Three-Strand Cordage

BY M.J. Sullivan


So different do things now seem, so distant, that it might as well be a century ago. To grow up in "The Floridas" after WWII was to have an enchanted youth. Florida seemed magically young, under-populated, undeveloped, quiet, ripe, still pristine in so many places; “laid back,” yes, but better than that somehow: natural and simple, though never pure.


THREE STRAND CORDAGE is a novel about being young in those times, sailing as a youth on Tampa Bay, of chartering sail and delivering sailboats from the quiet town of Fort Lauderdale to the scattered and lonely Bahamas, of the sleepy ports of the Caribbean, and the laughter, violence and sensuality that surfaced after sunset.


THREE STRAND CORDAGE is the lost smell of wooden boats and canvas, the foolishness of young men and the blind stubbornness of old men, the acceptance and love and closure, and the magic Floridas that now are gone - all gone - save, of course, for the ghosts.


By Jim Minter - former Miami Herald reporter, bureau chief and daily columnist and editor at the Tallahassee Democrat.


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Before a dramatic mid-life course correction while in Japan, young Michael Justin Sullivan had been a sailing captain, delivering yachts from the Northeast to Fort Lauderdale, the Bahamas and beyond into the Caribbean. These were the last days of canvas sail, teak decks and navigating by sextant, a time in the ‘50s and ‘60s when Ft. Lauderdale was still a sleepy Florida city and there were but a few paved roads on the Out Islands.


This is the era captured by Three-Strand Cordage, a novel of one man’s life in three interwoven tales. Against the tranquil background of this vanished era, he finds himself caught up in kidnapping and a murderous shootout, deceived and betrayed in a gun-smuggling plot by anti-Castro Cubans, and fleeing from drug smugglers with his daughter, only to sail into Hurricane Agnes.


In his mid-30s, M.J. Sullivan became a champion Japanese swordsman. As Seiho his calligraphy has twice won the Kampō Prize, as well as the prestigious Nippon Shuji Prize.
His novel, In This Living Body, is twinned with his Shingyō: Reflections on Translating the Heart Sutra, both now available on Amazon.


With a Masters in Asian Studies, three of his calligraphy workbooks have been published in Japan. His classic book on Japanese swordsmanship, Sword and Psyche, led to WAZA, his first novel about Japanese Buddhism and the martial arts, which received the CoVisions Recognition Award for Literature in 1994.


Now primarily a literary author, he still teaches the Zen of swordsmanship and custom brushes calligraphy for clients and collectors from his studio in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.