Down Time, edited by Ed, Casey & Jim Kittrell
Down Time, edited by Ed, Casey & Jim Kittrell

Perhaps we have less imagination, but youd be unlikely to find a collection of writings on diving like Down Time from a bunch of British writers.
Divers in this country might enjoy a good underwater view, but while were busy surveying wrecks, ID-ing marine life and weighing up what equipment to buy, our US counterparts - on the evidence of this book at least - are preoccupied with relating their experiences in the watery depths to their inner beings.
That is intended not as criticism but as an observation, because this collection of 35 stories and articles, poems and extracts from US (and some European) writers can hardly fail to catch the imagination of any diver.
Its full of good writing and, as on an absorbing drift dive, youll find youve been swept through to the end before you know it.
The contents are bookended by the observations of pioneers such as William Beebe, Guy Gilpatric and Phillipe DiolÃ…. While these tend towards the man-against-raw-nature approach of their times, they do help to put contemporary attitudes in perspective. And some more recent writing, like Tim Cahills Shark Dive, is equally hairy-chested.
Highlights include the thoughtful works of blockbuster author and director Michael Crichton - Sharks and Bonaire - while Robert Stones fictional account of a Caribbean dive Its Out There, like David Poyers Orange Grove Sink and Eugenie Clarks chilling Little Salt Springs, succeed only too well in transporting the reader into uncomfortable diving situations.
Another standout is The Mole Tribe, by that top-class diving writer Bucky McMahon, a sometime contributor to Diver. And although the first selection in Down Time by James Hamilton-Paterson verges on the pompous, it is Compressor, his short story in which the protagonist dives on a primitive umbilical to insane depths, that really had me on the edge of my holiday deckchair.
I started reading Down Time thinking it was all going to be a bit too ethereal, but theres no getting away from it, diving is other-worldly. I closed the book thinking we could probably do with a bit more soul-baring in British dive-writing. But then, that just isnt our style.        Steve Weinman

Down Time, edited by Ed, Casey & Jim Kittrell, Gazelle Books Services (01524 68765). Hardback, 264pp, £11.99