Monday, June 7, 2010

Guest Post: J.P. White author of Every Boat Turns South

J.P. White, author of the book Every Boat Turns South, stopped by to share with us a piece he wrote.

The Hazards of the Sailing Away Fantasy

There are few fantasies more compelling in American life than sailing away and leaving the rat race behind. Yet less than half the couples who embark on the "booze, cruise and snooze" life in the islands find the adventure bliss they are seeking. The other half routinely find trouble and lots of it including theft, infidelity, drugs, divorce, loss of boat and sometimes murder. The sailing life -- which is the setting for my debut novel Every Boat Turns South -- provides more than enough fodder for the mystery/crime genre because unsavory characters linger on every dock, beach and fishing pier. And it turns how sailing away is hard work. You
need to navigation, engine repair, be reasonably fit and nimble, and have enormous reserves of good cheer and resilience because things will go wrong, the weather will turn foul, and will run aground somewhere. What else?

We don't have to look very far to see that pirates are alive and well in our world. Wherever there is water, there are men and women on boats with guns who know those waters better than anyone else. The Bahamas, where my story travels to, have always been used for drug smuggling because of their proximity to the States. In the 1980s, there were hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cocaine coming into Florida through the islands. Now, there is both human and drug smuggling. If nothing else, the law of the universe tells us opposites always attract. Where there is great beauty and peacefulness there is also the worm of its undoing.

In my novel, a boat delivery from West Palm Beach to St. Thomas in the B.V.I. gets sidetracked by the Trade Winds shifting. The Trades blow from the northeast from November to April then switch around to the
southeast starting in April. Matt Younger, my protagonist, is a skipper on a forty-foot trimaran that pulls into South Caicos on April Fool's Day. Problem is, Matt is heading south and he gets caught there. While he's
waiting for a front to push back against the Trades, he gets mixed up with a drug pilot and makes a reckless decision to steal a cocaine drop out from under the pilot's nose. When the weather turns foul, sailors make bad decisions all the time. In fact, they've been doing this for thousands of years. Every Boat Turns South is a sailing adventure retold to a dying father. Bad decisions are the standing rigging of this tale, but then one
good decision arrives, but it's not one that anyone expects.

About the book:

Every Boat Turns South mixes memoir-like adventure with a moving coming-home tale. The book opens and closes in Florida, but its sultry and terror-filled center is set in the Turks & Caicos Islands and in the Dominican Republic. By interweaving the Florida bedside scenes with Matt’s confessional account of his wild life in the Caribbean, White subtly builds sympathy for his ne'er-do-well drifter, as Matt slowly reveals the truth about Hale by coming to understand his own impulses and needs and by cherishing, through memory, all that his father had taught him. The writing in both sections forcefully lyrical and full of maritime detail (sailors will love this book) suggests an autobiographical prompt, but clearly the author is in command of a style that effectively serves his complex plot. The flashbacks pulse with sensuality, the take on island natives and tourists is nothing less than superb: The hotel swarms with interracial couples strung together like rosary beads . . . white women, pale as chalk, lean into black men like they've found the Rosetta stone. White men pull at strings of mulatto women like taffy. Meringue and rum, greed and sex rule. Everything. Everyone. As one of the novel's shrewd and exotic characters says, we all have our weaknesses once we get to the islands.

About J.P.:

J.P. White has published essays, articles, fiction, reviews, interviews and poetry in over a hundred publications including The Nation, The New Republic, The Los Angeles Times Magazine, The Gettysburg Review, American Poetry Review, and Poetry (Chicago). He is a graduate of New College in Sarasota, Florida, Colorado State University and Vermont College in Fine Arts. He is the author of five books of poems and a novel, Every Boat Turns South.


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