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A one-joke whimsy given a rococo spin. Johnny de Paria, a native of San Fernando, Trinidad (where he was raised by his haughty mixed-blood aunt Jocasta and was suckled till age 14 at the breasts of East Indian women), leaves the island--Paradise--after having a spell of death-by-bushmaster-snake put unfairly upon him by an obeah-man. He boats to England, and his fellow passengers on the ship include: an African sexual giant named Marcellin Gros-Chacaud; the family of Balgobin Marag, a rich Indian shopkeeper in Trinidad; and Prof. Buffus zu Damnitz, a scholar, eunuch, and urinometrician (he determines character scientifically by the arc of urine stream). When the ship reaches first port, Madeira, Johnny is taken over by a disreputable San Fernando acquaintance who was run out of town long ago. Their first stop is a bordello--and last stop, too; Hercules plants us there for the rest of the book. Upstanding Johnny, blind to where he is, offers to marry one of the girls. And mistaken-identities also play a role--as the African, the Maraj family, and the Professor all then arrive. Hercules is often truly elegantly comic, with erudition and style, but all the piffle (and a glut of Trinidadian patois in the dialogue) gets to be a bit much too soon. Sprightly but patience-testing comedy, then, from the author of I Want a Black Doll (1967).

Pub Date: April 1st, 1980
Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich