In the last few years a number of Caribbean journalists have turn their hand to writing fiction. The latest is Gary E. Brown, whose novel Caribbean High is causing quite a stir.
Brown has been involved with All At Sea for many years and, with October's issue, will take over as our Editorial Director. Before the transition, we thought it time to take a look at the man and the story behind Caribbean High.
In an interview featured in the weekend section of the St. Maarten Daily Herald, reporter Lisa Davis-Burnet had this to say about Caribbean High: "By the first paragraph, you are already lost in this other world, a very familiar world if you are a sailor; but even if you are not, you know you are coming along for the ride. And quite a ride it is!"
So we know the novel, which the author describes as an "action thriller," contains some sailing, but is he qualified to write about a subject close to the heart of All At
Brown was first introduced to sailing on a partly frozen flooded field close to his home in the north of England. Spurred on by friends, the 11 year old set sail across an ice-free section of the field in a tin bathtub requisitioned from a nearby pig pen. Using his open duffle coat as a sail he managed to navigate a hundred yards before the tub and future ocean sailor sank into the freezing water. The following bout of pneumonia was, insists the author, not enough to put him off voyaging.
Crediting his great grandfather, who was at sea during the last great days of sail, for putting salt in his veins, Brown's first taste of seagoing life was as a commercial fishermen, a job he says filled his head with stories. "You can't be a fisherman without being caught up in the lore of the sea," he notes. "The crews were so superstitious that we were lucky we ever left harbor. They were a tough lot, but if one of them saw a black cat on the way to the boat, you wouldn't see him until the next day. One guy I fished with had his arm torn off in a winch. A month later he was back at sea. Six months later he owned his own boat."
Although he wrote little during his fishing days, that changed following a series of yacht deliveries and one memorable voyage, during which the first yacht owned by Brown and his wife Jan capsized while crossing the notorious Bay of Biscay. The feature he wrote about their misadventure was later published in the prestigious British magazine Yachting Monthly. That was the start of his professional writing career.
"A lot of water has passed under the keel and a lot of ink across the page since then, so yes, I guess I am qualified to write about sailing. However," he says, "writing news stories is one thing, but you really bare your soul when you turn your hand to fiction." We asked what he meant by that.
"Well, you open yourself up. You write what you know, but then you have to defend yourself. Caribbean High is a full-on adventure, written in the first person. But it is fiction," he laughs. "It's not me. Honest. Of course I have drawn on some of my own experiences, and that's where it gets interesting. I'm a gentle guy but the plot contains quite a bit of violence and wild partying. The novel has shocked some people. Some even question what I did in the past. That takes a bit of getting used to."
Welcome aboard the All at Sea team, Gary!
Caribbean High is on sale in various locations in St. Martin and throughout the Caribbean at Budget Marine stores. Copies are also available online from amazon.com. For full details: garyebrown.net.