PUBLISHED : Sunday, 01 August, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 01 August, 2010, 12:00am

by Max Hardberger
Nicholas Brealey Publishing, HK$130

As his many adventures in Seized show, Max Hardberger's job as a 'ship extractor' was far from plain sailing: he stole ships that had been seized illegally and returned them to their rightful owners. In the case of the Pakistani shipowner whose vessel was confiscated for having damaged a pier in Honduras, he writes: 'It seemed to be another case of outright extortion.' So it was Hardberger to the rescue. A professional repo man who battled modern buccaneers, he writes that his was an unlikely vocation for a bookish child used to being bullied. Time spent at a military academy, however, taught him how to defend himself. He also learned that only suckers fight fair, a handy lesson in a maritime world with which few of us would be familiar, where corrupt governments place inflated liens against ships and robbers are rampant on the docks. Seized is mostly reconstructed dialogue but is, Hardberger writes, 'essentially true to life'. Apart from being entertained, readers will be edified. Among other things, Hardberger points out that hatch design is the most challenging of tasks facing ship designers and no satisfactory system has been found.