The Water Master

Winner: Best Novel, William Faulkner / William Wisdom Competition, 2011
Finalist: Dana Award for the Novel, 2011

“If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years,
how would men believe and adore.”

1963. Hattertown, Connecticut, once the hat manufacturing capital of the Eastern United States (“the Town that Crowned America”) has fallen on hard times. Men no longer wear hats. Leo “Half” Napoli mourns his hat factory worker dad while dreaming of being the first man on the moon and partaking in “something of the infinite.” Meanwhile he and his fellow Back Shop Boys (their fathers all worked in the dangerous back shops of hat factories) seek to uncover the identity of the reclusive Man in Blue, who wanders the town collecting things in his canvas rucksack.

Elected to spy on him, Half learns not only what “Jack Thomas” has been collecting in his canvas rucksack, and why, but of the extraordinary circumstances that led to his fugitive existence, an odyssey with its roots in a forgotten yet astonishing episode of World War II that has stripped him of every trace of his former self. The story is told by Half as he looks back from his retirement as a Fuel Technology Specialist for NASA (“a gas station attendant for the Space Shuttle”). No, Half never made it to the moon; he never partook of anything of the infinite. Or did he?

At its surface a coming-of-age tale touched with myth, magic, and nostalgia, The Water Master is also about one civilization giving way to another, and about the places in our lives where the mundane and the miraculous meet.

PRAISE FOR The Water Master:

“The Water Master is an engaging, plucky and taught performance by a writer who is clearly in control of his work.”
—Competition Judge Will Murphy, Senior Editor, Random House

“Peter Selgin is an absolutely beautiful writer and he’s created an unforgettable narrator.”—Jennifer Barth, Vice President and Executive Editor HarperCollins

“Incredibly moving and beautifully written.”
—Lindsay Sagnette, Senior Editor, Crown & Hogarth

“Quite a special book, with myriad stories at work in symphony, all told with seeming ease and an impressive and engrossing style.”—Robin Desser, Senior Vice President, Knopf Publishing Group

“Selgin is such a talented writer. He immediately drew me into the world of Leo and his friends.”—Megan Lynch, Senior Editor, Riverhead

“Selgin is a masterful storyteller … and it’s gorgeously, gorgeously written book. I was fascinated by the Man in Blue, by Half’s relationship with him, and by all the little gloriously intricate stories Selgin has woven in here, from the ‘history’ of felt, to Half’s stepfather’s fervor for hats, to the story of Virgil’s brothers’ deaths in the convertible.”
—Sarah Bowlin, Henry Holt & Co

“I found it a compulsive read, and Peter Selgin is a masterful stylist; his writing flows like water.”—Hannah Wood, HarperCollins

“Peter is a remarkably talented writer, and there were graceful touches throughout that made me pause, made me re-read, so that I could savor the precise, insightful characterization.”—Miranda Popkey, Farrar, Straus & Giroux

“Peter is an incredibly talented writer, and with this novel, he’s wonderfully evoked the spirit of early-60s America, as well as created a unique narrator with Leo”
—Anne Brewer, Editor, Thomas Dunne Books