Deep in the interior of west-central Jamaica, there is an approximately 500 square-mile expanse of rainforest known as the Cockpit Country. It is part of Jamaica’s great White Limestone plateau.
This rugged, densely wooded part of the island has a vast array of steep hills and valleys, numerous caverns, and deep limestone pits and sinkholes with precipitous sides – the Cockpits.
This inhospitable and treacherous terrain was once the hideout of the cimarrones (Spanish for runaway slaves). The English called them maroons. They fled to the hills during the British invasion and conquest of Jamaica in 1665, and from there they waged a brutal and relentless guerrilla war against both the Redcoats and the Spanish settlers. This region has since come to be known as the Land of Look Behind.
To date, a community of approximately 5,000 still inhabit parts of the Cockpit Country where they are allowed autonomous control over the areas they occupy, and a considerable measure of freedom from government interference. They are descendents of the maroons who intermarried with freed slaves and Arawak Indians who inhabited the area. Their main settlement is called Accompong.
The Land of Look Behind is the setting of Aaron Blaylock’s novel of the same name. It’s a mix of mystery, adventure and historical fiction. It is a tale of two men separated by more than three hundred years, yet linked by a compulsive desire to locate a cave marked with a mysterious symbol in the depths of the implacable Cockpit Country.
One of them, Lieutenant Benjamin Jarvis, is a British soldier in the 17th Century, caught in the midst of a raging conflict between British troops and a Spanish militia, as Britain tries to wrest control of the island from Spain.
The other protagonist, Gideon Goodwin, is a former religious missionary who is back home in America after completing his missionary work in Jamaica. While there he discovers the mysterious cave symbol tucked within the pages of Jarvis’ journal. Recognising its origin, he is inevitably lured back to Jamaica where the ‘friends he met were more familiar to him than the family and friends he had known since birth.’.
Like his 17th century predecessor, Goodwin is forced to brave the perilous and terrifying beauty of the Cockpit Country with the help of friends from the island, in search of the cave.
Along the way they encounter dark forces dead set on protecting whatever is hidden within from the incursions of outsiders.
Aaron Blaylock was born and raised in Arizona. In 1997 he served as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in the Jamaica Kingston Mission, where he learned to speak Jamaican patois and fell in love with the island and its people. Land of Look Behind is his first novel. It is available at Amazon.
Don’t miss my interview with Aaron, coming soon.