Welcome to Miami

Michael Largo, Author
Michael Largo, Author Tropical Press $14.95 (250p) ISBN 978-0-9666173-4-4
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Emilio Garcia Abierto is the Billy Pilgrim, the na ve innocent, at the heart of this mostly comic tale of a Mariel refugee who believes for two decades that he has been sent to America to operate as a James Bond-style super-spy for Fidel Castro. That's the joke that runs the length and depth of Largo's novel--though even more amusing is the possibility that Abierto (literal translation: open) might be correct. The narrative is told frame style, with Abierto's good friend Max, a Florida native, pitching Abierto's story to a movie ""scout."" Max is one of the regulars who hang out at Pecker's Bait & Tackle, and he trucks out refugees from downtown Miami to work for wealthy old man Manuel, one of the original landowners to flee Cuba when Castro came to power. Subplots include Tom Pecker's plan to ""discover"" a bigfoot in the Everglades, and Ma Pecker's resurgent sexuality. Largo nails the grudging and grungy treatment accorded the Marielitos by every ethnic slice of the Miami pie, and he lampoons American plenty, which plays a big role in events. Even Fidel, heavily veiled in cartoon disguises, makes an appearance at the ragged edge of the Everglades for the sake of lust and Cocoa Puffs. Throughout, Abierto never loses his movie-fueled belief in the glamour of being a spy, or his faith in Castro-style communism. The sincere, humorless Abierto's 20-year initiation into the American dream is a thin thread to hang a plot on, however. Since Largo can't resist the contrast between Florida's color-saturated atmosphere and its Darwinian realities, his tone veers from slapstick to serious and back again, and the novel fails to gain solid ground. (Sept.)
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