Dead Calm

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This article is about the book. For the film, see Dead Calm (film).
Dead Calm
Dead Calm (Williams novel).jpg
Hardcover edition
Author Charles F. Williams
Country United States
Language English
Genre Thriller
Publisher Viking Press
Publication date
Media type Print
ISBN 0-670-26042-8

Dead Calm is a 1963 novel by Charles F. Williams. It was the basis for the unfinished Orson Welles film, The Deep , and was adapted for the 1989 film Dead Calm by Phillip Noyce. It is the sequel to Williams' lesser-known 1960 romantic thriller, Aground.


John and Rae Ingram, a honeymooning couple taking their yacht for a cruise through the Indian ocean, rescue a young man, Hughie, from a lifeboat. Hughie claims to have escaped from another vessel after its crew succumbed to food poisoning. When John goes to inspect the boat, he discovers the captain, Russ, and another woman, Mrs. Warriner, alive and begging for help. Discovering that John has left, Hughie panics, takes Rae hostage, and begins sailing her boat away from the sinking ship.

On board the sinking ship, John learns that Hughie and Mrs. Warriner and Russ and his wife, Mrs. Bellows, were vacationing when Hughie suffered an agoraphobic reaction while diving with Mrs. Bellows and accidentally killed her trying to climb onto her shoulders. The realization of what he'd done resulted in Hughie suffering a psychotic break. Mrs. Warriner further tells John that Hughie, though a gifted artist, has the mind of a child, his emotional growth having been stunted by his overbearing father and a codependent relationship with an inappropriately affectionate mother. On board the Ingram's boat, Rae is able to surmise this herself from Hughie's behavior and assumes the role of a caring mother figure in order to lull him into a false sense of security, while preparing to kill him with a shotgun John has stashed in their room.

Ultimately, John and Russ are able to sufficiently repair their boat and rendezvous with Hughie and Rae. When everyone is reunited, Hughie suffers a flashback and sees Russ as his father and knocks him overboard. Hughie suffers a panic attack in the water and seizes up, and drags Russ below water where they both drown.

John gives a sympathetic psychological analysis of Hughie as he, Rae, and Mrs. Warriner see that a new wind has come in that will take them all home.


Orson Welles worked on a film adaptation of Dead Calm, an unfinished film titled The Deep, from 1966 to 1969. Welles produced and wrote the film, and also played the role of Russ Brewer opposite Jeanne Moreau and Laurence Harvey. The film is incomplete; several major scenes were never shot, and portions of the soundtrack remain unrecorded. The original negative has been lost and the film exists in two work prints, one in black and white and the other in color—the way the film was intended to be shown.[1]

Dead Calm is a 1989 Australian thriller film starring Sam Neill, Nicole Kidman and Billy Zane. The film was directed by Australian filmmaker Phillip Noyce and filmed around the Great Barrier Reef.

Publication history[edit]


  1. ^ French, Lawrence (January 27, 2007). "Notes on Orson Welles' The Deep". Wellesnet. Retrieved 2014-12-24. 

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