Signals of Distress A Novel

Jim Crace




Trade Paperback

288 Pages


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November 1836. A fierce gale beaches an American sail ship off the English coast, injuring an African slave below decks and eventually disgorging 300 head of cattle and rowdy American sailors into a hardscrabble fishing village. The same storm drives into port a steamer, bearing one Aymer Smith, the foolish, well-intentioned prig who will deprive the town of its livelihood, free the African slave, and set into motion a whole series of unforeseeable, tragicomic events.

One of the most seductive and surprising novelists at work today, Crace here creates a sharp and richly strange and believable world, uncannily familiar to our own.


Praise for Signals of Distress

"Signals of Distress is an engrossing book . . . Crace is a genius at making round and really human characters, and his characters make [this] novel superb."—Newsday

"One of the brightest lights in contemporary British fiction. With beguiling narrative ease and prose lyric enough to invest the most ordinary events with mystery, [Crace] lays bare the commonplace events—always unrecorded—that crystallize later as 'history.'"—Charles Johnson, The New York Times Book Review

"Crace weaves a progressive magic into this mythic plot with masterful detail, luminous prose, and haunting characterization."—The Boston Globe

Reviews from Goodreads



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Signals of Distress
1. THE 'BELLE' AND THE 'TAR'Both men were en voyage and sleeping in their berths. Hard winds swept in and put their ships ashore.The coastal steampacket, Ha'porth of Tar, on which Aymer Smith had his cabin, had lifted before the wind that night as if it meant to leave the water and find a firmer passage in the clouds. It arrived at dawn off Wherrytown, hastened by the storm on its short journey along the Channel. Ten in the morning was its scheduled time of arrival. Dawn was too early for the harbour lightermen to be at work. No one with any sense was up and out in such a
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  • Jim Crace

  • Jim Crace is the author of several other novels, including Being Dead, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction, and Genesis. He lives in Birmingham, England.
  • Jim Crace