A High Wind in Jamaica
Richard Hughes
NYRB Classics, $12.95 (paper)

The Fox in theAttic
Richard Hughes
NYRB Classics, $12.95 (paper)

The Wooden Shepherdess
Richard Hughes
NYRB Classics, $14.95 (paper)

All novelists will feel a certain anxiety in contemplating the career of Richard Hughes. His first novel was far and away his best, and stands among the finest novels in English in this century; it was called A High Wind in Jamaica and was published in 1929 when Hughes was 29. He took ten years to write a second, In Hazard, which was received with a little disappointment. World War II then intervened, and another novel did not appear until 1962—it was The Fox in the Attic, the first volume of a proposed series about the coming of World War II. A second volume, The Wooden Shepherdess, appeared just three years before Hughes’s death in 1976. Four novels, then, the first of which was the best, the others not inconsiderable but now largely unread, and the great proposed series so long in the making that the author barely beat the Reaper to the second turn. It wasn’t drink, either, or a life too short; it wasn’t negligence, for he worked nearly every day at the business of writing and being an active man of letters. It was a career laid out backward, with the heights first and the long subsequent journey mostly downward.

There is noreal reason to feel sorry for Hughes, of course; cautionary thoughhis story may be to others of his trade, he seems to have been mostlya happy man, a noted belletrist, the father of four cheerful,untrammeled children. Though never rich or privileged, he led whatmight even be called a charmed life, inhabiting a series ofinteresting and picturesque Welsh houses but also able to pick up ata moment’s notice and move anywhere for a month or a year, fromMorocco to Yugoslavia to Jamaica, where he had adventures amidsurroundings and peoples that were entirely different from those heknew at home, journeys spiced with just enough danger and discomfortto make them memorable. The shape of his career is only evident inretrospect; The Fox in the Attic was a best seller and criticallysuccessful, too. And Hughes achieved the last goal all writers offiction and poetry can aspire to: he is still in print. A High Windin Jamaica has almost always been available, and now the New YorkReview Books Classics series has reissued it along with the twovolumes of the late series.

Choosing what to include in a reprintline such as NYRB Classics is a knotty issue that must be a delightto deal with. To be the editor of such a series must be like beingthe programmer at a classics movie theater or the artistic directorat Nonesuch Records. You would want to pick not only what is cheapand available but what is cheap and available because it has beenunjustly overlooked—the best books of neglected writers; theneglected books of well-known writers; the books of writers wellknown but not in English—then add books that go well with all theothers to create a uniform style that will assure readers you knowwhat you’re up to. Your picks among the things readers already know(or at least have heard of and wondered about) must give themconfidence that the ones they don’t know might well be worthreading.

In all these respects the NYRB Classics collection seems tome remarkable. It is a Five-Foot Shelf (actually longer, probably)filled not with Great Books but with great little books, the kind youwould take to that reader’s desert island.

On the other hand, itmight be just a little distressing for a writer in Elysium to lookdown and see himself in such company—amid the odd, the recovered,the sui generis, the special cases, the lesser aristocracy. That is,however, where Richard Hughes may best belong, and the farther wecome from the time in which his four novels were written, the morecomfortable he appears there.

* * *

Hughes was aperfectionist, and his devotion to getting historical, geographical,and mechanical details unimpeachably right accounts for some of thelong time he spent writing each of his books. The resulting pages aredeeply imbued with the felt reality of a place, a season, a ship, ahouse, a sea: the flavor of experience and carefully ordered memory.It is therefore striking to learn that A High Wind in Jamaica waswritten years before Hughes saw Jamaica. (He found, when at length hevisited there, that he had represented it prettywell.)

The central stories in the book have othersources. The first is his mother’s memories of five years she spentthere as a small child, at a period later than the book is set. Theother source was a manuscript Hughes came upon, written by a youngwoman who in 1822 had been returning to England from Jamaica when hership was captured by pirates. After locking up the children in thedeckhouse, the pirates threatened the captain to learn where hismoney was kept, and they fired a musket volley into the deckhousejust over the children’s heads—an incident repeated in the novel.But what intrigued Hughes was that the pirates weren’t nearly asbloodthirsty as they pretended to be, and after they got the moneythey released the children, gave them candy, took them on board theirschooner and comforted them, and then returned them unharmed to theother boat. But, Hughes wondered, what if by some mischance theseunpiratical pirates got stuck with the children?

