Local author publishes shark novel “Don’t you think sharks should have rights, too?”

Submitted by Gene Helfman.

In his second novel — FINS, A Novel of Relentless Satire — Lopez resident Gene Helfman explores this issue as he takes on Hollywood and more. FINS is a spoof of the sharksploitation genre — think JAWS, Sharknado, The Meg, etc. The book is a thinly-disguised effort to right a wrong, namely to counter the influence of the hyped, sensationalist, grossly unfair portrayals of sharks in numerous novels and too many movies. FINS is shark-friendly; the sharks are sentient, compassionate, maternal, and goal-oriented, cooperating to exact more than revenge.

In FINS, Pirates catch sharks in a marine reserve, lop off their fins, and discard the sharks for dead. A series of puzzling, apparently related shark attacks follows. The carnage escalates until a brilliant, beautiful, beleaguered forensic technician, in league with an African-American tech wizard, battle malevolent white guys. Risking probable death and certain dismemberment­, the heroes discover the secret behind the attacks, revealing much more than was bargained for.

Helfman is an animal behaviorist turned conservation biologist turned novelist. With a PhD from Cornell University, he taught for 30 years at the University of Georgia before moving to Lopez in 2007. His professional writings include four books on fish and shark behavior and conservation. After retirement, he turned to writing novels on the premise that more people read fiction than non-fiction, broadening the community of readers that might be receptive to a conservation message.

Helfman’s 2021 debut novel, Beyond the Human Realm, told the story of a captive male orca released into the wild, and the people and whales instrumental in his gaining acceptance into orca society. That book won two national awards and continually receives critical praise, especially from whale lovers. FINS is also eco-fiction, but that’s where any relationship to Realm ends; a friend described FINS as mind candy with a conservation hook. Think of it as a quick beach read that may keep you out of the water.

The official launch of FINS is Monday, Aug. 21, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Lopez Bookshop. The book is also available from the monolithic online corporate entities for those comfortable on the low moral ground. As with his orca novel, Helfman is donating profits to conservation efforts, this time for sharks rather than for orcas.