OUR MAN IN BELIZE by Richard Timothy Conroy

OUR MAN IN BELIZE

A Memoir
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Conroy has redirected his gift for goofy storytelling (The India Expedition, 1992; Old Ways in the New World, 1994) from the fictional accounts of foreign-affairs officer Henry Scruggs to a memoir of his years in what was then British Honduras. Searching for a workplace less toxic than the hydrogen-bomb facility where he was employed, Conroy responded to a newspaper want ad at the suggestion of his wife, and found himself in the US Foreign Service. After an initial posting in Washington, where he undertook ``unimportant, but urgent and high-priority'' tasks, Conroy was appointed vice consul to British Honduras. Upon his arrival to what his obnoxious, and ultimately untrustworthy, boss calls ``in back of beyond,'' Conroy and his young family were temporarily housed in the residence of the local USAID official, who had just committed suicide. The consul introduced Conroy to members of the local diplomatic circle with witty and appallingly rude characterizations, but the new vice consul soon learned there was little cause for discomfort, as no offense was taken. In Honduras his tasks were never urgent or high-priority, but they were extremely important: instructing shippers to mark boxes of needed tires with dog food labels to get them past sticky-fingered customs agents; covering up his accidental opening of mail sent to another nation's consulate; and killing poisonous snakes. When the devastating hurricane Hattie hit the city in 1961, Conroy survived and restored the consulate to some semblance of working order without any help from his superior, who had fled. After a few run-ins with a comical ex-patriate, who eagerly informed on drug runners in the hopes of receiving reward money, Conroy was reassigned to Vienna, where we are to assume things got much more serious. While Conroy admittedly takes a little license with the facts (which he attributes to poor memory), this is an enjoyable account from the eyes of a colonial-era bureaucrat.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-16959-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1997




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