Friday, July 28, 2006
The Palm Tree Connection
Palm trees play a significant role in my books. The hero, Zack Chasteen, inherited a palm tree nursery from his grandfather and makes his living selling specimen palms. In BERMUDA SCHWARTZ, due out in February, Zack heads to Bermuda to deliver some Bismarck palms and things go quickly to hell from there.
On my next-to-the-last evening in Trinidad, while having dinner at the very awesome Pax Guest House, the oldest guest house in the English-speaking Caribbean, I fell into conversation with the guy sitting at the table next to me. His name was Edward Cooper, an expat Brit, who used to live in South Africa where he used to own ... a palm tree nursery. He sold the place a few years ago, which has given him the wherewithal to spend the last few years roaming the globe and, among other things, seeking out rare and exotic palm trees.
We talked until late that evening and Edward shared with me a book called "Palm Trees of Trinidad and Tobago," written by Paul Comeau, a former Novia Scotian and ecology prof at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad. As it turned out, Gerard, the ever-accommodating owner of Pax, is friends with Comeau, who lives just down the hill, and invited him to join us the next afternoon for tea -- a very proper British tea -- on the front verandah of the guest house.
For three hours, I sat and listened to a pair of palm tree experts discuss their exploits and share with me a glimpse of the oft-maniacal world of palm nuts. It was like listening to a pair of characters from my books. I took copious notes, foraged many ideas for TRINIDADDY-O.
Who could have imagined that I would travel all the way to Trinidad and just happen to bump into two people whose expertise dovetails with the hero of my books? Sometimes serendipity just happens...
(The shot above, of Jamaican Tall coconut palms, was taken on Trinidad's northeast coast, near the town of Toco...)