A destitute writer in the Florida Keys is visited by the reincarnation of Ernest Hemingway.
Con Martens may only be scraping by, but in sunny Key West that’s not so bad. With plenty to drink, a job as a writing coach and two women absolutely crazy for him, Con seems to have it made. But as a former best-selling author, he’s unfulfilled, wanting to not only reclaim his former glory, but surpass it. When a jealous girlfriend takes a shot at him, the near-death experience shakes Con from his contentment, forcing him shirtless and shoeless into a familiar watering hole where he meets the accommodating and impossible Nick Adams. Nick claims to be the reincarnation of Ernest Hemingway, sent to help Con beat his writer’s block. Whether Con believes his companion is really a young Hemingway or just a look-a-like, their partnership injects his life with the excitement particular to the Florida Straight, complete with women, rum, hurricanes and a clandestine mission to Havana. Skwiot’s (Flesh, 1998, etc.) novel is not unlike the work of Kem Nunn, though instead of “surf-noir,” “beach-noir” may be the better description. Babes, booze and plenty of dubious figures propagate the book’s tropical setting, where almost anything is possible, even the unexplainable or supernatural. Key West is beautifully captured in all its shallow, hedonistic glory, and Skwiot’s ability to reveal it and its citizens in subtle, amusing ways eases the reader into this unique world. The other characters aren’t as well drawn as the setting, save for Nick/Hemingway, whose adventurous spirit and trademark misogyny are consistently depicted throughout. The only dubious moments in his portrayal are when he appears a little too much like a mouthpiece for literary editorializing. Ultimately, the novel is a writer’s tale, detailing the fickleness of inspiration and the other hardships of the calling. It’s largely self-indulgent, and for those not interested in the craft, glimpses of Key West and Con’s sexual escapades aren’t going to make his toiling more palatable.
A beautifully drawn setting without much story behind it.