Hawke’s Harbour (book, 2005, SE Hinton)

FromSFX 133.


SE Hinton/Tor/251pages

Dracula kicks Tintin’s arse

Perhaps I’m not really getting the message, but Hawke’s Harbour is depressing. Although it sets itself up as being a book about troubling circumstance when we are introduced to its protagonist, Jamie Sommers, it lulls you into a false sense of security with plenty of tales of Tintin-esque derring do on the high seas, as mental patient Jamie recounts his disordered life with his Irish trickster companion. But it soon gives you a sharp rabbit punch to the mental solar plexus. Jamie goes on one adventure too many, and ends up a blubbering slave to an angry vampire. Now I’ll bet that never happens in Belgium.

Hawke’s Harbour attacks our culture’s holding of  rogues and ne’er-do-wells as heroes. Even do-gooders like Hergé’s boy reporter shot the odd villain, while in other boys’ own yarns whole civilisations fall to a cheeky swagger and a sixgun. Hinton points out that this is perhaps not such a jolly good thing. Every dead man is a person, not a plot point, and while running gemstones from war-ravaged countries may turn a healthy profit, we are made aware of the moral problems surrounding such activities.

Is this a book about redemption? Is about guilt? The overwhelming feeling you’re left with is that Jamie starts out as a resourceful, brave, likeable chap and is turned by circumstance into an emotional mess, even though his feet are put upon the path of righteousness. He becomes a wet New Man poster boy. We are not told if Hinton regards this as good or bad.

No matter what you decide, Hawke’s Harbour‘s greatest strength is its rich and compelling relationships between Jamie and his mentors, neither of which leave you with any easy answers, while the chronological dissonance that Hinton has chosen as a narrative vehicle leaves you pleasantly unsure of what is real and imagined. Full of tension, and artfully penned, it is very easy to forgive the book its exploitation of the tired old bloodsucker motif.

Did you know?

The book’s vampire, Grenville Hawke was cursed by American Indians to be so, though he becomes very much an undead of the European variety.


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