The Stars Above Veracruz

Barry Gifford, Author . Thunder's Mouth $22.95 (262p) ISBN 978-1-56025-807-0

Gifford saw his novel Wild at Heart become the David Lynch film, and he co-wrote the screenplay for Lost Highway ; this series of snappy vignettes has a cinematic quality, more like a treatment for an episodic film (à la Jim Jarmusch's Night on Earth ) than a collection of stories. Gifford repeatedly conjures the hard-luck story and the noirish setting as he points his lens from South America to New Zealand. "After Hours at La Chinita," set in a tacky Spanish-style motel in Los Angeles circa 1963, stages the shooting of a prostitute's abusive customer by God-fearing proprietress Vermillion Chaney; 20 years later, each of the players in the drama tells a version of the sad, late slide of the rest of their lives. "Almost Oriental" involves tortuous travel and romance inside a still-shuttered, deeply suspicious Romania by a Stanford University academic on the trail of Bukovina-born Jewish writer Rudolph "Buddy" Traum. Another long piece, "Murder at the Swordfish Club," concerns an elaborate murder mystery surrounding the death of a fisherman in the New Zealand coastal town of Russell. The prolific Gifford has produced multiple fully realized novels (such as 2004's Wyoming ); this book, while vivid, feels like a break. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/14/2005
Release date: 01/01/2006
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 262 pages - 978-1-56025-982-4
Paperback - 250 pages - 978-1-945883-20-0
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