The first chapterHughes wrote, describing the life of the Bas-Thornton family inpost-slavery Jamaica, was published separately as “A High Wind inJamaica.” The central incident is an earthquake that makes theoldest daughter of the family, Emily, feel that her life is changedforever. The earthquake is followed by a tremendous storm in whichthe Bas-Thornton house is practically destroyed and the belovedfamily cat is attacked by a band of feral cats who chase him throughthe house at the height of the wind. In a sense, not only isHughes’s first book his best book, but this first chapter is theheight of his achievement as a writer—not that it outstrips thesucceeding narrative, but that it is so extravagantly beautiful, soutterly convincing, so entirely strange yet experienced socompletely. The musical movement from the stillness and paralyzingheat of the opening through the slow, mysterious upwelling of theearthquake—a small one, almost secret, that does no harm—to thewild hilarity and horror of the storm is flawlessly achieved. Socelebrated was this first chapter in Britain that the completedbook—called The Innocent Voyage in the United States—was giventhe same name, which now all editions carry. And this is right, forthe high wind of that opening impels the rest of thetale.

* * *

It seems unnecessary to recount thesubsequent events of this famous story, and unfair to those whohaven’t read it: how the Bas-Thorntons, fearful that the Jamaicanlife and the terrors of the storm might harm their growing children,send them back to England with the daughter of another British familyon a sailing ship, which is captured by a band of feckless andsuperannuated pirates, who do end up with the children. Emily is thecenter of the story, though many others are also seen from time totime from the inside, including Captain Jonsen, the piratechief.

Hughes’s vision of childhood is piercing:he sees it as a realm of existence at once wholly amoral and bound upwith the most exacting rules, governing matters grownups do not evenperceive. On a stop at a Caribbean pirate port, the eldestBas-Thornton child, John, tumbles from a loft at a sort of minstrelshow and breaks his neck; the pirates, not wanting an inquiry, hurryaway the children, who didn’t witness the accident, and sail awayas quickly as they can. “In the morning [the children] might easilyhave thought the whole thing a dream—if John’s bed had not beenso puzzlingly empty.”

Yet, as if by some mute flash of understanding, no one commented on his absence. . . . Neither then nor thereafter was his name mentioned by anybody: and if you had known the children intimately you would never have guessed from them that he had ever existed.

Far more compelling to Emily is asudden understanding vouchsafed to her in an ordinary moment, when“she suddenly realized who she was.” That ontological moment thatcomes to—all? many? some?—human children has come to her: theunderstanding of her possession of a singular living being, herself,whom she must now be, through childhood and growing up, forever. Thisis a situation to ponder:

First, what agency had so orderedit that out of all the people in the world who she might have been,she was this particular one, this Emily: born in such-and-such a yearout of all the years in Time, and encased in this particular ratherpleasing little casket of flesh? . . . Secondly, why had all this notoccurred to her before?

The children’s unstoppablegrowing up continues on the pirate ship as it would anywhere, theirravening energy finding expression as it must, to the bafflement ofthe pirates, who like all grownups without offspring don’t rememberthese necessities and improvisations. The only one whose engagementwith the older men is tainted with adult compulsions is the eldestamong them, Margaret, the child of the other British family: shebegins following the sailors around doggishly, unable to stay withthe children, and is finally taken away and installed with the men.The other children see her now and then looking lethargic and inert,but she is lost to them. This grim development was prompted by anAmerican reader’s response to an early draft: she told Hughes shedidn’t believe that such a voyage could take place without sexbeing involved; he hadn’t thought of that.

How Hughes hadin fact intuited so many of the possible responses to mass kidnappingand dislocation, which only the decades still to come would instructus in so completely—the terrible resilience, the willingness toaccept and adapt, the ferocious will to live and to act in anycircumstances, the rapidity with which alliances can be formedbetween captors and captured, the hovering misapprehensions andcross-purposes that at any moment can issue in blood and death—Idon’t know. And I don’t know whether the inevitability of horrorthat we sense lying beneath a tale that up to its climax seems sooddly sunny is something we bring to it out of those years ofexperience, or is precisely the effect Hughes intended. That climaxsupports the latter conclusion.

