Deep Descent is a book aimed squarely at divers eager to read more about the glory days of diving the liner Andrea Dorea, and as such it presents the reader with a mixed bag. This starts with the format of the book, which is half memoir and half journalistic. As Kevin McMurray himself admits in the book, while he likes diving he is not a devoted wreck diver. He only visited the Andrea Dorea a couple of times while on assignment and never penetrated the interior of the vessel. While he can claim to have been there and done that, he lacks the personal experience to write a full-length memoir about diving and exploring the Dorea on air. Instead, McMurry fills in the gaps between his own visits with the ably recounted tales of others who were major personalities in the “Golden Age” of diving the Dorea.
The result is a book by a capable storyteller, but one that lacks direction. On the one hand, McMurray has the necessary experience to frame the underwater experiences of divers on the extremely hazardous undertaking of visiting a deep, dangerous wreck on air. Also, McMurray was not a major player in any of the New York-New Jersey diving factions that continue to bitterly argue over who-did-what to this very day. Deep Descent is therefore not poisoned by bad writing or partisan axe-grinding.
However, the book lacks the cohesion that makes for a gripping narrative. Deep Descent reads like Simon and Schuster asked for a book about diving the Dorea on short order, and McMurray implies as much when he writes about being asked to create Deep Descent. It is both and neither the story of diving the Dorea on air nor the memoir of a Dorea diver, and reads more like an anthology of individual articles about the Golden Age of diving the Dorea than a proper narrative of the period.
Deep Descent is better written than a lot of books out there about diving the Andrea Dorea, but at the end it leaves the reader thirsting for an even better book on the same subject.