During the height of World War II, American undercover operative Tom Hamilton investigates suspected Nazi collaboration and activity in Nassau, Bahamas. Disguised as a rich Texas entrepreneur, he must infiltrate the compound of Nils Ericsson, a wealthy Swedish ex-patriot and suspected Nazi supporter, to substantiate allegations of building a containment and repair area for German submarines. Such a stronghold in the Bahamas would be catastrophic for the United States and Allied forces.
Complicating matters, Tom is introduced to the beautiful and mysterious Evelyn Shawcross, a displaced Englishwoman with personal and political ties to all the key players. As their affair becomes more serious, so do the stakes for a successful mission. Their love tryst could prove to be deadly and lead to the downfall of Hamilton’s operation.
Author John Kerr, a San Antonian attorney of considerable accomplishment beyond his flair for writing fiction, sets the stage of this adventure with vivid imagery, bringing to life the beauty and history of World War II-era Nassau. The reader is effortlessly transported to the island with visions of colonial homes, elaborate dress, and lush dinner parties. Kerr clearly illustrates the cultural history of Nassau and tense atmosphere of World War II throughout the narrative, raising the stakes for Hamilton’s mission. The character of Tom Hamilton is at once suave and keen; eliciting an easy comparison to an American James Bond. His ill-fated love for Evelyn and knack for slipping out of tight spots just add to this presence.
The characters in “Hurricane Hole” are well-researched and fully developed, though the exposition and background of each is summarized all at once rather than healthily introduced piece by piece. Additionally, there is very little internal monologue to give insight into their thoughts and feelings. In some instances, “Hurricane Hole” reads more like a play or movie script with character and scenery notes rather than a novel. While this helps to keep the cool distance one is accustomed to with spy adventures, it prevents the reader from forming attachments to the characters. Despite the emotional distance, the reader is still compelled to find out what happens to Tom and Evelyn.
“Hurricane Hole” boasts a nice blend of action and romance to attract a varied audience. Young adult as well as adult readers with interest in World War II will especially enjoy the foray into the Bahamas, an alternative to the typical settings of WWII novels.
Conversation with John Kerr
Rivard Report: Often, authors put something of themselves into their characters. What, if any, of yourself is seen in the personality or experiences of Tom Hamilton?
John Kerr: There is nothing consciously autobiographical about the character Tom Hamilton, nor anything taken from my personal experience, though I think of Hamilton as the sort of fellow I would have identified with when I was younger.
RR: If you could cast a Hollywood adaptation of “Hurricane Hole,” who would play the main characters?
JK: I would cast a young Matt Damon in the role of Tom and a young Kate Winslet in the role of Evelyn.
RR: Your latest two novels are set in the past, one in the Victorian era and the other during World War II. Based on your interest in history, what time period would you like to visit and why?
JK: The time period and places that I would enjoy visiting would be New York, London, and Paris near the end of the 19th century simply because they were beautiful and culturally rich and in a sense life was more civilized.
RR: Is there a certain type of scene that is more difficult for you to write than others?
JK: I find that writing a scene with violent action combined with suspense is particularly demanding. An example would be the Oakes murder scene in “Hurricane Hole” which I rewrote countless times.
RR: What type of research did you do in preparation for writing “Hurricane Hole?”
JK: I did an extensive amount of research on conditions in Nassau during the war, including the activities of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and in the process discovered the real-life character on whom the Nils Ericcson character is based. I also read extensively about the Harry Oakes murder. Years ago we traveled quite a bit to Nassau, and Sir Philip and Lady Sassoon, their beachfront home and Evelyn’s home Greycliff are based on real people and real places.
RR: Is there any subject or character you would never want to write about? What/who is it and why?
JK: I don’t have any interest in writing a story in which the central character is despicable; I tend to admire my protagonists even if they’re flawed. And I don’t have any interest in a futuristic story; I like my time travel to go backwards.
John C. Kerr is a San Antono attorney, a co-founder of Texas Next Capital and a principal of Moorman Kerr Interests. He also is a leader in developing San Antonio’s biosciences research sector. Kerr will appear at the San Antonio Book Festival with fellow author John P. Davidson for a discussion entitled “Murder, He Wrote” at 3:30-4:30 p.m. in the Story Room on the third floor of Central Library. The talk will be moderated by fellow San Antonio author Ed Conroy. Download the full festival schedule as a PDF here. For a more interactive approach, download Eventbase from the app store on your phone (iPhone or Android) and customize your own schedule for the day by choosing your favorites.