From one of Canada’s beloved fiction writers comes a tale of love and loss, guilt and forgiveness and finding redemption in the eye of a hurricane.
Few people seek out the tiny Caribbean island of Dampier Cay. Visitors usually wash up there by accident, rather than by design. But this weekend, three people will fly to the island deliberately. They are not coming for a tan or fun in the sun. They are coming because Dampier Cay is where it is, and they have reason to believe that they might encounter something there that most people take great measures to avoid a hurricane.
A lottery windfall and a few hours of selfishness have robbed Caldwell of all that was precious to him, while Beverly, haunted by tragedy and screwed by fate since birth, has given up on life. Also on the flight is Jimmy Newton, a professional storm chaser and videographer who will do anything for the perfect shot. Waiting for them at Dampier is the manager of the Water’s Edge Hotel, “Bonefish” Maywell Hope, who arrived at Dampier by the purest accident of all the accident of birth. A descendent of the pirates who sailed the Caribbean hundreds of years ago, Hope believes if he works hard enough, he can prevent the inevitable. Until, that is, the seas begin to rise . . .
Cinematic and harrowing, spiced with Quarrington’s trademark humour, Galveston shows just how far people will go to feel alive.
|Publisher:||Random House of Canada, Limited|
|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
The author of ten novels, Paul Quarrington was also a musician (most recently in the band Porkbelly Futures), an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker, and an acclaimed non-fiction writer.
Paul Quarrington's novel, Galveston, was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize; King Leary won the CBC's 2008 Canada Reads competition and the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal; and Whale Music was awarded the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction. Recently, Porkbelly Futures' self-titled second CD has been released to widespread acclaim, and Paul Quarrington's short film adaptation of The Ravine, entitled Pavane, was featured in the Moving Stories Short Film Festival. Paul Quarrington's non-fiction writing includes books on some of his favourite pastimes, such as fishing, hockey, and music. A regular contributor of book reviews, travel columns, and journalism to Canada's national newspapers and magazines, he also taught writing at Humber College and the University of Toronto.
Paul Quarringon passed away in January 2010.
Read an Excerpt
After Four a-clock the Thunder and Rain abated, and then we saw a Corpus Sant at the Main-top-mast Head, on the very Top of the Truck of the Spindle. This sight rejoiced our Men exceedingly; for the height of the Storm is commonly over when the Corpus Sant is seen aloft; but when they are seen lying on the Deck, it is generally accounted a bad Sign.
A Corpus Sant is a certain small glittering Light; when it appears as this did, on the very Top of the Main-mast or at a Yard-arm, it is like a Star; but when it appears on the Deck, it resembles a great Glow-worm. The Spaniards have another Name for it (though I take even this to be a Spanish or Portuguese Name, and a Corruption only of Corpus Sanctum) and I have been told that when they see them, they presently go to Prayers, and bless themselves for the happy Sight. I have heard some ignorant Seamen discoursing how they have seen them creep, or, as they say, travel about in the Scuppers, telling many dismal Stories that hapned at such times . . .
–William Dampier, A New Voyage Round the World
There once was an island named Dampier Cay. It lay to the southwest of Jamaica, making a triangle with that country and the Caymans. Dampier Cay was, technically, under English governance; it retained the pound as its official currency, for example, even though no one on the island accepted, or carried, the local money. All transactions were made using the American dollar.
Dampier Cay was a narrow strip of land, a few miles long, that nature had pushed forth from the water for no good reason. Still, it was land, and people built there. Because there was not much of it, property was relatively expensive. Some wealthy white people owned estates. The black people who worked for the white people lived in a tiny hamlet, Williamsville, which was near the centre of the island. Dampier Cay ran north and south, but it was bent in the middle. There was a harbour there; aside from a couple of local fishing trawlers, it was rarely used.
On either end of Dampier Cay were resorts. At the south end was a big hotel. It claimed the best beaches and was popular, by island standards, with tourists. At the north end was a place called the Water’s Edge, a collection of buildings that sat near the bottom of the island’s only significant hill.
That hill was called Lester’s Hump. Reporters were confused by that, for a while, because after the storm a man named Lester was found at the top, along with two white women. But Lester’s Hump had been so called for over two hundred years, ever since William Dampier had directed Lester Cooper to cart liquor and victuals up to the top. Dampier had seen weather coming.
But the Day ensuing, which was the 4th Day of July, about Four a-Clock in the Afternoon, the Wind came to the N.E. and freshned upon us, and the Sky looked very black in that quarter, and the black Clouds began to rise apace and moved towards us; having hung all the Morning in the Horizon.