The pirates have taken over a Dutchsteamer. The Dutch captain refuses to reveal where his money ishidden (there isn’t any), and the pirates tie him up and bring himaboard their schooner while they loot his ship. He is put intoCaptain Jonsen’s cabin, where Emily is in bed recovering from anaccidental hurt to her leg and from her ontological impasse. The crewmeanwhile discovers that the chief cargo of the steamer is a numberof circus animals, including a seasick lion and tiger; they think itmight be fun to stage a combat between them, which the cats have nointerest in. The Dutch captain tries to persuade Emily to help him,but she can’t understand him and is overcome with fear. Thenarrator notes, “There is something much more frightening about aman who is tied up than a man who is not tied up—I suppose it isthe fear he may get loose.” The captain does try to get loose,rolling over to reach a sharp knife lying on the cabin floor. On theother ship the ridiculous circus goes on; no one can hear Emilyscreaming. Emily’s hysteria mounts, and at last, “beside herselfwith terror . . . possessed by the strength of despair,” she takesup the knife herself to make him stop.

When a group of thepirates returns and finds the captain dying and Emily back in bed,they see the hapless Margaret at the top of the companionway stairsand come to the quick conclusion that it was Margaret who killed adefenseless man—an unspeakable crime in their eyes: “The contemptthey already felt for Margaret, their complete lack of pity in herobvious illness and misery, had been in direct proportion to thechildhood she had belied.” It would have been a grave crime foranyone to commit, but unspeakable for a child. They simply andwithout a word lift her up and drop her over the side.

It is ameasure of Hughes’s godlike working in this story, where suddenirreversible calamities and comic accidents are equally likely, thatMargaret is then rescued by the rest of the pirates—who knownothing yet of the murder of the captain—as they return from thelooted steamer. Margaret is restored, wet and shivering, to thechildren’s quarters, where she remains afterward, re-accepted amongthem: “They none of them noticed quite how it happened: but in lessthan half an hour they were all five absorbed in a game ofConsequences.” Indeed.

Evident in Hughes’s novels, as inthe novels of some of his British contemporaries, is a sort ofamateur or handmade quality, a way of appearing to have made a bookout of materials at hand, without a lot of fussing over the unities.In this mode, showing is not privileged over telling, and the writeroften divagates to speak to the reader—to make pronouncements ortell truths in the present tense (a device called the gnomicpresent), or to describe or analyze his characters in aconversational fashion, or to deplore the state of things, or torecall a circumstance similar to but different from the one he isrecounting. He seems not to know the rules of point of view, or caremuch for them, slipping into this or that mind and heart wheneverconvenient—not in an omniscient way but as though writer, reader,and characters were all gathered around a communal fire, the fire ofa shared compassion and shared values, which may be strained ormodified by the tale’s unfolding, an unfolding that at times mayneed to be directly explicated. (Another writer who uses the modebrilliantly—of course it is a mode, a style, a manner, a device,and can be used well or badly—is Hughes’s near contemporary andfellow NYRB Classics selection T.H. White.)

On board thepirate ship, Hughes pauses for several pages to contemplate thenature of the children he has gathered there. Laura, the youngest, isnot far from babyhood, and Hughes, in one of the most famous passagesof the book, speculates that “babies of course are not human—theyare animals, and have a very ancient and ramified culture, as catshave, and fishes, and even snakes.” Hughes expands on this idea andthen considers the next step: “Possibly a case might be made outthat children are not human either: but I should not accept it.”Children don’t think as grownups do—they are mad, in fact—butthey can think, and we can “by will and imagination” think likeone (the very enterprise Hughes as author is bent on), but we can notthink like a baby. “Of course it is not really so cut-and-dried asthis,” he admits at last, “but often the only way of attemptingto express the truth is to build it up, like a card-house, of a packof lies.”

That admission is not solely about “the truth,” butabout how Hughes is building a fiction, out of acts of theimagination we are invited to join him in making. That “I” whoappears in the quotations above is a feature of Hughes’s novels:all employ a first-person narrator who both is and is not the author,is in the book and outside it; he is not anything like Conrad’sMarlowe, nor is he like the self-admitted meddling narrator thatThackeray employs. You could call him the Vestigial Raconteur, avoice that connects the making of novels to (one of) its roots in thetelling of anecdotes.

