Review: Hawkes Harbor
Written by S.E Hinton Review by Phil Hansen
 

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Hawkes Harbor is a real treat for Dark Shadows fans. You get an incisive, vivid portrayal of the Willie/Barnabas relationship, an exciting glimpse into Willie's past with Jason McGuire and an altogether new slant on Willie's feelings for Maggie. I closed this book with my affection for Dark Shadows renewed and restored.

However, Hawkes Harbor is not a Dark Shadows novel, even though it feels, looks, talks and walks like a Dark Shadows novel. Once upon a time, it was a Dark Shadows novel but it was rejected to go out under the Dark Shadows imprint. Names have been changed and Tor has instead published Hawkes Harbor as a mainstream novel. Perhaps the original title was Collinsport?

So instead of Willie, Barnabas, Jason, Maggie and the Collins family we get Jamie, Grenville, Kellen, Katie and the Hawkes family. I was amused to see that Hinton had sneaked in a reference to Grenville's "brother Charles" who "was somewhat frivolous. Charming, but careless." This reference to Night of Dark Shadows was the only blatant wink at the reader I could detect.

At times Hawkes Harbor reads like Hinton over relied on her spell check. There are a few characters, such as Lydia, her brother Richard and his daughter Barbara whose names are mentioned as part of the plot but are hardly seen in the story. (In the case of Barbara, she is only mentioned, never seen.) The only purpose of these characters would be if they were referred to by their "actual" names of Elizabeth, Roger and Carolyn. What could have been an important addition to the verisimilitude of Hinton's Collinwood becomes a host of unrealized characters in Hawkes Harbor.

Similarly, there are several important plot points in the Dark Shadows universe that are glossed over in Hawkes Harbor. Julia's treatment of Barnabas, Willie's friendship with David that leads to Willie opening Barnabas' coffin and Angelique's curse on Barnabas all make their appearance, with names suitably changed. This is a lot of backstory, but it is all stuff that any Dark Shadows fan knows. A Dark Shadows fan reading Hawkes Harbor brings all this knowledge with them and it informs their reading. A reader unaware of these storylines will just be bewildered. For example, Willie suing Julia for her constant threats of returning him to Windcliffe, and showing that he legally can't be returned to Windcliffe by her, is funny when it concerns Willie and Julia. Jamie suing Louisa just doesn't have the same resonance.

The story of Hawkes Harbor will leave most non-Dark Shadows fans out to sea. On the jacket copy and in the recent article on S.E. Hinton in Entertainment Weekly, the supernatural elements of Hawkes Harbor are heavily downplayed. No mention is made of this being a vampire story. The Entertainment Weekly article says, "several publishers passed." Of course they did! Readers who loved Hinton's The Outsiders or Rumble Fish as kids would pick this up to read a gritty story of lowlife orphan Jamie Sommers, only to be thrust into a world of vampires and gothic horror! I can not envision this book becoming a mainstream success, but I may be underestimating the general reading public who propelled Alice Sebold's horror-tinged novel The Lovely Bones to bestseller status.

There might be some Dark Shadows fans who close the pages of Hawkes Harbor with troubled looks on their faces. When Maggie/Katie is held prisoner by Grenville/Barnabas, Willie/Jamie goes to comfort her. They wind up making love in explicit detail. I found this scene to be very moving, with the scenario of Maggie/Katie wanting to be made love to before she dies very potent. Katie and Jamie are two lost, hopeless, tortured souls and it seems only natural that they find solace in each other's arms.

If you are of the mind to find this turn of events abhorrent, you'll want to put down Hawkes Harbor immediately, for your head will spin as Barnabas and Willie enter an episode of The Love Boat! Actually, a cured Grenville and Jamie are on a vacation cruise and they both score; Grenville with a lovely divorcee and Jamie with a three-way! Phwooaaar! The high (or low, depending on your perspective) point of this sequence is Jamie making Grenville "spill a drink all over a bar" by asking Grenville "yours give good head?" Needless to say, if you only want to read a Dark Shadows book where the characters act exactly in print like they do on screen, this book is not for you. More open-minded readers will have a hoot.

Overall Hawkes Harbor is a delight to read. This should have been issued as a Dark Shadows novel. S.E. Hinton is a well known, best selling author and a Dark Shadows book by her would have sold like hotcakes. We would probably have a whole range of Dark Shadows novels by now, spurred on by the sales of Hinton's book. This might not be the last we see of the world of Hawkes Harbor. Entertainment Weekly said, "Hinton hopes all the hoopla will generate some Hollywood interest." Francis Ford Coppola has previously adapted two of Hinton's books, The Outsiders and Rumble Fish, to the big screen. Maybe we'll see Hawkes Harbor: The Movie starring Matt Czuchry as Jamie and Alec Newman as Grenville?

US Readers: Order this book from Amazon.com
UK Readers: Order this book from Amazon.co.uk

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