The book begins when Weyden's ship sinks in San Francisco harbor. Rescued by Larson, Weyden is forced to serve as cook's scullion. Larson's heads for the Bering Sea where Van Weyden finds human cruelty matched only by nature but he also finds something else when a young lady is also rescued by Larson.
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Hester Prynne commits adultery in a Puritan settlement and, as a result, is "branded" for the rest of her life by having to wear a scarlet letter "A" on her breast. Throughout the story, a complex relationship develops between Hester, her lover, her husband, and her daughter.
Malcolm Jameson's short story "Blind Alley" is probably his best remembered and most reprinted work due in large part to the fact that it was the basis for a very memorable episode of Rod Serling's popular television series "The Twilight Zone" titled "Of Late I Think Of Cliffordville".