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The Horrific and the Lovely

I'm the kind of reader who enjoys a good seasonal read. For example: I read Stephen King's IT in the summer (though it's a horror) because it is set in summer in the fictional town of Derry, Maine. I've read The Haunting of Hill House and Slade House, two exquisite haunted house tales, in October.

But I usually reserve summers for revisiting the classics. This summer I went back to Shakespeare (mostly The Taming of the Shrew — forgot how problematic that play was — and Titus Andronicus), Dante's Inferno, and Ovid's Metamorphoses.

But I rarely read a thoroughly summery read involving sultry days, adventure, travelling, swimming and the like. The last book I read with such themes was Tim Winton's Breath and that was ages ago. I incidentally just discovered that it was produced into a 2017 film involving Simon Baker. Lovely.

So, getting weary of classic literature this summer, Beverly suggested that I pick up a proper summer read. I went to my bookshelf and, lo and behold, I there discovered a book that Bev had given me as a birthday present last May. The cover was a bright lagoon blue and featured a pirate ship and a parrot. I went back to Bev holding up A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughes.

'Here she be, matey,' I said, 'a summer read.'

And summer read it was, but not the kind I was expecting. It is the story of how a group of children on board a schooner on the way to England from Jamaica gets kidnapped by pirates. But it's not a book about pirates, not exactly. I wrote a review of the book right here and I've been gushing about it ever since.

It is harrowing and horrific. In the best of ways. I dare say it's become one of my favourite novels about children. I can't overemphasise how powerful this book really is. I recommend it to all and sundry, and I'm glad I didn't read this 'children's classic' when I was young and that it somehow missed my radar. It's not exactly a children's read.

A High Wind in Jamaica is absolutely horrific and absolutely lovely.

While I was finishing it, I received yet another bit of good news. I was invited to read my stories in none other than The Big Apple. I've been dying to go to New York City for a long time now and to go there with the intention of reading my work to an audience is more than terrific. Unfortunately though, I had to turn the offer down. The reason is the big bad Covid-19, which has left its teenage years behind and turned 20 and now 21.

The regulations involving travel to the U.S. from Malta are still very tentative. And if I have to go to New York City, I'd rather go during a safer time and when I can plan a longer-term visit. The magazine that extended the invitation assured me that this won't be the last time they would hold a public reading and that virtual readings are a possibility too. So I can look forward to that.

In the meantime, writing my new novel is going well. I'm writing it using pen and paper this time, something I've never done before. Since this is a more personal novel, I feel like the epistolary nature of the writing is conducive to the kind of content I'm aiming for.

I can tell you more about that when the time comes. So weigh anchor and hoist the mizzen! Onwards we go!

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