Hough fictionalizes the real-life exploits of charlatan Brinkley, known both for his radio broadcasts from Mexico (across the U.S. border) and for his goat-gland implantation procedure to cure male impotence.
It would be hard to make this stuff up, and fortunately Hough doesn’t have to since Brinkley is a larger-than-life character, oozing the American entrepreneurial spirit in a way that is simultaneously entertaining and disgusting. Ironically, he’s somewhat at the periphery of this novel, for Hough centers his work in the sleepy Mexican town of Corazón de la Fuente, where we meet the sweet and hapless Francisco Ramirez. He’s besotted with love for Violeta Cruz, a village coquette, though Brinkley eventually seduces her away from Francisco by giving her a job at his radio station. He claims to see in her the makings of a seer, so he sets her up with her own radio show, where she tries to help callers with their personal problems. Along the way we meet a variety of small-town characters, like cantina owner Carlos Hernandez, who develops a problem with impotence; Madame Félix, owner of the local bordello, “The House of Gentlemanly Pleasures”; and Miguel Orozco, the mayor of Corazón de la Fuente, who senses Brinkley chipping away at his political power. Hough manages to take all of these characters beyond stereotypes and invest them with humanity and humor. Eventually, Brinkley impregnates Violeta and then takes it on the lam back to North Carolina, leaving her both seduced and abandoned.
Hough slyly presents a cast of characters largely taken in by their own folly and gullibility.