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.
"Every Boat Turns South: a cross between Ordinary People and Body Heat" by J.P. White
One reader has remarked that EVERY BOAT TURNS SOUTH is a cross between Ordinary People and Body Heat and I think that description works as a starting point. I wanted my hero, Matt Younger, to return after a 13-year absence and tell a story to his dying father. The framework of my story is more typical of literary fiction. What I play with is that the story Matt wants to tell his father is about a crime or rather a series of crimes. On the other hand, the only story the father wants to hear is about Matt's role in the death of the favorite son, Hale.
In order to reveal that piece of the crime, Matt must travel back over his years in the Caribbean; he must recount how he met a Dominican woman whom he fell in love with, before he can come to terms with his brother Hale, the family god. This element of my novel emerges out of my own extended family. I had a cousin who was a blue angel pilot and his plane crashed. He was a family god: handsome, dashing, funny, reckless. He was intended to live forever but he died young and that one death broke my uncle's family apart. The grief that won't quit is also at the center of my story.
Every Boat Turns South is very much a coming-home tale, a sailing adventure, a father-son drama, a crime story as well as a story of one man's guilt and redemption. Many of the elements of the story emerge from my experiences delivering boats in the Bahamas and Caribbean. The waypoints of the boat delivery in the novel from West Palm Beach to St. Thomas in the B.V.I. are ones I'm very familiar with. I include a much abbreviated chart at the front of the book to show the reader the actual route of Stardust, Matt Younger's delivery boat.
Because Every Boat Turns South is part family drama and part Caribbean noir it has struck a chord with men and women readers who find parts of their own family saga played out on the high seas and islands far away.
In the last 35 years, 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. You can visit him online at www.jpwhite.net