Sand Sharks is my 15th Deborah Knott title and it arrived in stores on the 13th of August. Attorneys are sometimes disparagingly called “land sharks,” but this book takes place at a summer conference of the North Carolina Association of District Court Judges on Wrightsville Beach—thus the title. In this scene, Deborah and her friends have driven over to Wilmington for a shore dinner at an outdoor restaurant on the Cape Fear River. Readers often ask me if Deborah and I have anything in common. I usually say not much, but honesty compels me to say we both feel the same way about soft-shelled crabs.
We weren’t the only ones who had arrived in town early and who had decided to gather at Jonah’s for dinner. As often happens at conventions and conferences, tables meant for four soon accommodated six, and other tables were pushed together until we had taken over the whole left front corner of the open porch. Several judges were there with spouses to make it a family vacation. After table-hopping to speak to colleagues I hadn’t seen since the last conference, I came back to my original table and took the last empty chair beside white-haired Fitz Fitzhume and Martha, his tall, angular, and opinionated wife. . . just as the deep-fried, soft-shelled crabs we’d both ordered arrived, crisp and succulent on beds of baby greens.
As far as I’m concerned, blue claws are the tastiest crustacean in the Atlantic. You can have my lobsters if you’ll give me all your blue crabs, especially when they’ve just molted, before their shells start to harden.
Fitz gave a sigh of pure pleasure as his own plate was set before him, and was moved to tell his favorite crab joke.
“This was back when the world was young and urgent messages went by Western Union rather than cell phones or emails,” he said, squeezing lemon juice over a plate of buttery linguini heaped high with lumps of back-fin meat. “A man sent his mother-in-law on a vacation at the coast to get her out of his hair. Two days later, he got a telegram from the hotel manager. ‘Regret to inform you your mother-in-law washed ashore this evening covered in crabs. What shall I do?’”
Everyone within earshot of his voice sang out, “Ship the crabs and set ’er again!”
“Oh,” he said. “Y’all’ve heard it before?”
Martha patted his hand. “Every time you order crabs, sweetheart.”
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