The Night Boat was the second novel I wrote, but the third one
published. If you'd like to know why that was, write me a letter and
I'll be glad to tell you a tale of dark and twisted passages.
The Night Boat actually had its beginnings in a drawing of a
dinosaur that scared the jelly out of me as a kid. It showed an
aquatic beast with a mouthful of gleaming teeth emerging from dark
water to snap on a pterodactyl's leg, the full moon shining down and
gleaming off the white-capped waves. Long after everyone else in the
house had gone to sleep, I lay in bed and heard the sound of waves on
prehistoric shores, and the thrashings of a huge and hideous body
emerging from the depths. The hero in The Night Boat, David
Moore, remembers the same drawing.
I am also fascinated by machines. Particularly ships and submarines.
I can imagine nothing more grim than to be two hundred feet underwater
in a leaking, moldering submarine. They didn't call them Iron Coffins
for nothing, and it took iron-willed men to survive in them. Most of
the German submarine crews didn't.
The Night Boat is a mixture of dream and nightmare. A dream in
that the location, the colors, the language are idyllic; nightmarish
because the Night Boat invades the dream and destroys it. I took
scuba-diving lessons in researching The Night Boat, but I
wasn't able to afford a trip to the Caribbean. It amazes me still
that a review I got for the book went to lengths to say how accurate
the reviewer thought I'd gotten the cadences of island language. I
listened to many hours of calypso music and spoken Caribbean dialect
Events and impressions in an authors everyday life are always mirrored
in the work he or she is doing at the time. While I was writing
The Night Boat, I lived in a cramped little roachhole of an
apartment on Birmingham's Southside. Honestly, I could hear the
roaches running wild in the ceiling over my bed as I tried to sleep.
And my upstairs neighbors played their stereo at an ungodly volume all
hours of the night, so round about two or three in the morning you
could hear the other neighbors banging on their walls to get the music
shut down. That weird, rhythmic hammering in the early hours remained
with me and found its way into The Night Boat. When the crew
hammers at the rotting hulk of the submarine, it's actually irate
neighbors at two o'clock in the morning trying to get Led Zeppelin
silenced. The roaches in the ceiling I saved for another book.
Now, eight or nine years after The Night Boat was first
published, I think often of Coquina Island. It is a beautiful place,
surrounded by emerald water, with fresh trade winds and golden sand,
green palms swaying in the breeze, the scent of cinnamon and coconut
in the air. It was created by a young man whose apartment looked out
over a junk car lot, the smell of burned onions wafting from
somebody's kitchen, and burglar bars on the windows. Ah, the luxury
of the imagination....
The Night Boat is about the merging of dream and nightmare,
confinement and escape, and what I think of as the whirlpool of Fate.
David Moore thought he'd escaped that whirlpool, but it was waiting
for him, there below the surface of emerald waters, where the monsters
doze but never sleep.
Robert R. McCammon