On the cover of the Naked Jungle, it says “Three people – bound by fear yet torn by hate.” The plot is not entirely complex as it involves three survivors of a South Pacific airline crash who make it to a flimsy raft and, from there, to a tiny island. The story is about these three characters and how they interact rather than about some complex doings. But, what amazing characters Whittington has invented!
Webb had left the Navy and bounced around from job to job, “but whatever he was he needed that dream to sustain him” – that dream about escaping to an island in the South Pacific with “coconut palms rustling with the slightest breeze.” After a bunch of meaningless jobs and a failed marriage, he was heading out to find his escape.
The narrator, Webb, explains that the first time he saw Fran, “he’d been high, but something about her had reached through the fuzziness in his brain. And he’d thought , God, how beautiful; a man could go through hell for that. And then he’d thought with alcoholic clarity: probably, she’d see that I did that.” WoW! And, when Webb next notices Fran, he knows something is wrong with the plane. He hears the woman tell her husband that she is leaving him when they get to Sydney. “Webb looked at her, thinking it was a dead heat as to which would fly apart first, she or the plane. It was hell to think about her and plane crash in the same breath. Such a waste. She had a tender kind of beauty that made you ache looking at it.”
But, Fran came with baggage and, boy did she. Webb thought it was a miracle that put them in the raft together, “even if the same ironic joker had tossed in her husband.” Alfred Krayer was probably the meanest, most self-confident, controlling sonofabitch that you could find. Indeed, Krayer didn’t even want to let Webb in their raft because then the supplies would have to be split and, when they got to the island, Krayer was determined to teach Webb once and for all that Fran belonged to him and Webb wasn’t going to have any say in how that went.
The book is simply an amazing piece of artwork as Whittington weaves the relationships between these three individuals stuck together on the deserted island. This is not just another pulp novel tossed off for a fast buck.