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The Deep is one of those dreadful novels written periodically by the celebrated By The Author Of. The last time out, By The Author Of wrote Jaws, a saga of a shark and people. Alas, in this, his second novel, By The Author Of made one mistake. He wrote about people. As in Jaws, he does not write about people very adroitly, especially when they talk, and he does not know what to do with them except to lump them together on an old boat.

In The Deep, the people in the old boat do leave it constantly, but always for the ocean bottom. And then they go back up to the old boat. And then back down. Up and down, up and down, up and down. It is like watching an ABA playoff game. We are regularly submerged in the instructional ins and outs of diving procedures and apparatus, in a way positively calculated to enthrall all the subscribers to Air Hose Monthly.

The tale centers about America's sweethearts of the briny deep, David and Gail Sanders. They met at a Club Méditerranée dive-in, and are now on a gen-u-ine adventure. I kept thinking that if Nancy Drew and one of the Hardy Boys grew up and got married they would be just like David and Gail. By The Author Of heaps on the B-movie bromides. David and Gail are advised by a strange new friend about The Mysteries Of The Sea (egad, how long has it been since anyone dared tell us about The Mysteries Of The Sea?): "There's more mysteries hidden by the sea than you or I can fathom, and once in a while she unravels one, in her own time. But usually...." Oh, never mind.

Let us say this for By The Author Of. In his effort to duplicate Jaws, he has not missed a trick: Bermuda (as in Triangle), drug traffic, voodoo, great treasure and finally (unable to contain himself any longer) an economy-size shark, which makes an obligatory appearance in Chapter VIII, rather like Alfred Hitchcock appearing in his own film. And, for the Mandingo crowd with no place to go, there are a couple of scenes where the bad black guys torment plucky Gail. Will the air hoses be cut? Will the real big eel attack? Will the compressor work? Up and down, up and down. In the end, having not a clue how to unravel this galloping tedium, By The Author Of kills everybody off but David and Gail. Of course, it is intoned, "the sea was unchanged."

Indeed there are many mysteries of the sea. This is not one of them.