The Story Behind Every Boat Turns South by J.P. White


After more than a ten-year saga, I published my debut novel EVERY BOAT TURNS SOUTH. It’s the story of Matt Younger, a 30-year-old delivery boat captain who returns to Amelia Island, Florida to make a confession to his dying father about his role in the death of the favorite son.

In order to make that confession, 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, and he must come to terms with the family ghost. I spent all the summers of my childhood on Lake Erie fooling around with boats. My father built a forty foot sailboat which we raced and cruised
on as a family. He took early retirement at fifty-five and we moved to Ft. Lauderdale from Vermilion, Ohio for my last year of high school. But we didn’t drive there. We traveled by sailboat across Lake Erie, across the Erie Canal, down the Hudson river, then in and out of the Intracoastal Waterway. That was my first turning south and my first taste of traveling long distance by boat and that autobiographical element figures into my story.

Later, in the early 1980s, I spent two years delivering boats up and down the Seaboard and into the Bahamas and Caribbean, and that experience also played a role in how my novel unfolded, since in life and in fiction, the Trade Winds turn against the delivery boat captain headed south. Most people who dream of leaving the world behind and sailing away to the Caribbean have no idea of the potential hazards found in these places. They lust only after the beauty of the life itself. Yet traveling by water always comes with risk. The boat can fail. The weather can fail. The skipper can fail. The rum can knock you down. Less than half the couples who seek adventure in the islands stay together. Island bars are filled with men and women who have jumped ship, each with a story that might play out much better in fiction than in life. In life, we seek to avoid trouble. In fiction, we need it to keep the hero pushing forward. In the islands, trouble always sits at the bar waiting for someone to listen which is why these seductive pockets of wind, sun and sand are the perfect setting for crime and mystery novels.

More than anything else, the Bahamas and the islands of the Caribbean are the repositories of so many dreams and dead-ends. With the expectations being so high for what travelers want to find in these watery places, there’s always a lot of things that can go wrong. And wrong in every color is what fuels good stories. And no matter how remote and small they are, islands are also worldly. By the very element of water, islands are
connected to the larger global basin. Which is why on most Caribbean islands, you’ll find tourists and residents from all over the world. That diversity and complexity of island culture adds an unexpected richness to the kind of characters who turn up there to play, hide, hitch a ride or make trouble. One reader has remarked that EVERY BOAT TURNS SOUTH is a cross between Ordinary People and Body Heat and my story is a blend of
Caribbean noir, family drama and a high seas adventure all brewed up with greed, lust, and betrayal.

The dying shipwright father wants only to hear about what happened the night Matt’s older brother died in the Gulf Stream. Matt only wants to be released from a memory he can’t face. Matt knows he doesn’t have much time to find his ending because his father’s life is ending so there is an internal race to see if Matt’s past can be accommodated by the father’s present with no future pending for either of them if the confession isn’t
heard.

Amazon or Barnes & Noble are the best way to obtain your copies, although it will be available to order in most  bookstores. You can visit J.P.’s website at www.jpwhite.net for more information about the book.

J.P. White has published essays, fiction, reviews, interviews and poetry in over a hundred publications including The Nation, The New Republic, The Los Angeles Times
Magazine, The Gettysburg Review, APR, and Poetry (Chicago). His fifth book of poems,
All Good Water, from Holy Cow! Press comes out in September, 2010. The Permanent
Press published his debut novel, EVERY BOAT TURNS SOUTH in the fall of 2009. J.P.
White can be reached through www.jpwhite.net.

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