Theodore Taylor is an American writer who also makes documentary films. His inspiration to write "The Cay" came from his research into German submarines that fought in the Second World War. He is now married with three children and lives in California.
This novel is set in the 1940's on a small island, called a "cay", in the Caribbean Sea. German U-boats are constantly submerged in the vicinity of the island and Williamsted, Phillip's home, which is a Dutch colonised island.
One of the main themes in this novel is racism. Phillip sees Negroes in the same way as his mother despises them. Phillip likes the black peoples' accents and the way they throw fruit at them from their boats . His friends like them too, but for some reason his mother thinks they are dirty and unpleasant. Throughout the novel Phillip begins to recognise that Negroes are ordinary people who should have the same rights as whites and he decides to ignore his mother's predujices and respect the people with dignity.
Phillip lives in Williamsted with his mother and father. They had lived in the United States but they moved there when Phillip's father was offered a job in an oil refinery nearby. Williamsted is very quaint and the harbour is always full of black people on their fishing boats, called schooners. One day a German U-boat is spotted near the harbour. The whole harbour is on edge . When everyone calms down, the first tanker in a week sets sail with gallons of crude oil on board. The whole population is shocked when the tanker blows into pieces and scatters shrapnel all over the sea. Phillip's mother becomes anxious and she brings Phillip on a small cargo ship back to Central America.