The Vestigial Raconteur of A High Wind inJamaica, after describing sugar making in Jamaica at the time of thestory, the 1840s, says, “I know nothing of modern methods—or ifthere are any, never having visited the island since 1860, which is along time ago now.” Yet this narrator later describes a scene onthe ship’s deck as moving as on a cinema screen, which he noteshadn’t been invented then—so from when is this voice speaking?The voice, which knows the souls of all the characters when itchooses to know them, also exhibits strange hesitations and is forcedto make guesses. The captain of the ship from which the Bas-Thorntonchildren are abducted sails away, leaving the children behind. Was hea coward? Well, he heard the splash overboard of some stolen trunksthe pirates had found to be empty, and he believed that they hadthrown the children into the sea—he had no reason to linger. “Ithink he was quite honestly misled,” opines the Raconteur.

Adevice such as this might strike the reader as operose, finicky, orsilly, but it never is in this book. It does the work I think Hughesmeant it to: it grounds in a perceiving mind and soul a tragedy thatis made of comic misapprehension, misunderstanding, mad error, andnon-communication. That perceiving mind has the book’s lastword—and has it in the form of refusing it.

At the tale’s end,the children have been rescued and the pirates arrested and put ontrial for murder. Emily has been thoroughly coached by her father andthe prosecutor in the tale she is to tell, and she gives her answersby rote. The defense attorney notices that her story has not in factcontained any direct reference to the death of the Dutch captain.Thinking there might be a reason for this that is advantageous to hisclient, he asks her directly if she saw what was alleged to havehappened, and Emily cracks—the story pours out in disjointedfragments: “He was all lying in his blood . . . he was awful! He . . . hedied, he said something and then he died!” And she will say nomore, only sob and scream. Which is of course the end for CaptainJonsen and his mates. In the last paragraph of the book—surely oneof the most exquisite in any novel—Emily has been sent to a properEnglish school. “In another room, Emily with the other new girlswas making friends with the older pupils. Looking at that gentle,happy throng of clean innocent faces and soft graceful limbs,listening to the ceaseless babble of chatter rising, perhaps Godcould have picked out from among them which was Emily: but I am surethat I could not.”

* * *

The device of the VestigialRaconteur is used again in Hughes’s next book, In Hazard, which hasnot been reprinted by NYRB Classics. It is a book in many ways asunusual as his first, though without the harrowing dilemmas createdby flawed yet potent human understanding—without, in the end, thechildren. Based on a true incident involving a steamship caught in aCaribbean hurricane in 1932, the book began as a nonfiction account,something like The Perfect Storm, and became fiction because ofHughes’s reluctance to make characters out of the actual crew andofficers. In the end, the steamship and its agony become more realthan the people Hughes invented.

“What elseshall I tell you, to describe to you ‘Archimedes’? I say nothingof her brilliant paintwork, or the beauty of her lines: for I wantyou to know her, not as a lover knows a woman but rather as a medicalstudent does. (The lover’s part can come later.)” Whether or notthe reader ever loves the Archimedes, the story of her five full daysin the maw of one of the worst hurricanes on record is enormouslygripping, and something like physical loss can be felt in the awfulsudden realization that the great funnel, guyed to withstand winds ofa hundred miles an hour, is gone. In the blinding, roaring seas thecrew has neither heard nor seen it go: it hasn’t crashed over theside; it has been lifted clear away.

In Hazard was something of aflop. Virginia Woolf was interested but felt that between the stormand the people “there’s a gap, in which there is some want ofstrength.” Ford Maddox Ford, on the other hand, saw it as amasterpiece of a peculiar kind:

I have seen one or twonotices that quite miss all the points and resolve themselves intosaying that it is or isn’t better than [Joseph Conrad’s] Typhoon.It isn’t, of course, better than Typhoon. Typhoon was written by agreat writer who was a man. In Hazard was written by someone inhuman. . . and consummate in the expression ofinhumanities.

Hughes took this as a compliment, and lateron he felt that his inhuman story was a kind of prophecy: he was swept along, as he told one of his children, “seeing so clearly the abyss Europe was about to be sucked down into by war, and wanting to tell people it would be fearful, but they were going to come through.”

Hughes himself spent the war years in the Admiralty as a bureaucrat, working long hours, with almost no time for his writing. Afterward he was often caught up in projects, travels, family, houses—the writer’s constant quest to find something to do to keep from having to write (his children used to listen to him groaning in agony behind the study door). But a project unsustainably huge had been growing in him, an attempt to understand and express the abyss of war and how Europe was sucked into it.

