Is the Canadian Quarrington launching a new genre with his ninth novel? His tale, of tormented travelers who behave as wildly as the hurricane destroying their island, could inaugurate Bad Weather Gothic.
Dampier Cay is, or rather was, a tiny island south of Jamaica. It has a hotel, a collection of cottages, owned by Polly, a New Zealand widow. Her live-in lover is the fishing guide, Maywell Hope, a descendant of the original Dampier, a pirate. He loves Polly deeply, despite his pirate’s heart. There’s also a gardener, Lester, a rum-soaked open-air preacher. They make a colorful supporting cast for the three eponymous storm chasers, here to greet Hurricane Claire. There’s Jimmy Newton, Mr. Weather, the world’s most famous chaser. He’s obnoxious but stable, unlike Caldwell and Beverly, who are damaged goods. They’re both from small towns in southern Ontario, though strangers before this trip, and they have Terrible Secrets. Caldwell lost his beloved wife and son in a gruesome traffic accident the same day he won $16 million in the lottery; Beverly, while a baby, witnessed her heroin-addicted father disembowel her mother and himself. Raised by an alcoholic grandfather, she lost her husband to another woman and her daughter to a swimming pool accident. She became a “physical sensation junkie,” chasing tornadoes, breaking church windows during a lightning storm. Caldwell, incidentally, has been struck by lightning, and is courting another strike. Strangest of all, the pair is fixated on the Great Storm in Galveston, which killed 8,000 people in 1900. The narrative moves between these lurid pasts and the frightening present, as Claire, a catastrophic category five, closes in. Not so frightening for our two loonies, though, even though they’re both hit by lightning, for they’re making passionate love while they exchange invented memories of Galveston; hurricane sex doesn’t get better than this.
The sex and the hurricane are graphic and compelling, for Quarrington is a good writer; he just doesn’t know when to stop.