The island’s east coast, much of it anyway, is a rock cliff that rises a mean height of twenty-five feet. It seemed reasonable protection should the weather and the water get into cahoots, but William Dampier had seen many odd things in his journeys, and heard much odder. He’d heard about waves that stood thirty yards tall. So he directed Lester Cooper to take the flour, sugar, suet, etc., to the summit, and the other men laughed and called it Lester’s Hump.
There is, today, a small cross at the summit of Lester’s Hump. It is made out of wood and whitewashed, and someone attends to it, keeping the cross pristine and cultivating a small bed of flowers around its base. At the foot of Lester’s Hump there are ghostly suggestions of civilization and order – scattered timbers and pieces of metal and machinery. Further south, trees have been thrown over and lie criss-crossed, like wooden matches that have been rattled in the box and then tossed onto the ground. Beyond this is where Williamsville once stood. A handful of black people still live there, in hastily built, ramshackle constructions. Oddly, there are a few estates that stand in good condition, but the owners have boarded the windows and put up optimistic For Sale signs. The big hotel remains, although no tourists ever go there, because Dampier Cay no longer exists.
It was a fairly easy matter for Dampier Cay to disappear, because it had never proclaimed its existence with any authority. It was not even on all maps. Many derive from the originals made by William Dampier, who was the Royal Cartographer, although he spent much of his time buccaneering with his Merry Boys. Ironically, having named the island after himself, Dampier left it off his depiction of the area. Where it should have been dotted, Dampier fashioned a large and ornate C to begin the word Caribbee.
To get to Dampier Cay, in the days when it still existed, either one had to know exactly what one was doing – only one tiny airline serviced the island, the airport a glorified bungalow near Miami, Florida – or else one came by chance.
Gail and Sorvig, whom you will meet, stumbled upon the island, or at least the knowledge of its existence, at a travel agency in New York City. One of them had idly picked up a small flyer from the Water’s Edge. The print was crooked, rendered out of Letraset, and announced prices much cheaper than any other resort. The flyer also featured a drawing of a bonefish, sleek and fierce-looking. The drawing was made by a man named Maywell Hope, although, when you meet him, you may find that hard to credit. Hope made the flyer and took it to the post office in Williamsville, where he and the postmistress mimeographed two hundred copies. Hope and the postmistress then used her computer to select random vacation bureaus around the world, and mailed them out.
Maywell Hope made the flyer over the protestations of Polly Greenwich, his common-law wife and the owner of the Water’s Edge. Polly possessed a kind of grim optimism, and was convinced that business was as good as could be expected. Polly herself had come to Dampier Cay by chance, from New Zealand. Her first husband had died from cancer, he had withered away; and when he was gone, Polly boarded an airplane, not caring where it was headed, then she bought a berth on a cruising yacht, and one day the ship anchored at Dampier Cay. While the rest of the passengers went snorkelling, Polly wandered the small island until she came upon the collection of buildings at the bottom of Lester’s Hump. She had lunch in the little restaurant and, sipping her coffee afterwards, decided to purchase the place. It wasn’t a life she would have designed, but at least it was a life, it had purpose and parameters. There was even a bonus, a lover who came with the deal, the tall sunburnt fishing guide and transport captain, Maywell Hope.
Maywell had come to Dampier Cay by the purest of chance – he was born there. So was Lester Vaughan, retained at the Water’s Edge as gardener and general handyman. The two had actually been fast friends as boys, and as young men they had shared many evenings at the Royal Tavern, consuming vast quantities of rum in honour of their ancestors. Then, you know, events had taken place. Maywell Hope no longer drank; Lester claimed he’d given it up but too often would return to the bottle. Lester would disappear, sometimes for days on end, and, when he turned up again, most often could be found sleeping it off in the tiny cemetery beside the pale blue church.
There are three more people to meet. These people came neither by chance nor by design – or perhaps more accurately, by a combination of the two. What I’m getting at is that these three came because Dampier Cay was where it was, and they had reason to believe they might encounter something there, something most people take great measures to avoid.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I was genuinely disappointed when I started this novel. I was expecting a story of the big Galveston hurricane of 1900, and was very unhappy when it turned out not to have anything to do with it. But, the story redeemed itself very quickly. First of all it turned out to be about weather freaks, and there was quite a bit of real factual info there as well. Then, the characters, the style and the whole plot just worked together for me, and combined itself into a fast and thoroughly enjoyable read. Caldwell, Beverly and Newton, the characters in the novel seek out extreme weather to fill the void in their lives, and they all separately set out and meet on Dampier Cay, a tiny and obscure island in the Caribbean where the biggest hurricane ever is supposed to arrive. And then the hurricane does arrive.