* * *

The Vestigial Raconteur appears again in The Fox in the Attic, first in the astonishing opening pages, which seem to promise a work containing that remote inhumanity Ford perceived but at the same time alert to the most fleeting nuances of the human condition (the whole series which The Fox in the Attic opens was to be called The Human Predicament). I wish there were room to quote the whole perfectly achieved scene, which observes two men in a wet Welsh countryside:

Both were heavily loaded in oilskins. The elder and more tattered one carried two shotguns, negligently, and a brace of golden plover were tied to the bit of old rope he wore knotted around his middle. . . . The younger man was springy and tall and well-built and carried over his shoulder the body of a dead child. Her thin muddy legs dangled against his chest, her head and arms hung down his back; and at his heels walked a black dog—disciplined, saturated, and eager.

The narration follows these four up to a country house, described with the same grave objectivity. The next chapter begins with this sentence: “Augustine was the young man’s name (the dog’s name I forget).” I truly do not know how to analyze the working of this astonishing scene and the effect of its swerve into a personal voice—how it at once reinforces that remote description and promises that a human connection will somehow be made to these events, not an explanation but a participating regard, maybe a compassionate one. That “I” won’t appear again for many pages and will never coalesce into a character, and yet it seems as though all the knitted and knotted human predicaments that form the book pass through it to reach us, and we can thereby understand them.

The book that follows this opening has many virtues, many strong and compelling moments; it continues Hughes’s particular method of tracing the misapprehensions, confusions, and wrong-headedness of people who are either not able to grasp the complex currents of the world they live in, or are blinded by the obsessions of child mentality or political fanaticism or religion. Augustine visits his distant German relatives in the midstof the great inflation of the 1920s and falls in love at first sight with Mitzi, a woman he does not at first understand is going blind. When her family commits Mitzi to a convent of contemplative nuns because they can imagine no other future for her, the reader is horrified at their hidebound ignorance, and Augustine is horrified at the backward religiosity he sees still rampant in the age of Freud. Neither realizes that Mitzi is in fact a profoundly, mystically religious girl, and the convent is precisely where she wants and needs to be. “Could it be, after all,” wonders Mitzi’s father, “against all odds . . . that their decision was the utterly right one?” To which Hughes’s narrating voice replies, “If so, then some Saint had taken a hand since everyone’s motives in reaching it had been so utterly wrong.”

It is possible that Hughes’s scope in this series was simply too huge for his effects to work: if the end of the parade comes so many years after the beginning, the poignancy of hopes and expectations (and fears and malice too) indifferently defeated or fulfilled as by a sort of divine chance can’t be perceived. The two volumes we have can’t help but seem aimless and disconnected, as the connections Hughes had in mind remain unmade. But it is probably wrong to think of The Human Predicament as a masterwork truncated by death: there is plenty to suggest that he had not mastered what he had projected.

For one thing, his vision of the human flaws that allowed the war to happen is insufficient. What seems so universal in the small and local tragedy of A High Wind in Jamaica seems narrow and particular on the world stage of political battles and the fall of governments. The German characters—whose physical and sensory world is built with the same utter truth to experience as the Jamaica of A High Wind in Jamaica—are too often mere summaries of class attitudes and the shifting political scene of Weimar’s last days, the Beer Hall Putsch, and the rest. Actual historical figures appear, including, memorably, Hitler himself, but while these characters are carefully cast, their historical actions and statements taken into account in the invention of their thoughts, there is something centrally stagey about them. Maybe as historical actors we are stagey, and our limits will be clear to any future godlike observer; but unlike the limits of Emily and Captain Jonsen, these seem to be the author’s failings.

The other limit is the central character of the series, young Augustine, who is a Candide without intellectual curiosity, a rather dim young man who mildly accepts his generation’s shibboleths (Freud, the impossibility of another war, the futile waste of religion and politics) and can’t see his own class prejudices. Niceness seems to be his main virtue, and his inability to make a decision or learn from experience becomes tiresome. This can’t be a self-portrait, despite how many of Hughes’s own adventures are assigned to him; he seems to be one of those characters that novelists are sometimes tempted to construct, scapegoats of their own weaker selves, sent out to suffer and be spurned by author and readers. He is exasperating, finally, a quality few fictional heroes can survive.

