To the casual visitor Santa Marta is a sub-tropical paradise, a small sister of Jamaica, Bermuda and Nassau, unmentioned in the colour-splashed brochures of travel agents: an island where the sun shines throughout the year on the sandy beaches of innumerable coves, on the cane-fields and coconut plantations, on the shingled hits of the peasant villages and the fine houses of the white planters handed down through generation after generation, from the Sugar Barons of a past century. But this was not how the newspaper columnist, Bradshaw, saw it when he arrived on his first trip to the Caribbean. Bradshaw found Santa Marta a smouldering volcano.
This novel is a brilliantly successful evocation of the atmosphere and the problems of life on a West Indian island. It is a dramatic story, packed with incident and thrilling in this mounting tension. It weaves into the fortunes of a small group of islanders the ambitions and jealousies, the hopes and fears, the complexes and inhibitions of a people to whom the tint of the skin is more important than wealth, or power, or skill, whose tangled history has bequeathed a heritage of passion in an island where the blood never cools.
Alec Waugh, 1898-1981, was a British novelist born in London and educated at Sherborne Public School, Dorset. Waugh's first novel, The Loom of Youth (1917), is a semi-autobiographical account of public school life that caused some controversy at the time and led to his expulsion. Waugh was the only boy ever to be expelled from The Old Shirburnian Society. Despite setting this record, Waugh went on to become the successful author of over 50 works, and lived in many exotic places throughout his life which later became the settings for some of his texts. He was also a noted wine connoisseur and campaigned to make the cocktail party a regular feature of 1920s social life.