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His Bones are Coral (1955)

Novella (124 pages, 31,380 words)

First edition 1955
First edition
First US edition 1955
First US edition
Paperback 1968
NEL paperback
DVD of the 1970 film
DVD of the
1970 film

The Book

Like its immediate predecessor, Castle Minerva, it is told as first-person narrative. Howard Smith is a pilot ferrying cargo between Port Sudan and Cairo. He has been persuaded to carry drugs. His plane crashes. He takes a job working for a professor ostensibly doing underwater archaeology, in fact retrieving gold bullion. Love, danger from sharks, betrayal, all as expected.

Publishing History

Published by Hodder and Stoughton in 1955 at 7/6 with an initial print run of 9,000. The title appears to pick up the line "Of his bones are coral made" from the song "Full Fathom Five" in The Tempest. This was too obscure for some readers, so the book was retitled Twist of the Knife for its US hardback editon, The Shark Run for the paperback and Shark for the film. The book is more of a long novella than a novel, and the text of the British edition is not divided into chapters, suggesting that it night have been originally intended for magazine publication.

The Film

The 1970 film with Burt Reynolds and Silvia Pinal was directed by Samuel Fuller but then so much altered by the producers that he disowned the film.

The hero, renamed Howartd Caine, is a reformed gun-runner rather than drug-smuggler.

Some use was made in the publicity of the fact that one of the extras had been killed by a shark during the shooting.