Putkowski first visited Aruba in 1994 and was immediately captivated by the cultural diversity of the island. His trips became longer, more frequent, and finally culminated in the purchase of a house in Savaneta, the fishing village near San Nicolas. Along the way he took notes, sketching out scenes and character studies based upon the people he met. One of those people was the late Charles Brouns, Jr., whose Charlie’s Bar remains a San Nicolas landmark. “I dedicated the book to Charlie. He gave me insight into the menagerie of lifestyles that coexist in Aruba,” Putkowski reflects. “He related to a Filipino sailor working aboard an oil tanker as easily as a tourist from Minnesota. More than anyone else, he showed me how to go beyond the surface, to look deeper for the real surprises.” Sadly, Charlie died in 2004, before the book was in any readable form. “When it came to choosing a venue to launch the book in Aruba, Charlie’s Bar was the only place that felt right,” says the author referring to his book signing on July 23.
One of the things Putkowski enjoyed most about writing An Island Away was the candor and intensity of the people around the island. “They live life to the fullest, secure in their belief that because life is short, you better make the most of it. Many people think this way, but few actually do it. I’m fortunate enough to have friends who never hold back. They inspired me to capture a time and a place that was nothing short of incredible, where anything could and did happen,” he says.
But Putkowski is quick to remind his readers that there is more to the story than San Nicolas. There are the hotels and beaches, the cunucu houses and desert landscapes, as well as the shopping areas and business districts of Oranjestad. Which is why he now calls Aruba home. “Living here makes the writing easier,” he says. “It puts me in the middle of the action.” That’s a good thing since he is busy at work on a sequel to An Island Away. “People see me writing in my notebook and frequently ask if I’m a journalist, but the short form doesn’t suit me. Thankfully, I call Aruba home, a place of infinite source material, where my biggest worry is not where to end the story, but how to tell the whole thing.
Putkowski will be reading and signing copies of his novel An Island Away at Charlie’s Bar, 56 Main Street, San Nicolas, on Wed., July 23, beginning at 12:30pm. For more information, visit the author’s website at www.danielputkowski.com. In addition to Charlie’s Bar, the book is available for purchase online at Amazon.com and can be found this fall at Barnes & Noble stores in the U.S.