combining her own salty remarks with wry and witty characterizations." The book is "deliberately written in places, but ultimately it's a lot of fun to read," reported Erica Sanders in the New York Times Book Review, who concluded that "it's not always clear where Greenlaw's headed or why, but the patchwork of anecdotes leaves the reader with an experience akin to stepping back in time."

In a later book, All Fishermen Are Liars: True Tales from the Dry Dock Bar, Greenlaw adds to her memoirs by exploring some of the characters she has encountered during her years hanging out at the Dry Dock Bar in Portland, Maine. Primary among these are Alden, her best friend, with whom she spends hours drinking and reminiscing while trying to persuade him to retire. As daylight wanes and the crowd gets rowdier, barflies and friends chime in with their own tales about brave fishermen, naive Coast Guard trainees, and deadly storms, all of which underscore the cloistered subculture of the seafaring life. Locating the truth within the stories is left up to the reader, but Greenlaw explains that "fishermen lie to protect their livelihood and pride, but also purely in the interests of entertainment." Greenlaw "is a terrific spinner of sea stories—anyone's sea stories," wrote Louise Jarvis Flynn in the New York Times Book Review. "In her recounting of them, the conversational style surges with confidence," Flynn wrote, but concluded that "Alden's plight is not vital enough to hold the book together, and what we see of him is limited by Greenlaw's timid approach." Other critics, however, found much to admire in the stories. "These yarns enchant," commented Jim Casada of Library Journal, who recommended the book to "any angler who enjoys a tale well told." A writer for Kirkus Reviews admired how the tales are "spun at full, leisurely length, which gives the proceedings their proper tone of foreboding."

Greenlaw teamed up with her mother, Martha Greenlaw, to write the cookbook Recipes from a Very Small Island. Featuring a variety of seafood recipes, such as Island Lobster Rolls, Maine Shrimp Brisque, and Mama's Maple-Flavored Baked Pea Beans, the book also includes essays by both Greenlaws about life on Isle au Haut, where they make their home. Referring to Recipes from a Very Small Island as "a charming collection," a Publishers Weekly contributor noted that Linda Greenlaw's "essay on the improbabilities of pulling off a clambake is a riot." Judith Sutton, writing in the Library Journal, called the essays "entertaining" and noted that the "food celebrates the natural bounty of … Maine."

After four popular and successful nonfiction works, Greenlaw turned her hand to fiction with her debut novel, Slipknot. Protagonist Jane Bunker is a detective who has tired of the dangerous, hectic life in Florida. Seeking calmer and quieter environs, she heads to her childhood hometown of Green Haven, Maine, where she takes a job as a marine investigator for an insurance company. Jane dives into the backload of work, content enough even though the job doesn't pay much. On her way to inspect a fish processing plant, Jane happens upon the dead body of Nick Dow, a local cod fisherman known for having an alcohol problem. Dow's skull is crushed, damaged more severely, Jane believes, than a mere fall off a dock would cause. The police dismiss the case as an accident, but Jane suspects murder. Dow, she finds, was not just a fisherman; he also ran a sideline as a local bookie, which made him a slew of enemies and resulted in a lot of nervous people owing him money. Jane makes friends with Cal, the foreman at a local cod factory, who helps her with her investigation. On the trail of the killer, she uncovers a conspiracy and learns that a number of local residents seem to have something to hide. Worse, she becomes an inadvertent stowaway on a boat that heads into a vicious ocean storm. Greenlaw displays "no trouble finding her sea legs in a new genre," remarked Hannah Tucker in Entertainment Weekly. "Jane's a prize catch, and so are the crusty down-easters she lives with," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Jessica Hathaway, writing in National Fisherman, concluded: "The unraveling mystery is enough to keep your nose in these pages, but the characters stay with you, and they will keep readers coming back to this series."



Greenlaw, Linda, The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain's Journey, Hyperion (New York, NY), 1999.

Greenlaw, Linda, The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2002.

Greenlaw, Linda, All Fishermen Are Liars: True Tales from the Dry Dock Bar, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2004.


Bangor Daily News, June 15, 2007, Alicia Anstead, "Slipknot a Much Riskier Project for Greenlaw."

Book, July 1, 2002, Susan Tekulve, review of The Lobster Chronicles: Life on a Very Small Island, p. 82.

