The Night of the Rambler

Written by Montegue Kobbé
Review by Waheed Rabbani

On the night of June 9, 1967, sixteen men from the “forgotten” Caribbean island, Anguilla, including three US mercenaries, had “invaded” St. Kitts. This key action had led to Anguilla’s separation from the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla associated state, which had been created earlier by Britain. The ill-trained rebels sailed from Anguilla aboard a 35-foot motorboat, The Rambler, armed mostly with old rifles, ammunition and explosives. The revolutionaries expected to find a significant number of supporters in St. Kitts willing to help them fight their way into the capital town, Baseterre, with the objective to carry out a coup d’état and install a new government sympathetic to the Anguillan cause. However, following their wet landing on the beach, the Anguillans found only four rum-drinking young men playing dominoes who, upon questioning, retorted: “Wha? Dis time at night yer come to cause trouble?”

Montegue Kobbé has structured his novel’s events non-linearly. While starting the story in medias res – on the sloop heading towards St. Kitts – the deplorable conditions on the island (no electricity, no ports, no telephones, etc., the main reasons for the Anguillans’ rebellious actions) are revealed through the backstories of the group leaders. While these narratives are interesting, the non-linearity in the plot can be distracting. Similarly, the unfolding of the events leading up to the sailing requires careful attention to keep abreast of the story’s timeline. While the novel is well written in third-person omniscient, the dialogue in Caribbean-accented speech tends to slow down the reading. However, those persevering with the book will be rewarded with deeper insight into the political and economic turmoil engulfing that region.