The Wooden Shepherdess, Hughes’s last novel, begins with a long passage set in prohibition America, to which Augustine has arrived by a series of not very convincing accidents. On the lam and without resources, he hides out in New England with a gang of local kids burning away an aimless summer. Something in this situation, which is derived from Hughes’s experiences in America as a young man, brings out again all that makes him such a fine writer; it is full of beauty and strangeness. A few people are thrown together in quasi-illegal ambiguity, at once in danger and out of control, like the occupants of the pirate ship in A High Wind in Jamaica. For the narrator, it seems to be an American condition:

From ocean to ocean thousands of half-grown young had suddenly all like that burst out of their families, cut themselves loose and advanced on this dangerous rudderless post-war world in packs of their own: self-sufficient as eagles, unarmoured as lambs—like some latter-day Children’s Crusade, though without any Cross on their banners or very much else and indeed little thought in their heads but their youth and themselves.

It is hard not to think that this describes not only the Jazz Age Hughes remembered but the New Age around him as he wrote. Hughes’s attraction to the wild amorality of children, a kind of asexual or presexual Eden, pervades his vision. The kids in his books don’t have any shame or modesty except in relation to rules like manners that are easily ignored. The only truly sexual persons in his works are almost-children who still haven’t entered truly adult sexuality, a realm Hughes shows little interest in. There is a skinny, drunken, sixteen-year-old rich girl whom a midshipman in In Hazard encountered at a party while on shore leave in Virginia, who after a quick embrace stood up, “wrenched off her shoulder straps and a string or two” and stood naked a moment, then passed out. Whether this is an entirely convincing human, or female, or American moment, it seems fiery and iconic to the writer, and the memory of it keeps the midshipman alive aboard the crippled ship.

The girl who deeply affects Augustine is Ree, the daughter of farmers too busy with bills and tenants and other children to watch her (though her father adores her); she is often out by herself all day and half the night. Her fascination with the anomalous Augustine is answered by his fascination with her. He is never sure just how old a child she is; “However she must be a child still, Augustine decided: for only an absolute child could have gone on touching a man in that innocent way little Ree had kept touching him.” Ree, however (as the Raconteur knows), is actually “a bit of a biscuit already if given the chance—and young as she was, the males in the pack gave her plenty.” Then he offers the following observation:

Maybe she simply reckoned this intimate fingering part of her price of admission, or maybe she found herself missing her father’s erstwhile fondling: in earlier happier times he had fondled her more than a lot, and his loving fingers had left very little untouched.

Does this throw open a window on a Hughes interior we would rather not have been allowed to glimpse? It certainly seems to carry the amoral and stricture-less sensuality Hughes ascribes to children into a realm different from artistic vision—that is, we accept his picture of children in A High Wind in Jamaica as convincing not because we agree with it as proposition (we might well not) but because we accept his world as an artistic whole; but this seems to be breaking a frame rather than building a world, and it brings a cold chill.

Anyway, Augustine is very careful for her youth. He delights in her company and loves to hang out with her, explore, tell tales, lie in the sun, anything—as Hughes loved to do with children singly and in groups all his life—but never touches her or treats her as an object of sexual feelings at all, not even when, climactically, she gets in his bed naked and tries to get him to join her. Tormented he is, and gets no sleep that night after putting her out, but the next day he is gone from that moonshine-and-maples Eden, and we’ll never know whether his predilections are going to be permanently turned in that direction or not (though by the end of the volume he has lost, by feckless irresolution, his chance to marry a wonderful woman) because that was all Hughes wrote. What he planned for Augustine and the others will never be known; all the stories that presumably would have revealed themselves as one story have here only begun. Hughes only reached the end of this volume by dint of stealing from himself: a further adventure of Augustine in Morocco (fleeing that nice young woman) is taken scene for scene from his own previously published accounts of his adventures in the Atlas mountains years before.

So that is the Hughes achievement, plus the delightful Morocco memoir in its first form, some plays (he claimed to have written the world’s first radio drama, set in a mine during a power failure), and a small pile of other work. NYRB Classics deserves praise for bringing the best of it before us again. And though a writer’s belief that he would be satisfied to have written just one deathless thing is rather like a teenager’s certainty that just one wonderful night of sex would be all he’d need if he could get it, we all know that it really is enough (that deathless book, I mean), and that’s A High Wind in Jamaica.