Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Island Lore...A good story!

Before leaving Tucson we started checking out books on the Island of Roatan and, though the pickins' were slim, came up with one notable author.  David K. Evans, Professor Emeritus, Wake Forest University, and Founder of the Overseas Research Center  has written two books, Red at Dawn and The Judas Bird.  We found used paper-backed copies of Red at Dawn on and ordered one immediately, but The Judas Bird was only sold in hardcover.

We figured that within our month's stay we would each have time to read Red at Dawn.  Quickly we became enthralled by the drama and intensity of the turbulent 1700s, a time when the Caribbean Island of Roatan was the rendezvous for the lusty, hard-living pirates of the western Caribbean.  The portrayal of the lives of the elusive maroons and castaways, desperately attempting to survive and protect their women and freedom from vicious attacks by these pirates who periodically invaded their small island.

In fact we were both so impressed with the author's presentation, especially the obvious research that went into so much historical fact, that we sent him an email saying how much we had enjoyed it.  We also mentioned wanting to now read The Judas Bird and would order it as soon as we returned to AZ.  We had actually noticed from his bio that he and his wife divided their time between Roatan and Wake Forest, so were hoping he might just be on the island.

Prof. David Evans
Prof. Evans answered our email almost immediately: 

"My wife and I first visited Roatan back when I was a graduate student looking for a place to do my doctoral research, and stumbled upon the island long ago in 1961...there was no electricity on the island then, and not even a single motor vehicle for several years afterwards. Roads began popping up about the early 70's, and began to connect the villages. If you would like I would be happy to send you a free copy of a short history( as soon as I have had it Copyrighted. I have been researching and writing it (off and on..mostly "off") for several years now. My first novel, which I will be glad to send you free if you will send the postage and promise never to buy anything of mine from Amazon again...they are the REAL pirates...have literally ordered well over 50 copies of my first Roatan novel.."THE JUDAS BIRD:A MODERN TREASURE TALE" some years ago, and have sold them on the website, but have never paid me for the books or given me a single cent in Royalties, nor will they even bother to respond to my e-mails regarding same...yep, they are quite the modern day literary pirates! ...."
 (I happen to love Amazon but then I'm just a very frequent buyer!)

A long thread of communications ensued and we discovered Prof. Evans and Howard had a few things in common, namely CAL Berkeley and sailboats:

"Hi Guys...
Wish I had known you two would be in French Key...would have had you drop by Mr. Errol Jackson and his wife Mary's place...I once had a 31 foot topsail cutter built at French Key by the old master himself ...Mr. Wilson Arch...he never touched a mechanical tool in his life...after electricity on the island back in 1961, but his sons carry on the boat building trade. I sailed our little cutter( "Renate") back to Portsmouth, Virginia, where I traded her in for a new VW Beetle and drove her out to finish up Graduate work at Berkeley. Guess a little of that got into my second Novel...Red At Dawn...recently retitled and republished as The Dark Pirate. Just rented out our island home today ( La Casa Promesa) up on our property Ruby Lee Ridge to a Canadian lady and her Husband, and Mr. Errol, our old friend and Caretaker for our properties lives at French had to have driven right by his house...his name is Mr. Errol Jackson.
Keep on enjoying that island...wish we were there!"

You can imagine our excitement when recently yet another lengthy email arrived in our in-box.  The professor obviously loves to write:

"Lynda, good evening:
If you are still on island and want a signed copy of The Judas Bird, just drive out to the West End...turn right at the entrance, and stop at the first bar on the beach on the ocean-side called Sundowners.  Ask for Mrs Daine Etches (pronounced "Day-nee")...the island pronunciation of "Dainty". She lives directly across the sandy road from the bar behind the wooden fence. The whole compound belongs to her family, and she lives there with her mom, Miss Catherine, her Canadian husband, and her son "Arron" (owner of "Sundowners"), and his wife, and daughter.  Daine was Sharella of the main characters in my first novel...The Judas Bird , as was her mom. Miss Catherine, now quite elderly and bed-ridden, but still breeding Island "Yellow-Napped" Parrots, and usually has a cat or two sleeping curled up on her bed. I am sending you there with this E-Mail because Daine is the only person on the island (I think) who still has signed copies of my first novel for sale. Show Daine this e-mail and ask her to please give you an autographed copy of The Judas Bird, and to please put it on my tab...they all speak excellent West Indian English, well, with maybe just a tad bit of an old English or Yorkshire twang to it...and can tell you anything at all you want to know about the island.

I have known Miss Catherine since we first went to Roatan back in 1961, and have known Daine since Arron, her son... (who is 10 days younger than our daughter Amber) ...was born back in November 1974. They are from families that hail from Diamond Rock way in the Eastern part of the Island out toward Land's End, and have been on the island for many, many generations. Truly great people to know and very hospitable.  Let me know if you find them..."

We were up and out the very next morning!  West End is a short distance from our apartment and we knew the "Sundowner" well.  I easily found Miss Daine's house across the street and called at the front door.  Luckily she was home and what an absolutely lovely person she is.  Her island roots go back to 1850! And, yes, she had a book or us!

Native islander, Miss Daine Etches

Howard models our new acquisition

With profuse thanks, we jokingly told the professor there should be a disclaimer attached to The Judas Bird, caution, do not read in bed.  It must weight 5 lbs., all 973 pages of it.  And Howard can hardly put it down....Ha.  This is a more modern day island story, taking place in 1995.  Things here have certainly changed.  The tourist industry is booming, the reef is dying, and there is a lot of price gouging.  The sales tax is 12% with a 4% tourist tax for hotels and car rentals...Ouch, we paid a fortune for the car, but then we didn't do paid tours, so we rationalize the expense, and the freedom we enjoyed.  

And merchants don't like to take American Express; we found out the hard way. They always tell you your card was denied.  The first time we fell for it and paid in cash, but when we got the same response at the car rental agency, we said no way, and no, we don't have another credit card.  The whole approval process had taken place in rapid Spanish, way beyond my level of comprehension.  After a lot of back and forth, literally driving back to the apartment to retrieve the laptop, sending messages, making phone calls, our card was of course approved.  American Express responded to my email saying they had run through all their records and saw no denial of any charge.   So beware and don't take no for an answer!

Tomorrow, the 28th, we move out of the apartment and into a studio at the Sea Breeze Inn in West End for two nights.  It will be nice to be in town within easy walking to everything and have some beach time on Roatan's Half Moon Bay.

Half Moon Bay beach in West End


Gaelyn said...

What a treat to actually receive an answer to your email. Plus a great way to meet locals. The island looks like paradise.

Gypsy Boho said...

I have placed Roatan on my Bucket List. You make it sound so interesting.