EXOTIC by Albert Haley


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The rugged modern-frontier lives that Haley focused in on in Home Ground (1979) have now been dropped in favor of a highly familiar set-up: a spoiled-young-American meets evil south-of-the-border. Butch and Rebecca Miller honeymoon in the coffee-duchy of Mayana, whose president is preparing to marry a dazzling French-born beauty (much younger than himself) named Katrine D'Ulliers. Butch has had some prior dealings with Katrine, it turns out, having once (with friend Tom Tresh) interviewed her at her school (Princeton) for the newspaper at his (Yale). And it turns out to be even more of an old-home-week when the very strange Tom Tresh also pops up in Mayana, working as a government tour-guide. Everyone in place, disaster then commences. The wedding turns into fiasco: the day before, there's a massacre of native teenagers at a stadium rock concert--which builds into an Army coup, a guerrilla revolt; Rebecca is believed killed in a shot-down plane filled with fleeing tourists; Butch and the lovely Katrine are thrown together to make their own ways out (they'll be rescued by American troops in the end). And, unlike the cataclysmic goings-on in Robert Stone's roughly comparable A Flag for Sunrise, the melodrama here generates an overwhelming, fatal implausibility: Haley keeps throwing matches at an incipient action adventure which never lights, thanks largely to a cast of overdrawn, under-fleshed characters. (Tresh is too flaky to be bad, Butch too spotty to be innocent, Katrine too vacuous to be decadent.) Sluggish, overlong, often undergraduate: disappointing work from a writer whose debut collection included at least one promising story.

Pub Date: Feb. 24th, 1981
Publisher: Dutton