Booklist, May 15, 1999, Brian McCombie, review of The Hungry Ocean: A Swordboat Captain's Journey, p. 1652; June 1, 2002, Danise Hoover, review of The Lobster Chronicles, p. 1666; June 1, 2004, Denise Hoover, review of All Fishermen Are Liars: True Tales from the Dry Dock Bar, p. 1686; June 1, 2007, David Pitt, review of Slipknot, p. 47.

Boothbay Register, August 5, 1999, "The Hungry Ocean author Linda Greenlaw to Visit Sherman's Book Store."

Boston Magazine, July, 2002, Welling Savo, review of The Lobster Chronicles, p. 128.

Entertainment Weekly, August 8, 2003, review of The Lobster Chronicles, p. 81; June 22, 2007, Hannah Tucker, review of Slipknot, p. 75.

Geographical, May, 2000, Carolyn Fry, review of The Hungry Ocean, p. 92.

Kirkus Reviews, April 15, 1999, review of The Hungry Ocean, p. 598; May 1, 2002, review of The Lobster Chronicles, p. 636; May 1, 2004, review of All Fishermen Are Liars, p. 429; May 15, 2007, review of Slipknot.

Kliatt, January, 2003, review of The Lobster Chronicles, p. 52; September, 2003, Susan Offner, review of The Lobster Chronicles, p. 34.

Library Bookwatch, September, 2005, review of Recipes from a Very Small Island.

Library Journal, May 15, 1999, John Kenny, review of The Hungry Ocean, p. 116; November 1, 2002, Gloria Maxwell, review of The Lobster Chronicles, p. 144; February 15, 2003, review of The Lobster Chronicles, p. 47; August, 2004, Jim Casada, review of All Fishermen Are Liars, p. 89; June 15, 2005, Judith Sutton, review of Recipes from a Very Small Island, p. 98.

Motorboating, August 1, 2005, Roy Attaway, "Lady of the Sea," p. 54.

National Fisherman, June, 2007, Jessica Hathaway, "Linda Greenlaw's Fiction Debut Uncovers Something Fishy in Green Haven, Maine," review of Slipknot, p. 7.

New York Times, September 4, 2002, Mel Gussow, "In a Seafaring Body Lurks a Writer's Soul," profile of Linda Greenlaw, p. 1.

New York Times Book Review, May 9, 1999, Douglas Whynott, review of The Hungry Ocean, p. 23; July 7, 2002, Erica Sanders, "Far from the Mainland Crowd: Linda Greenlaw Was Well Prepared for Island Living; Not So Daniel Hays and Adam Nicolson," review of The Lobster Chronicles, p. 7; July 13, 2003, review of The Lobster Chronicles, p. 28; June 27, 2004, Louise Jarvis Flynn, "Catch and Don't Release," p. 17.

People, August 30, 1999, "What's My Line?" p. 69.

Publishers Weekly, April 12, 1999, review of The Hungry Ocean, p. 62; May 6, 2002, review of The Lobster Chronicles, p. 44; August 5, 2002, review of The Lobster Chronicles, p. 27; May 10, 2004, review of All Fishermen Are Liars, p. 45; June 6, 2005, review of Recipes from a Very Small Island, p. 58; April 16, 2007, review of Slipknot, p. 35.

Women's Review of Books, October, 1999, Meg Daly, "In the Boys' Club," p. 23.

Yachting, December 1, 2004, Dan Fales, "Woman of the Sea: Trading Her Life in the Pilothouse for Fame as an Author Hasn't Diminished Linda Greenlaw's Love of the Ocean," p. 84.


CBS News Online, (February 21, 2001), "Woman in the Eye of the Storm."

Linda Greenlaw Home Page, (January 20, 2008).

Mostly Fiction, (June 20, 2007), Judi Clark, review of Slipknot.

Phoenix (Portland, ME), (June 27, 2007), Deirdre Fulton, interview with Linda Greenlaw., (January 20, 2008), W.R. Greer, "Linda Greenlaw Fishes for a New Catch," review of The Lobster Chronicles.

Sportsjones: The Daily Online Sports Magazine, (February 21, 2001), Jeff Merron, review of The Hungry Ocean.

USA Today Online, (February 21, 2001), "On the High Seas: Linda Greenlaw."