As Hurricane Irene whirls its way up the coast to Maine, I find myself hunkering down and pondering how these powerful storms have influenced literature throughout the years, from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, to Longfellow’s The Wreck of the Hesperus, to post-Katrina novels such as Wading Home, by Rosalyn Story, and right down to little old me and my mystery series.
Why is it that writers find these storms inspirational?
I can’t speak for those other guys, but I know that experiencing a hurricane’s awesome power can be life changing. One of the most destructive forces in nature, one need only see the damage incurred as the storm hits — uprooted trees, flooded streets, boats torn from their moorings — to be irrevocably altered.
Just why do hurricanes factor in fiction? I think it is their power, their unpredictability, and the suspense they engender while gathering strength to attack. In my mystery series, I created a rugged Maine island as my sleuth Darby Farr’s hometown, and named it Hurricane Harbor. I wanted my heroine to be from a place that was self-sufficient, hardy, and suggestive of danger. Would this town be a place of shelter — what we call a hurricane hole — or of peril?
In Darby’s first mystery, A House to Die For, I used a surging tropical storm – not quite a hurricane – to heighten the suspense surrounding the book’s climax. Book four of the series is taking shape now, and, because it takes place in February, will feature one of our powerful snow-dumping Nor’easters.
There is something about severe weather that intrigues me, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t in some way looking forward to witnessing Hurricane Irene’s power. I do hope that wherever you are, you’ll be safe and sheltered from the storm, preferably with a good book and a candle by your side.