The dynamic adventures of a folkloric outlaw.
The legend of this book’s resilient Cherokee protagonist, uniquely named Zesty Sundrops (after his mother’s favorite salsa), springs forth from the opening pages. In late 1941, Zesty drives two recently released convicts to a remote area, where his younger brother and partner in crime, Hoot, shoots them dead with a shotgun. The Sundrops brothers are mob-commissioned contract killers, but they’re increasingly reluctant ones. They’re eager to change their lives by establishing a wholesale truffle business, which they think will bring them happiness. That plan is derailed when Zesty, desperate for excitement, joins the U.S. Army to fight in World War II. Prolific author John Zodrow (Tracking Bobby, 2016, etc.), writing pseudonymously as Mark, demonstrates a definite knack for consistent action, which won’t fail to keep readers on their toes. Zesty’s exhilarating military tour of duty fighting Nazis and Italian forces in Europe, for instance, showcases the character’s bravado, determination, cunning, and valor. He’s captured by the enemy, but he manages to escape what seems to be certain doom. Later, world-renowned writer Ernest Hemingway pens a manuscript about Zesty’s early life; that narrative, along with a multiact stage play about Zesty (written by “Henry Hall”), splices the story into thirds, and each section is satisfying and immensely entertaining. Some elements feel particularly realistic, as when Zesty meets and romances the love of his life, Gwen Sutton, and when Zesty seeks vengeance against the Native American gang that murdered his parents. Although Zesty and Hoot seem nearly inseparable at its beginning, the novel is very much dominated by Zesty’s adventures; at one point, he even assassinates Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and undergoes a court martial for war crimes. In true Zesty style, he emerges from jail more than a decade later to continue his gun-toting shenanigans.
A zippy, engrossing, and offbeat work of historical fiction.