We caught up with Scott Evans and asked him a few questions about his recent novel, The Caribbean Prisoner, which is now available on Amazon Kindle.
What is your book about?
The story follows a college student name Randall Wake whose father has passed away, leaving him feeling quite alone in the world–his mother died years earlier. He decides to take a leave of absence and travels to St. Thomas, in the U. S. Virgin Islands to get away from it all. While he’s on the Island, he meets two women in their mid-twenties, also on vacation. He develops a romantic and sexual relationship with one, while having a secret crush on the other. At first, all goes well–lots of drinking, dancing, laughing and love-making. But after a few hostile encounters with some Navy boys, their adventure takes a dark turn when things go horribly wrong. Disheartened and confused, Randal heads back to the states, winding up in Miami Beach, where he gets involved with a woman who’s a cocktail waitress by night and a grad student in psychology by day. She inspires Randall to expose the sexual abuse he learned about while on St. Thomas. Randall enlists in the Navy to go to the Recruit Training Center in Orlando, Florida, to confront the sexual predator who, Randal believes, has ruined so many young lives. He soon finds himself in a life-threatening situation.
What was your inspiration?
Although the story of The Caribbean Prisoner is set in the early 1990s, it’s based (loosely) on a trip I took to the U. S. Virgin Islands in the mid-1970s when a brutal murder took place on Charlotte Amalie. It was the talk of the Island, of course, and it got me to thinking about the odd isolation one feels when visiting an island for the first time, especially when brutal events unfold. Like Randall Wake, I did join the Navy and went through boot camp in Orlando. Rumors of sex scandals there made many of us uncomfortable.
Who was your favorite character and why?
I most identify with Randall, of course, by I like the two intelligent female characters Sherry and Marion the best. Both are bright and beautiful, and neither hesitates to call out Randall on his occasional B. S. I wanted to write a fairly traditional moody thriller-mystery from a male point of view that included strong female characters. I hope readers feel I’ve done those women justice. Randall’s love interest on the Island, Maggie, is another favorite, as is the bartender and the musician at the Galleon House, which is a real place on a hill in Charlotte Amalie.
Who is your least favorite character and why?
I have two least favorite characters. The first is the troubled and violent young Navy boy name Jimmy Collins. He’s crass, misogynistic and quite disturbed. However, as the layers of the onion are peeled away, we learn about Jimmy’s abuse, both from his father and from a father figure later in life. He becomes a somewhat sympathetic character. The worst character is the Chief Ubel, who eventually reveals himself as a sadistic sexual predator. He’s a true psychopath who feels no guilt or remorse about using and damaging people under his control. I think of him as Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men. He, too, “can’t handle the truth”!
Is there anything in particular that you hope the readers take away from this story?
Yes. Several ideas can be taken away. One idea is that no matter how emotionally damaged or stilted a person is, he or she can find a path to compassion. Another lesson that should come across is that sexual encounters become intimate and produce consequences whether we want them to or not. Sex just for pleasure isn’t always guilt free. But the most important social point of the book is about male-on-male sexual assault, which usually goes unreported–even more than male-on-female assault–because of the shame felt by the victims. This actually is a serious problem in our military, even now, though it rarely gets reported.
What was the hardest part of writing this story?
First, trying to capture Randall Wake’s state of numb depression without making the story depressing. Second, the sexual assault scene. It made me squirm, and I hope I captured it well enough to make readers squirm as well.
What was your favorite part of writing this story?
Writing the love scenes between Randall and Maggie. I wanted to show some good, satisfying love-making, since I knew I’d be alluding to and then showing some sadistic sexual assault later. I wanted there to be a good contrast between the good, the bad and the ugly.
Will there be a sequel or any more books in this series?
Probably not. Though I have a series of “literary” mysteries and thrillers, The Caribbean Prisoner stands on its own.
Did you discover anything about yourself while writing this story?
Yes, I discovered (again) that I enjoy doing the research needed to make stories authentic. In this case, that was especially important because I was writing about real places and institutions, like the Navy, so I tried to get most of it right, taking as few “liberties” as possible (pun intended–when sailors are off the boat or away from the base, they’re on “liberty,” which sometimes–as in the case of Jimmy Collins–provides more freedom than he can handle.
What do you plan to do next?
I’ve finished the fourth book in my literary series. It’s titled The Paris Papers, and it’s about an American scholar name Joe Conrad, who gets his hands on the lost manuscript of Ernest Hemingway’s first novel. If authentic, the manuscript is potentially worth millions, and someone has kidnapped Joe’s daughter and wants to exchange her for the papers. The story takes place throughout the city of Paris, so it takes readers on a quite a tour–a romp around Paris! If I were pitching it to Hollywood, I say, Midnight in Paris meets Taken.