Stories of beauty and danger on the Southern California Coast

A much-admired lifeguard has lost his athletic daughter to the sea and is changed forever. A young man trains in Vegas to be a thug for the mob, gives it up and returns to the coast to livea moral life wasted on drugs. A gay party animal at Isla Vista becomes a brilliant businessman until he dies of AIDS. An accident-prone professional salvage diver succumbs to a life of risk and poverty. A wealthy immigrant and a homeless person have a near-miss encounter in downtown Santa Barbara, and a fatal traffic accident provides closure. A teenaged surfer girl has an affair with her enabling mother's druggy boyfriend. A once successful homeless man holds onto his dignity by living in his last possession, his boat. These brief descriptions are a few of the springboards from which Terry Dressler builds haunting stories of love and loss in his debut collection, Oil and Water: Stories From the Windward Shore.

Most of the stories are told in the first person, and many of them are told from the point of view of an onlooker, not the main character. In more than one case, the on-looking narrator has the same flaw (e.g. alcoholism or addiction to risk) as the headstrong and eccentric doomed hero, but lives to tell the tale. These stories are honest portraits of men and women who relate to one another and to the ocean that beckons them to danger and adventure.
Although the stories in this collection are not afraid of the dark, the book also makes us joyfully aware of the beauty and attraction of the coastal life. The author gives us the glory of the surf at Hollister Ranch, the thrill of boating around the Channel Islands, the vibrant hustle of Santa Barbara's State Street, and the panoramic beauty of the churning ocean. He also reminds us, in every story, that life is made up of close relationships between and among people. Oil and Water: Stories From the Windward Shore is a well-painted, inviting portrait of the California coastal scene.

Terry Dressler has lived all but nine years of his life within two miles of the Pacific Ocean. He graduated from high school in Ventura, California and went on to the University of California in Santa Barbara. Since college has had a thirty-three-year career in air quality management in Southern and Central California, retiring as the director of Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District. He and his wife live in Goleta, California, where they raised two daughters.

Oil and Water
and Other Stories from the Windward Shore
by Terry Dressler
ISBN 978-1-56474-537-8
176 pages, paperback, $14.95

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