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A Mexico-set story, by the author of the Hemingway Prize-winning Flesh (not reviewed). Americans have traditionally gone south of the border to misbehave, and Jake Harting is no exception. Originally from Illinois, Jake has migrated to Mexico for no particular reason, and he spends most of his time hanging out with other gringos in the cantina of a flyblown little town not terribly close to anywhere. His best friend is Jordan Freeman, an African-American artist who lives off his veteran's pension while he paints. Occasionally, Jordan goes into Mexico City for an exhibition, but Jake prefers to stay in the shadows: ""Jake had found that sometimes you just get too much of people. . . . You start listening to yourself instead of 'others. You wait. That's what he was doing."" But he's not averse to fooling around on the side, which is how he gets involved with Maria Martinez. The sultry niece of Don Pablo Martinez, the local political boss, Marta is engaged to be married to a local sculptor named Pancho, whom nobody (including Marta) much cares for. Marta seduces Jake without much trouble, but when Pancho is found murdered, the situation suddenly appears more serious than he had thought. Suspicion naturally falls on Jake, as Marta's lover, and on Jordan (who was to be evicted from his house to provide a home for the newlyweds). But it turns out that pretty much everyone in town wanted Pancho dead; the Chief of Police is already in too much trouble at home (for knocking up a barmaid) to devote himself wholeheartedly to solving the crime; and the townsfolk (led by Don Pablo) now suddenly admire Jake for his cojones. Welcome to Mexico, where even an honest man can win a scoundrel's welcome. Obvious and formulaic, but good-natured fun all the same.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0982859120
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Univ. Press of Colorado