Eco-thrills real mystery

Author in Little Cayman gets a hobby

Betrayal, wildfires and skulduggery.

Not exactly what you’d associate with Little Cayman as a rule, but pick up brand new novel Mangrove Underground from first-time author and resident Tim W. Jackson, and that’s what’s in store.

“I’d grown up reading Florida eco-thriller mysteries from the likes of John D. McDonald, and Elmore Leonard and was a big fan of the genre, and I thought I’d do something of my own,” the writer tells Weekender.

The book intertwines different narratives – 10 years apart – in alternating to create an unlikely hero caught amid a struggle to save his community.

“I took an idealistic, young park ranger, dropped him in a no-win situation to see what would happen; he has to work through all sorts of betrayal and redemption with the backdrop of mysterious fires.”

The character-driven story, says Tim, was something of a learning experience in its conception.

“I found out that writing a novel was harder than I ever thought.

I started off writing what I thought was the beginning and it turned out to be the middle and it was a very organic process with lots of revisions.

“At one point I had to chuck the whole thing to the back of a shelf and start writing novel number two.”

Book deal

As is the done thing in the careers of many ultimately successful novelists – all the way back to when Ug-Gugg the caveman first looked to publish his book on animal painting but got rejected because the publishers couldn’t see a market for it – Tim had been collecting rejection letters aplenty. That is, until he met the guys of Chenault Publishing, who liked the idea of the eco-thriller and offered a deal. At that stage, the novel was in a state of flux, he says.

“I’d gone to writers’ conferences over the years and given it to people to read. A very good mystery writer made some suggestions, so I changed it; then a very good thriller writer did the same.

And I realised I had a mess – two very good writers gave me bad advice, just trying to turn it into something that they would write.

“So I spent six to eight weeks working in the evenings and rewrote the whole thing a year ago.”

Tim, who was a press photographer in Florida for a decade, moved to Little Cayman in 1999 to work as a boat captain and scuba instructor at Conch Club Divers on Little Cayman.

As well as working on his second novel, set on a small island ‘that is definitely not Little Cayman’, he says he’s continuing to write short stories, which he hopes one day may end up being a collection.

“Cayman can be an inspiration for a writer,” he muses.

“In Little Cayman there’s not a whole lot going on, so you have to have a hobby over there; going home, writing for two hours every evening whether I felt like it or not – and staying away from the bars.”

Mangrove Underground is available from all the bookshops on island and is also on sale at Little Cayman National Trust, where 20 per cent of proceeds go to the trust. Editions are also available on Amazon for Kindle, iPad and other electronic media.